In this, its centenary year, Bilbao's Estadio San Mamés will close its doors as Athletic Club prepare to relocate to a new ground a stone's throw away for the 2013/14 campaign. A 75th and final European encounter was played earlier this season at the famous venue known as 'La Catedral', and with Athletic hoping for great nights at their future home, UEFA.com recalls some memorable European contests at the soon-to-be old one.
Athletic 5-3 Manchester United FC
16 January 1957, European Champion Clubs' Cup quarter-final first leg
Athletic eventually succumbed 6-5 on aggregate, but the first leg remains legendary in the Basque Country. With snow falling, the hosts stunned their opponents with a ferocious attacking display, backed by a passionate home crowd. Ignacio Uribe's double and a Félix Marcaida strike had the Liga and Copa del Rey holders 3-0 up at half-time. Sir Matt Busby's side responded through Tommy Taylor and Dennis Viollet before Armando Merodio and José Luis Arteche restored Athletic's three-goal advantage. United forward Liam Whelan then struck what proved a crucial goal with five minutes left.
"It was a complete surprise to them what they encountered here in Bilbao," said Uribe. "They had no idea we could play like that."
Athletic 4-1 AC Milan
24 November 1976, UEFA Cup third round first leg
Celebrated Italy midfielder Gianni Rivera arrived in northern Spain alongside his Milan team-mates who took the lead through Fabio Capello's 25th-minute strike. From that point on, though, it was the home team who dazzled with two goals apiece from Dani and Carlos Ruíz establishing a significant first-leg cushion. The Liga club came perilously close to throwing it all away in the return, however, when they trailed 3-0 – but José Ignacio Madariaga rifled in an 88th-minute penalty to send the Leones through.
Athletic 2-1 Juventus
18 May 1977, UEFA Cup final second leg
A home victory proved insufficient for the men in red and white as they narrowly lost out to Giovanni Trapattoni's Juventus, who claimed their first European trophy. Trailing to Marco Tardelli's goal in Turin, the Lions fell further behind following Roberto Bettega's diving header early in the return at San Mamés. Javier Irureta's deflected effort quickly put Koldo Aguirre's men back in the tie, before Carlos Ruíz raised home hopes further with a strike 12 minutes from time.
"That game was really very special in terms of what it meant to us," goalkeeper José Ángel Iribar explained after his side's eventual defeat on away goals. "When Carlos scored the second we were really dreaming about winning it."
Athletic 2-1 Manchester United FC
15 March 2012, UEFA Europa League round of 16 second leg
On a high having left Old Trafford with an impressive 3-2 victory in the first leg, Marcelo Bielsa's charges finished the job to gain some revenge on the Red Devils 55 years after the teams last met in European competition. After a fine volley from Fernando Llorente set the finalists on their way, an opportunistic Óscar de Marcos goal meant that Wayne Rooney's thunderous effort would merely be a consolation for the visitors.
"We've got everyone hooked on our style of play and they are carried along with us for 90 minutes," beamed goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz.
Athletic 3-1 Sporting Clube de Portugal
26 April 2012, UEFA Europa League semi-final second leg
Two-one down from the first leg in Lisbon, Athletic looked to their supporters to help create one of San Mamés's most intoxicating nights. With the tie seemingly destined for extra time after the hosts had levelled the aggregate scores at 3-3, Llorente stretched out a leg to poke the Leones into the Bucharest final with two minutes remaining.
"I am delighted for the fans because these games put an onus on them," Bielsa said. "They want to be able to celebrate but there's also a fear of failure, yet they showed an appreciation and a gratitude for the players' efforts."
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