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Dunfermline Athletic

1965: Athletic Bilbao 2 Dunfermline 1

Memorable Match #54
Inter Cities Fairs Cup, Third Round Play off
16th March 1965, Estadio San Mamés

Unfortunately an amazing penalty decision by Swiss referee, Anton Bucheli, led to the Pars downfall. After battling back to the equality, they lost to a goal just five minutes from the end when Bilbao inside left Fidel Uriarte, thundered home a magnificent shot from over 20 yards.

Dunfermline Athletic qualified for the 1964-65 Inter Cities Fairs Cup (now Europa Cup). By this time the European Football Association had increased the number of entrants from 32 to 48. (A total of 213 teams from all 55 UEFA member associations participate in the 2019–20 UEFA Europa League.)

The Pars had negotiated ties against Gothenburg club Orgryte and West Germany’s Stuttgart to earn the right to meet Athletic Bilbao in the third round.

The Dunfermline Athletic party leave for Bilbao, January 1965

The first leg was played away from home in the last week of January and manager Willie Cunningham received many plaudits for his team’s attacking display. Many felt that they deserved to win and they certainly did not deserve to lose. They were denied success time and time again by Bilbao’s international keeper José Iribar and lost to a Nando YOSU goal just three minutes from time.

The team travelled back to Scotland confident that they could win the tie, after all they had squared a four goal deficit against their last Spanish opponents at East End Park - Valencia. Unfortunately they could only level the aggregate scoreline with a 1-0 win courtesy of an Alex Smith goal in 20th minute.

The tie would go to a play off and by now the authorities had deemed that it would be played on the home ground of one of the teams decided by the toss of a coin. Captain Jim Maclean lost the toss and the play off followed back in the Estadio San Mames on 16th March.

For the play off Harry Melrose, John Kilgannon and George Peebles replaced John McLaughlin, Alex Ferguson and Jackie Sinclair. Bert Paton was also out recovering from a cartilage operation that had seen him miss the second leg as well.

Dunfermline went out but there was no doubt that the controversial penalty in 32 minutes was one of the chief reasons.. Right half Koldo Aguirre tumbled in the penalty box as he was jostled by two defenders but there was no offence. However the Swiss referee thought otherwise despite the protests of the Dunfermline players. As AGUIRRE ran up to stroke the ball into the net another Bilbao man ran alongside him and this brought further unsuccessful remonstrations from the visitors. 1-0

It was a penalty was even the locals thought was ridiculous for they howled derisively before the kick was taken.

Half time: Athletic Bilbao 1 Dunfermline 0

After the interval it was a much different story. Smith who had lined up at outside left and retreated into the role of sweeper in defence, was restored to the forward line and within four minutes a header put Dunfermline on level terms.

Iribar who had won the first of his 49 Spanish international caps the previous year, had no chance as SMITH rose to meet across from right back Willie Callaghan with a calculated header. 1-1

Peebles and Callaghan and had full blooded drives and then in the 55th minute a cross from Peebles struck the far post and bounced along the line. Dunfermline claimed that the ball had crossed it but defender José Maria Orue’s hurried clearance got the benefit of the doubt. To end this flurry of fantastic pressure, Iribar had a smart save from Smith.

Dunfermline switched their men non-stop in an all out bid to shake the composed Bilbao defence, yet all this fiery running was sapping their stamina on a soft pitch.

In the last 15 minutes with 30,000 spectators chanting a victory song, Bilbao assumed command again. Yuso sent a superb overhead kick inches high in the 68th minute Jim Herriot had a wonderful save from Uriarte.

Above: Alex Smith’s goal in the second leg

Five minutes from time he had no such luck when 20 year old URIARTE picked up a long pass from Luis Maria Echeberria, ran in on goal and unleashed a terrific left footed shot which flashed past Herriot. 2-1

This was the second time in the season’s competition that Dunfermline had run into referee Bucheli and lost a penalty kick, but in Stuttgart Herriot stopped the shot.

So Scotland were out of all three European tournaments. It might have been an entirely different tale had Dunfermline gone all out for goals from the start. Smith gave everything in a great performance, with Melrose and Peebles working tirelessly and Maclean holding up in the middle. They missed Ferguson’s sharpshooting and altogether it wasn’t their night.

Dunfermline would be back in the Fairs Cup the following season after a third placed league finish. Athletic Bilbao went on to meet the eventual tournament winners, Ferencvaros in the quarter final.

ATHLETIC BILBAO: José Ángel Iribar: José Maria Orue, Txutxi Aranguren, Koldo Aguirre, Luis Maria Echeberria, Manuel Gonzales Etura, Iñaki Sáez, Antonio Arieta, Ignacio Arieta, Fidel Uriarte, Fernando Yousu.
SCORERS: Aguirre (32 pen), Uriarte (85)

DUNFERMLINE: Jim Herriot, Willie Callaghan, John Lunn, Jim Thomson, Jim Maclean, Tommy Callaghan, Alex Edwards, Alex Smith, Harry Melrose, John Kilgannon, George Peebles.
SCORER: Smith (49)

REFEREE: A Bucheli (Switzerland)

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