Metz beats Barcelona

“Metz – Estadio del FC Metz” by mx.style is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Giant Killings are the best, the bigger the club, the better the fall. And when it is Barcelona it’s even more newsworthy. The eighties was a time of giant killings and clubs trying to become the next great side out there. League Un in France was a league that saw many clubs rise up, and fall down with the best of them. We saw in the seventies and early eighties St. Etienne became the great club in the region. Time and time again they didn’t conquer Barcelona on their own soil, that was another club. FC Metz. 

In the spring of 1984, Metz shocked French giants AS Monaco to win the Coupe de France, Metz were drawn into the pot for an European adventure. They were drawn into the European Cup Winners Cup, a long loved, yet forgotten tournament that provided clubs the chance at Europe, and some memorable runs. There were many who thought such a small club going to Europe was a bad thing, kind of like when Wigan did the same decades later, but football will let stories play out. Metz were drawn in the first round against the Spanish Giant Barcelona.

“The FC Barcelona Supporters” by Oh-Barcelona.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Barcelona was big at this point, but they weren’t Real Madrid. Barcelona had nine Spanish League tiles, twenty Spanish Cups, and five European Cup winners. Barcelona was appearing in their 29th straight year in Europe. Metz? On the other hand they were only a few notable honors for them, a second division championship fifty years before, the 1984 Coupe de France, and a couple bad Fairs Cup campaigns in the late 1960s. 

At Metz’ home of Stade Saint-Symphorien on September 19, 1984, 22,000 local fans came to cheer on their local side, and to see this all conquering Barcelona side. Metz was a young team, and young players tend to play the win over and over in their head, distracting themselves from the task at hand. Goalkeeper Michel Ettorre and Luc Sonor had a miscommunication at the back, and Sonor scored an only goal. Fortunately, Metz did react well to the hole they were in, Toni Kurbos equalized off a beautiful pass from Jules Bocande to make it 1-1.

Like with anything at Barcelona they were able to see off any challenge, as German star Bernd Schuster’s free kick caught Ettorre by surprise to make it 2-1. That spurred the floodgates to open up, and over the next seventeen minutes two more goals spilled in for Barcelona. Lucky for Metz Jean-Philippe Rohr scored a late penalty to get the 4-2 scoreline for the second leg. After the match Schuster and Scottish striker Steve Archibald rubbed salt wounds by smack talking them. Schuster jokingly said he’d buy a ham for Ettorre as a thanks for the goals. Archibald called the French club clowns. 

No team in any European club competition had come back down 4-2 at home to win. Adding to the improbability of this was Metz’s away form was shocking to say the least, as they had conceded four in the derby with Strasbourg, and lost to Monaco 7-0. Not quite life affirming right? So it was in the bag for Terry Venables men? French television thought the same, they didn’t even bother in traveling to broadcast the match. Only a writer from Republicain Lorrian, and France Inter showed up.

Throughout all of this Metz had to defend their pride and didn’t want to play the fall guys like so many little clubs had for the Spanish giants. Metz was a young group built on team spirit, togetherness, and working as a team. Of the sixteen member squad, eleven came through the youth ranks together. Metz was threatened with administration only a year before, because of the local steel industry falling apart. Metz captain Jean-Paul Bernad, who was suspended for the league matches preceding the tie at the Camp Nou, was sent on ahead to provide a scouting report. It was such a good report that it helped motivate the Metz side for the win.

The night of the match the bookmakers were giving 100 to 1 on a Metz win. The locals thought even less, as roughly 24,000 including Metz fans attended. And after 33 minutes, when Barcelona went up 1-0 they would have all been right. That trope only lasted five minutes as Toni Kurbos saw the Barcelona high defensive line, and Barcelona reserve keeper Amador off his line, summed up the belief in himself and put a shot high back into the net for a 1-1 scoreline. Not too much later after the restart Sonor stole the ball from Archibald, sent it into Bernad who crossed into Kurbos, which missed and hit Barcelona captain Sanchez who hit it into the Barcelona goal for 2-1 half time lead.

“Terry Venables does punditry ahead of England’s game against Brazil in the 2002 World Cup” by Ben Sutherland is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Venables and Barcelona had enough in them to stem the tide. Ten minutes into the second half they put two shots on Ettorre to stop the momentum from Metz. However, the goalkeeper saved them both. Metz off a great Bernad pass over the top of the Barcelona defense sent Kurbos chipped a goal past the keeper to go up 3-1. One more goal is all Metz needed to pull off the shocker. 5-5 on aggregate right now. Archibald tried his best to put Met back in their place but Ettorre came up with the save again. 

With only five minutes left Borcande tried to put a cross into the box, but it was blocked right back to his foot. This is when he measured it again, sending the ball into Kurbos to put Metz on ahead, and get the hattrick at Camp Nou for Kurbos. Ironically, months before the move that Kurbos pulled off, was pulled off by the great Michel Platini against Portugal. Metz held on for the last five minutes to complete one of the biggest shocks in European football beating Barcelona 4-1 at the Camp Nou. Unironcially, at the end of the match Etorre ran up to Schuster asking where his ham was. Many back in France thought the report was wrong and it had been reversed.

This match didn’t change anything for either club long term. Barcelona went on to win La Liga for the first time in 11 years. Metz was knocked out in the next round of the Cup Winners Cup. However, they did finish fifth in the top league to qualify for the following years UEFA Cup. Eventually the side broke up as Kurbos went to Saint-Etienne, Rohr and Bernad to Nice, and Sonor to Monaco.

Published by Stephen Brandt

Stephen Brandt is the host of the Subs Bench on Anchor.fm He has written many articles on the sport over the last 15 years. His first book Boca Juniors A History and Appreciation of Buenos Aires's Most Succesful Futbol Team is out in the fall. He currently lives in Buffalo New York, USA.

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