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Bucharest rout still giving Beckett nightmares

Published: Thursday 21 July 2011, 11.13CET
HJK Helsinki's 10-0 victory this week recalled the record 11-0 European Champion Clubs' Cup win that FC Dinamo Bucureşti inflicted on Crusaders FC, a day Liam Beckett cannot forget.
by Darren Fullerton
from Belfast
Bucharest rout still giving Beckett nightmares
The Crusaders team in 1973, with Liam Beckett on far right of the front row ©Crusaders FC
Published: Thursday 21 July 2011, 11.13CET

Bucharest rout still giving Beckett nightmares

HJK Helsinki's 10-0 victory this week recalled the record 11-0 European Champion Clubs' Cup win that FC Dinamo Bucureşti inflicted on Crusaders FC, a day Liam Beckett cannot forget.

It may be almost 40 years ago but Liam Beckett still has "nightmares" about the afternoon in October 1973 when Crusaders FC entered the record books on the back of a crushing 11-0 defeat by FC Dinamo Bucureşti in the European Champion Clubs' Cup.

One-way traffic wouldn't do Bucharest justice. They had a handful of Romanian internationals in their lineup and they were breathtaking – a fabulous side. We were like lambs to the slaughter.
Liam Beckett

HJK Helsinki came close with a 10-0 rout of Bangor City FC on Tuesday but the Northern Irish part-timers' hammering in the Romanian capital remains the heaviest defeat ever inflicted in the competition.

Crusaders lost the first leg 1-0 at Windsor Park in Belfast but were well and truly humbled in the return a fortnight later. Beckett, then a 22-year-old who had won his first and only league title the season before, has vivid memories of "the most surreal and unforgettable night" of his football career.

"I still have nightmares – it was like the Alamo," he recalled. "It was probably one of the most bizarre nights I have ever experienced. One-way traffic wouldn't do Bucharest justice. They had a handful of Romanian internationals in their lineup and they were breathtaking – a fabulous side. We were like lambs to the slaughter.

"I remember two women's teams from Bucharest had been playing a demonstration match prior to kick-off, and when I saw how good they were, I was fearful. I thought to myself, 'How are we ever going to beat the men?'"

Crusaders were behind inside five minutes and trailed 4-0 at the break, before the roof caved in during the second half. Striker Dudu Georgescu, winner of the European Golden Boot in 1975 and 1977, and midfielder Radu Nunweiler, his fellow Romanian international, helped themselves to four goals apiece as Dinamo ran riot.

"Our manager Billy Johnston told us before the game to 'keep the ball – just keep the ball'," Beckett remembered. "To be honest the only time we saw the ball was when we were kicking off again after Bucharest had scored. I remember looking up at a big scoreboard at the far end of the ground and it read 9-0. I turned to my team-mate John McPolin and said, 'Is that the time or the score?' He was bent double laughing. All we could do was laugh.

"It was an eye-opener. We were Northern Irish champions and a good side back home, but we were probably a bit naive and gung-ho in our approach. We had only lost the first leg 1-0 in Belfast – and I think we hit the woodwork too – so there was no indication of the hammering to come.

"Technically, Bucharest were superb. Physically they were also so strong and fit – they had muscles in places I didn't know you could have muscles. They moved the ball so quickly. It was pass, pass, pass, goal. Then another goal. And another goal."

As one Dinamo effort billowed the Crusaders net, Beckett recalls spotting Crusaders captain Walter McFarland warmly applauding in the penalty area. "Why are you clapping?" shouted Beckett. "What a fabulous goal that was," replied McFarland.

Florea Dumitrache and Cornel Dinu also scored for Ion Nunweiler's team while their fifth goal was attributed to Beckett. Yet the former midfielder and full-back – who later played for Coleraine FC and also Drogheda United FC in the Republic of Ireland – insists it was a case of mistaken identity.

Beckett, now a respected football pundit in Northern Ireland, said: "No, it wasn't me. From memory another team-mate was trying to clear the ball off the line and he sliced it into the net. I've never been allowed to forget that 11-0 result, but it wasn't my own goal. I'm not claiming that one!"

Last updated: 21/07/11 17.48CET

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