The European Champions Cup. Sensational or unusual 1985-86 season for all European club tournaments. Favorites were eliminated early, that was it at a glance and it is risky to say why – looks like many clubs were out of shape, having transitional teams, getting old or too young yet. One of the most unpredictable European seasons, which at the end made it more exciting – for some. In the Champions Cup French Bordeuax was the first casualty, losing at home to Turkish Fenerbahce 2-3 and then unable to recover in Istanbul. Out in the opening round. The other surprise in the same round was the elimination of the Yugoslav champion FK Sarajevo by FC Kuusysi (Lahti), the champion of Finland. The Fins won both legs 2-1. In the second round FC Kuusysi made another surprise – they eliminated the champion of USSR Zenith (Leningrad). And they were close to make a third surprise in the ¼ finals – they managed 0-0 in Bucharest against Steaua, but lost the home leg 0-1. It was hardly a home leg… Kuusysi played it in Helsinki, most likely because their own stadium was too small. Almost made it to the semi-finals, though. Here Bayern’s run ended as well – they were eliminated by Anderlecht. Aberdeen had no luck either – IFK Goteborg eliminated them thanks to away goals (2-2 and 0-0). The draw was merciless to some strong teams from the beginning and here paired Barcelona with Juventus. Minimal home win was enough for Barcelona to win – 1-0 and 1-1. And then the drama of the semi-finals: Steaua lost the first leg in Brussels 0-1, but was perfect at home, beating Anderlecht 3-0. Meantime IFK Goteborg won their home leg 3-0, but lost in Barcelona with the same result and Barca prevailed in the penalty shoot-out 5-4.
Ups and downs all the way, but the final looked clear – Barcelona had big advantage. Not only the Romanians were almost unknown, but the final was played in Seville, practically at home for the Spanish champions – familiar venue, easy access for their own supporters, some local support as well. Steaua appeared to be an outsider in every way – including the fact that they had much easier opponents on the road to the final than Barcelona. It was practically sure think Barca will win the European Champions Cup at last. To be sure of winning often guarantees losing…
Steaua tried its own attacks, which on occasion were more dangerous than Barcelona’s, but Urruti – or Urruticoechea – was also solid. However, there was less football than battle – both teams played ugly from start, the brutality only escalated with time and reached the point near the end of the first half when the referee called both captains to warn them to cool down their teammates, or… or what? The final to be stopped and abandoned? Since such thing never happens, the opponents continued to kick each other. Five yellow cards were shown and it was too little, frankly. Unlike yellow cards, there no goals.
No goals in the extra time either, so for the second time in the history of the tournament it came to penalty shoot-out. The real fun was there, as it happened – both goalkeepers excelled, but the Romanian unknown became the great hero of the final. True, Urruti took the laurels at first, blocking 2 penatlies in a row. Alesanko missed the net at first and then Ducadam saved the second penalty. Then Lacatus scored and Ducadam saved Pichi Alonso’s kick. Balint scored the next for Steaua and Ducadam saved Marcos’s penalty. It was over – Barcelona did not score a single penalty, Steaua was leading 2-0 and the fifth penalty was meaningless. The sure winners lost – practically to Ducadam.
Final, Sánchez Pizjuán, Sevilla, 7 May 1986, att 70000
Steaua Bucuresti (0) 0 FC Barcelona (0) 0 aet Steaua won 2-0 on penalties
Steaua Bucuresti (trainer Jenei) Ducadam; Iovan, Belodedici, Bumbescu, Barbulescu; Balint, Balan, (Iordanescu 72), Bölöni, Majaru; Lacatus, Piturca (Radu 111)
FC Barcelona (trainer Venables) Urruti; Gerardo, Migueli, Alesanco, Julio Alberto; Víctor, Marcos, Schuster (Moratalla 85), Pedraza; Archibald (Pichi Alonso 106), Carrasco
Referee: Vautrot (France)
Penalty shoot-out Steaua: Majaru (held), Bölöni (held), Lacatus, Balint Barcelona: Alesanco (held), Pedraza (held), Pichi Alonso (held), Marcos (held)
Considered outsiders before the final and reconsidered during the game, Steaua’s players needed quick learning – among the winning squad Ducadam became the most famous instantly. He played a strong final, but it really the penalty shoot-out earned him recognition. He contributed outside the field as well by saying that hew was the best Romanian goalkeeper. Since Romanians were not well known, his boasting only added fuel to discovery: yes, he played wonderfully, this entirely unknown keeper, and if he was truly the best in the country… well, what other secreted jewels were there? Hagi, surely. However, Ducadam disappeared as quickly as he appeared – a few months later Hagi was already on field, but not a trace of Ducadam – Stingaciu, more familiar name from the Romanian national team, was again the regular keeper and another guy was the back-up. Ducadam became an intriguing myth, fueled by rumors and speculations – even his name remains unclear: Ducadam or Duckadam? Meantime his teammates were climbing up – almost the whole team from the final were national team players, some of long standing and some new talent, but already recognized as good material at least in Romania. Hagi only made team greater, Stingaciu played hardly lower level of goalkeeping than Ducadam, recovering his regular place in the team. There was no stopping really – Jenei, also ‘discovered’ as great coach thanks to the final, moved to the helm of the Romanian national team and was replaced by Iordanescu, who played a bit against Barcelona, retired and was appointed the new coach – and the team did not suffer the change a bit. This Steaua vintage, no matter political favours, was truly amazing. The Champions Cup victory just opened the door for talent, which stayed and defined not only Romanian football almost until the end of the 1990s. Not just great players, but also great fighters – Steaua did shy away from ugly tackles and fights, proving mean character so much needed in the 1980s football. They had it all and feared nobody. Although 1986 was their best year in terms of success, they probably played their best football in the next few years. One of the most pleasant discoveries in the 1980s.
And the full squad of the great 1985-86 season. Note that Iordanescu appear to be assistant-coach here, perhaps playing assistant-coach, and another testimony to the confusion relatively unknown squad makes: both Bumbescu and Piturca are misspelled by the Hungarian magazine. Majearu will remain with uncertain spelling of his name forever, it seems, but the again, such is the case of Cruijff.