Villa Park welcomed back European football for the first time in seven years as Villa faced Banik Ostrava (Czech Republic) in the first round of the UEFA Cup.
Dr Jozef Venglos was now the Aston Villa manager after Graham Taylor had departed to take over the England national team. An unforeseen appointment, Doug Ellis hired the Slovak after watching his triumphs with Czechoslovakia – reaching the quarter-finals of Italia 90’, before being knocked out by eventual champions, West Germany.
First Round, First Leg
Aston Villa 3-1 Banik Ostrava
19th September 1990, Villa Park, 27,317
The terraces were packed with jubilance as the players walked out onto the B6 turf. 10,000 claret and blue balloons were released into the sky to mark Villa’s return to European competition. On the pitch, however, the players took some time to warm to the occasion. A goal for the visitors on the half-hour mark looked set to sour the afternoon for the Villa faithful – but not for long.
Within a minute, Villa had themselves level again.
Gordan Cowans sent a freekick into the penalty area and when the Banik defenders were unable to clear their lines, David Platt prodded home from close-range.
The first European goal scored by an English side for over five years – courtesy of Aston Villa.
For the first ten minutes of the second half, the teams were locked level. Whatever was said by Dr Joe clearly needed time to sink into his players. However, on the hour mark, Villa finally took the lead.
Derek Mountfield (charging forward from the back) drove a fine shot past the keeper for 2-1, before Ian Olney certified the win with ten minutes to play.
After hurdling the early scare, Villa flew to Czechoslovakia with a valued advantage.
First Round, Second Leg
Banik Ostrava 1-2 Aston Villa
3rd October 1990, Bazaly Stadium, 13,544
Once again, Banik opened the scoring in the game. A goal on the cusp of half time sent distress signals across the Midlands as it was relayed via radio that Villa were one opposition goal away from being behind in the tie. Due to the away goals rule, should Banik have scored again (levelling the aggregate scoreline to 3-3) their goal scored at Villa Park would’ve counted for double. Therefore, giving them the lead.
Shortly after the interval, Villa soothed these worries. Kent Nielsen heading home from a corner at the front post restored Villa’s two-goal cushion.
Now leading the tie 4 goals to 2, fears of a Banik comeback were quickly diminishing. In fact, they were all but dispelled upon the hour mark. Opposing skipper, Ivo Stas, headed into his own net to seal passage to the next round for Villa.
On the subject of Ivo Stas, some Aston Villa trivia! The Czech is the only player to score for the club despite never making an appearance!
Manager Venglos signed Stas during the winter window of 1991, however, an injury on his first day at the club combined with the manager departing months later deprived him of ever making it into the matchday squad. Within 18 months, Stas found himself back at Banik Ostrava.
Second Round, First Leg
Aston Villa 2-0 Internazionale
24th October 1990, Villa Park, 36,461
With their ability to field several of the world’s best payers at the time, opponents Inter Milan in the second round were one almighty task.
West Germany’s recent World cup winners, Jurgen Klinsmann, Lothar Matthaus and Andreas Brehme lined up to face Villa. As did five Italian internationals such as Riccardo Ferri and Walter Zenga who had knocked out Venglos’ Czech team at the tournament just months prior.
David Platt who had been beaten with England by both West Germany and Italy during the 1990 World Cup spoke on the quality of the opposition that night.
“Inter haven’t got a weakness. They have an Italian keeper, three internationals in the back four, then people like Matthaus and Klinsmann”
Platt was right. Inter did have immense quality. But it was only the stars in the sky that shone brightly that night.
Kent Nielsen fired home a rocket from all of 30-yards to swing the tie in Villa’s favour, later being told that the moment was ‘probably’ his greatest goal ever!
Having scored the first from distance, the Villa second was anything but. A perfect ball over the Italian defence by Cowans was controlled expertly well by Platt. With Zenga charging out in front of him he knocked the ball past the keeper from inside the six-yard box to win Villa the game.
Villa had beaten Inter Milan on a historic night at Villa Park.
Such a resounding performance had awoken an inner beast within the Italian side, however. Inter, intent on revenge for the follow-up meeting in a fortnight’s time.
Second Round, Second Leg
Internazionale 3-0 Aston Villa
7th November 1990, San Siro, 75,585
Before the match, Jurgen Klinsmann promised a fierce performance from his side, adding that he would amend his poor performance at Villa Park.
Five minutes into the game and he was leading the Milan charge.
A fine ball lifted over the Villa midfield was enough to release the German from the visiting back-line. For all Mountfield’s efforts in bringing Klinsmann down, he was unable to do so and Inter were already a goal away from matching the tally Villa had racked up at home.
For the next hour of play, Villa stood firm to the challenge as Inter wielded further attacks. As the game entered the final 30 minutes, the visiting defence was breached through a slanting volley by Nicola Berti.
Cries of the 75,000 Italians grew louder as the game went on and eventually the home side found the crucial third goal their supporters sought.
As the ball was dribbled down the left, Fausto Pizzi took to the byline to cross the ball. Misjudging the speed of his ascent down the flank though he knocked the ball over the line before sending it in for Alessandro Bianchi to convert. Completely missed by the officials, the goal stood and Villa’s dreams of a trophy lifting start to a new era in European football were abandoned.
After losing the tie to Inter Milan, Villa’s form plummeted. Eventually finishing 17th in the league, Dr Jozef Venglos departed the club by mutual consent. This made way for the appointment of Ron Atkinson who was to lead Villa back into Europe for the 1993/94 season.