Arsenal FC can take heart from FC Metz's incredible 1984 comeback against FC Barcelona as UEFA.com recalls the night "the 2CV beat the Ferrari".
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When FC Metz sent a scout to watch FC Barcelona on domestic duty in late September 1984, the Catalan giants could hardly believe their eyes. True, the two sides were due to conclude their first-round tie in the European Cup Winners' Cup, but surely the humble French team knew they were beaten? How could they not, having lost 4-2 to their illustrious rivals in the home leg? Metz, apparently, had other ideas.
"We weren't necessarily thinking about qualifying, but about exiting the competition without being humiliated," recalled then club president Carlo Molinari, who felt his side's opening loss at the Stade Saint-Symphorien contained reasons for belief. "In the first leg, we'd handed them three of their four goals and the difference in terms of technique wasn't that great. There was a chance for us to pull something off in Barcelona."
That optimism was not shared widely. Les Grenats had earned their place in Europe after clinching their first major trophy with the 1984 Coupe de France – yet they travelled to Spain just weeks after suffering a 7-0 defeat at AS Monaco FC. While bookmakers offered odds of 100/1 on Metz turning things around, the French press voted with their feet as only one written journalist and a radio reporter made the trip to cover a match snubbed by television.
Behind the scenes, though, Metz's players were spoiling for revenge, Barça having rubbed salt into their wounds after the opening game. Indeed, Blaugrana playmaker Bernd Schuster had promised to give his opponents some local ham in the return "to thank them for the presents they gave us tonight", while their vice-president proposed inviting the Ligue 1 team as guests to the next round – none of which went down well in Lorraine. "
They took us for tourists and that really got to us," explained midfielder Vincent Bracigliano.
Goalkeeper Michel Ettorre was particularly aggrieved and collected any article he could find suggesting Metz had no chance, yet the naysayers looked set to be proved right when Francisco José Carrasco fired the hosts in front on 33 minutes. The small Camp Nou crowd of 24,000 cheered what surely had to be the end of the tie. Suddenly, Metz needed to muster four goals against Terry Venables's talented lineup in less than an hour. Improbable, yes, but not – it turned out – impossible.
Marcel Husson's men never gave up, and although Ettorre had to make a string of saves, Metz's counterattacking approach began to pay dividends through the speed of Tony Kurbos. "Barcelona didn't really have any pacy defenders while we had Kurbos who was very quick," said midfielder Jean-Philippe Rohr – and, sure enough, the moustachioed forward equalised in the 38th minute, breaking down the right and thumping high into the net from a tight angle.
Having also scored in the first leg, the Slovenian-born Kurbos then helped put Metz ahead moments later when his cross was bundled over the line by the unfortunate José Vicente Sánchez. It was Kurbos who brought Metz within a goal of the promised land too, collecting an excellent through pass, clipping the ball beyond Amador Lorenzo and finishing into an empty net.
The visitors still required another goal, but Rohr was never in doubt that it would come. "You could see it in people's eyes," he noted. "At that moment, something was happening – it was really strange, but you just knew we would make it." And make it they did, even if they had to wait until the 85th minute, Kurbos completing an unforgettable hat-trick following excellent work at the byline from Jules Bocandé.
Not about to let the tie slip now, Les Grenats held onto their lead and wrapped up one of the most sensational fightbacks in UEFA competition history. The players were ecstatic, though Ettorre did not join the initial celebrations, having a special message to deliver instead. "
I ran straight up to Schuster and shouted: 'Where's your ham now?' I don't think he speaks French, but he understood me that night."
"There's no excuses – it was an absolute disaster," wrote Catalan sports paper Mundo Deportivo under the headline: "ASH WEDNESDAY". However, Venables sought to make the best of his side's European hopes turning to dust: "I think it can be a positive defeat in terms of the league title; we know what mistakes we made and what we need to correct."
Perhaps still pinching themselves, Metz lost to 1. FC Dynamo Dresden in the next round, though they had already made their point as the patron saints of seemingly lost causes and minnows everywhere. "Afterwards, we saw the Barça players leaving in their Porsches and Ferraris, while we all drove Citroën 2CVs and Renault 8s," added Bracigliano. "That's the image that stayed with me the most.
We weren't much compared to them, but the 2CV had beaten the Ferrari."
Lucky 13: Having lost 3-1 to AS Monaco FC in London last week, Arsenal FC can take encouragement from Metz and the other 12 teams who have recovered from two-goal home defeats with sensational away wins.
FC Metz 2-4 FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona 1-4 FC Metz
1984/85 European Cup Winners' Cup first round
AFC Ajax 1-3 SL Benfica
SL Benfica 1-3 AFC Ajax
Ajax win a replay on neutral territory in Paris 3-0
1968/69 European Champion Clubs' Cup quarter-final
Brøndby IF 1-3 Karlsruher SC
Karlsruher SC 0-5 Brøndby IF
1996/97 UEFA Cup third round
VfB Stuttgart 1-3 Feyenoord
Feyenoord 0-3 VfB Stuttgart
1998/99 UEFA Cup first round
Sliema Wanderers FC 1-3 FC Margveti Zestafoni
FC Margveti Zestafoni 0-3 Sliema Wanderers FC
1996/97 UEFA Cup preliminary round
K. Lierse SK 0-2 Leeds United AFC
Leeds United AFC 0-4 K. Lierse SK
1971/72 UEFA Cup first round
FC Bayern München 0-2 FC Internazionale Milano
FC Internazionale Milano 1-3 FC Bayern München
1988/89 UEFA Cup third round
SK Rapid Wien 0-2 FC Rubin Kazan
FC Rubin Kazan 0-3 SK Rapid Wien
2004/05 UEFA Cup preliminary round
Maccabi Petach-Tikva FC 0-2 FK Partizan
FK Partizan 2-5 Maccabi Petach-Tikva FC
2005/06 UEFA Cup first round
Anorthosis Famagusta FC 0-2 HNK Šibenik
HNK Šibenik 0-3 Anorthosis Famagusta FC (aet)
2010/11 UEFA Europa League qualifying round
Sporting Club de Portugal 0-2 Brøndby IF
Brøndby IF 0-3 Sporting Club de Portugal
2010/11 UEFA Europa League play-offs
FC Vaduz 0-2 FK Vojvodina
FK Vojvodina 1-3 FC Vaduz
2011/12 UEFA Europa League qualifying round
Sevilla FC 0-2 Real Betis Balompie
Real Betis Balompie 0-2 Sevilla FC (aet, Sevilla win 4-3 on pens)
2013/14 UEFA Europa League round of 16