By Gareth Williams
10th March 1971
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Cardiff City’s remarkable 1-0 win against Real Madrid at Ninian Park in the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
On 10th March 1971, Cardiff City faced Real Madrid in the quarter-final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Cardiff had just finished seventh in the English Second Division while Madrid had won eight of the last ten La Liga titles, and were European Cup winners as recent as 1966.
Official attendance for the game was recorded as 47,500, but it is thought that actual number was closer to 60,000, as some fans who were there that night have suggested.
Managed by Jimmy Scoular, the Bluebirds qualified for the European Cup Winners’ Cup after winning the Welsh Cup in the 1969-70 season.
After beating Pezporikos Larnaca 8-0 over two legs, and Nantes 7-2 on aggregate, they were drawn to face Real Madrid in the in the quarter-finals, with the second leg to be played at Bernabeu.
City lost the tie on aggregate, but only after Brian Clark’s header in the 31st minute which saw them claim a 1-0 win in the first leg.
That famous goal was Clark’s fourth of the tournament, and he went on to be top goalscorer for the club that season.
Speaking to cardiffcityfc.co.uk, former city defender Gary Bell recalled the build up to that memorable night.
He said: “It was fantastic. Just the fact it was Real Madrid we got drawn against.
“From the moment the draw was made, the whole city was buzzing. They were all looking forward to the game so much. Everybody was up for it and the clamber for tickets was unbelievable.”
On the number of fans in attendance, he said: “It was absolutely chock-a-block!
“We’d played in front of crowds like that in the years before. We’d drawn Arsenal in the FA Cup which brought about 55,000 at Ninian Park on the day, but it was really something to see that night.”
Describing the match, and the unforgettable 31st-minute goal, Bell said: “The match had started cagey for the first ten minutes or so. But once we got into the rhythm of the game and found our flow, I think we were the better side.
“I’d won the ball for a tackle half-way inside our own half and knocked it to Bobby Woodruff (midfielder). He passed it to our left winger Nigel Rees, who put it in a great left-footed cross to find Brian [Clark] who was coming in at the penalty spot to head in a fantastic goal.
“When the ball hit the back of the net, the noise was absolutely phenomenal,” he recalled.
“I’ve never ever heard a noise like it. It was like being stood in an amphitheatre.”
With star striker John Toshack being sold to Liverpool in November 1970, City acquired Alan Warboys from Sheffield Wednesday who, like Toshack, was an able goalscorer.
With Warboys ruled out ahead of the Quarter-final clash with Real Madrid, Clark was left without his regular strike partner ahead of the big game.
After the final whistle, Clark said: “No goal has ever given me greater pleasure, and I don’t suppose I’ll ever get one to please me as much again.
“It was very hard to fill the boots of someone like Alan [Warboys], who scored four goals against Carlisle the Saturday before.
He continued: “I know I hadn’t been playing well recently. To score the goal in any match is pleasing, but to do it against Real Madrid – that is only something I dreamed about.”
The victory against Real in Cardiff stood the Bluebirds in good stead ahead of the second leg in Madrid two weeks later.
On the support for the away leg, Gary said: “The support was great. I think around two planes full of City supporters made the trip to Bernabeu, which was really something special.
After two second-half goals for the Spaniards were left unanswered by Cardiff, their cup run came to an end. But the experience of playing one of the most successful clubs in European football history still holds a special place in not only the heart of Gary Bell, an experience he is proud to have been a part of, but fans of the club too.
“People still refer to it when they see me,” he said.
“It’s a lasting memory for both myself and the supporters who were there, and always will be.”