England versus Scotland. The oldest football rivalry of them all. The beautiful game would see almost a hundred battles between the two national teams before the first competitive game between English and Scottish club sides in 1961.
To this day, encounters involving teams from either side of the border are few and far between, but when they do occur, they are never unmemorable, as evidenced in our collection of personalised football books. And for experts and fans alike, one of the very best was the European Cup second round tie between Glasgow Rangers and Leeds United on November 4th 1992.
In the club’s history, Rangers had only faced English teams competitively on four occasions, one of which being against Leeds, in the 1967/68 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. Leeds had won not only that tie, but the entire competition. A quarter of a century on, they were champions of England, a fact that would have intimidated many teams, but not a Rangers side that had won five Scottish League titles in six years, and would eventually capture nine straight, an historic achievement remembered fondly in our bespoke Rangers book.
Even before being drawn in this so-called “Battle of Britain”, all eyes were firmly on Leeds as a result of their bizarre experience in the previous round. Having lost the first leg in Stuttgart, the Whites fought back valiantly at Elland Road, winning 4-1, but losing overall on away goals. However, at a time where clubs were only allowed to field three foreign players in European matches, Stuttgart had unwittingly broken the rule by bringing Yugoslav defender Jovo Simanic off the bench in the final minutes.
It would be the only appearance he would ever make for the first team, but it was enough to have the match retrospectively declared null and void, and Leeds were awarded a 3-0 win, matching the result of the first leg, and resulting in an unprecedented playoff nine days later at Barcelona’s Nou Camp. Leeds would prevail, setting up a showdown with the Scottish champions.
In the first leg at Ibrox, it had taken but a single minute for the advantage to swing in favour of the Englishmen, albeit courtesy of Motherwell-born Gary McAllister. A clumsy own-goal from John Lukic and a tap-in from Ally McCoist would see Rangers run out 2-1 winners in the end, but with home advantage and a crucial away goal in the bag, it was hard to look past Leeds heading into the second leg.
“Super Rangers’ Best Display in 20 Years”
However, Rangers, without a European trophy since the ’72 Cup Winners’ Cup triumph, had other ideas. With history repeating (or perhaps, rather, inverting) itself, the visitors took the lead in the opening minutes, a super volley from Englishman Mark Hateley putting the Gers in front. Leeds finding themselves in the exact position their opponents had in the first leg.
The man tasked with spearheading the Leeds comeback was Eric Cantona, in what would be one of his final appearances for the club; the Frenchman, unbeknownst to anyone at this point, would move to Manchester United just three weeks later in acrimonious circumstances. But this would not prove to be Cantona’s swansong. Four separate times in the first half alone, Cantona penetrated the Rangers defence and unleashed a shot on target. All four times, Gers keeper Andy Goram denied him.
Predictably, Leeds would have most of the possession and the lion’s share of the chances as they continued to chase the game. Approaching the hour mark, this would eventually play right into Rangers’ hands. As the hosts pushed almost everyone forward, Rangers gained possession and launched a quick counter attack. On the half-way line, goal-scorer Hateley dummied the ball, then charged down the left flank. Played in by Ian Durrant, Hateley’s cross was met by McCoist with a diving header that flew past Lukic into the net.
In only November, it already was McCoist’s 29th goal of the season, and one of the most important of his career. Leeds would have to score four.
After more Goram heroics, flicking substitute Rod Wallace’s shot onto the post, Cantona would finally pull one back for Leeds in the closing stages. The night, though, belonged to Rangers, being described by the Daily Record as the side’s “best performance in twenty years.”
Rangers’ 1993 European Cup campaign would ultimately end in heartache. Needing a win at Ibrox in the final group game against bottom-placed CSKA Moscow, a team they had already beaten in Russia, the Gers couldn’t find a breakthrough, and played out a goalless draw that meant them missing out on a final against AC Milan by a single point. Nevertheless, on the whole, the journey is one that to this day is warmly remembered, and no part more so than the 4-2 victory in the “Battle of Britain”.