ArsenalClubPremier League

Vaessen winner stuns Juventus in Turin

In 1980, Arsenal FC faced a daunting task that no British club had accomplished in 25 years of European competition: securing a victory at Juventus’s Stadio Communale. It was the stage for the second leg of the 1980 European Cup Winners’ Cup Semi-Final, a challenge that Arsenal would overcome dramatically.

Arsenal had battled their way to the semi-finals with victories over Fenerbahce, Magdeburg, and IFK Gothenburg but could only manage a 1-1 draw against Juventus in a heated first leg at Highbury. The result favored the Italian side as they entered the return fixture, but the Gunners, led by stalwarts such as Pat Rice, Liam Brady, and David O’Leary, proved their mettle.

With 15 minutes remaining and the match seemingly heading for a goalless draw (which would have allowed Juventus to progress on away goals), Arsenal’s manager Terry Neill made a bold move. He sent on the 18-year-old striker Paul Vaessen. Vaessen recalled, “[coach Don] Howe sent me on. I remember him saying, ‘Go on, Paul, knock one in for us.’ And I replied, ‘Yeah, OK.'”

Vaessen did precisely that. With just two minutes left, Graham Rix dribbled skillfully into the box and pulled the ball back for Vaessen, who sent a header past Juventus’s keeper Dino Zoff. “I’ll never forget the silence when I scored,” Vaessen recounted. “The firecrackers, the drums, the chanting all stopped. It was eerie.”

This was the first time a British team had defeated Juventus on their home ground. Arsenal had created history, although they fell short in the 1980 Cup Winners’ Cup final, losing to Valencia in a penalty shootout. As for Vaessen, his career’s highlight was that goal in Turin. Tragically, he passed away in August 2001 at the age of 39.

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