No.3: European Cup Winners' Cup semi-final, 2nd Leg, Juventus v Arsenal - 23rd April 1980.
(88 minutes played in 2nd Leg - score 0 - 0, Juventus winning on away goals rule)
By the time the game came around I had convinced myself we’d lose. On top of everything else, no British club had ever won there before, nor, for that matter, had any other European team for ten years. I listened to the first half on the radio (no such thing as TV coverage of anything as unimportant as a European semi-final) with increasing fatalism. Juventus demonstrated little enthusiasm in pressing for another goal, preferring to rely on their solid defence to see them through. At half time the score remained 0–0 and stayed like that through the second half. Depressed by the whole thing I retired to the bathroom with the radio and wallowed disconsolately in the bath as the clock ticked down.
Unexpected gifts remain long in the memory and so it was that night. With just two minutes to play, and with the sound of the already boisterously celebrating Juventus fans in Turin penetrating all the way to my bathroom, Graham Rix got the ball out on the left, just like he had done at Wembley a year earlier. He moved forward, noticed Dino Zoff at the near-post, so floated a high cross into the penalty area.
Advancing unmarked toward the far post, 18-year-old substitute Paul Vaesson leapt to meet it and head home. It silenced the Italian crowd in an instant – everyone knew what that goal meant. Sitting in my bath it probably took me a half second longer. Then, like Vaesson, I too leapt into the air - and screamed. And as we all learnt at school, for every action there is a reaction; in this instance my action caused a flood of tsunami magnitude to sweep unstoppably across the bathroom floor. An historic moment in the history of Arsenal Football Club but also, sadly, the highpoint of Vaesson’s all too short injury-ravaged career. Forced to retire from football aged just 21, his life took a downward spiral leading to his premature death in tragic circumstances eighteen years later. But in April 1980 his face shone out from the back page of every newspaper, hailed the Hero of Turin.
Paul Vaesson, the Hero of Turin, gets a hug from manager Terry Neill
Cup Winners' Cup