Through the Lens: Photographs From The Past Part 4: The Ghost Match

With the talk of potentially playing the final games of the season behind closed doors, I though it would be interesting to look back at a match the Hammers played behind closed doors, but for very different reasons.

On the back on our fantastic victory against Arsenal in the FA Cup, Hammers entered the Cup Winners Cup the following season. Our first round tie was against Spanish side Castilla Club de Futbol, primarily a feeder club for Real Madrid.

The first league was away in the Bernabeu Stadium, in front of a crowd of 40,000, but the occasion got the better of the Hammers. After Cross put the visitors ahead in 17th minute, it looked as if we were going to hold on to the lead for the second league at home. But that was all turned on its head in 12 second half minutes, with the home side scoring 3 goals to end the first leg 3-1. 

Leading up to the match, the Hammers hadn’t conceded in the previous 9 hours of football only to be torn apart after wasting several good chances to extend their lead. But, it wasn’t just the disappointment of the result that cast a shadow over the game.

Violence in the stadium by the visiting supporters lead to Spanish police removing 50 people from the crowd, and the trouble continued outside after the match with one fan losing their life after being hit by a bus.

UEFA came down with a fine of £7,750 and ordered West Ham play the next two home games 200km away from Boleyn Ground. At the time, the club worried they may be banned from the competition altogether and lodged an appeal. The appeal successfully lifted the fine and they were allowed to play at home, albeit behind closed doors.

Lyall was angry, saying “All our efforts that went into this game now mean nothing. We took every precaution possible and then this happens.”

Bonds, the captain who wrote an open letter to the fans before the match, said “Whatever we do, some don’t listen. The players were aware of what was going on, but I can’t that as an excuse.”

Despite over turning the fine and ban on playing at home for the second league, it wasn’t looking good for the Hammers. There were efforts to get the match shown live in cinema or another ground, but UEFA made it clear ‘behind closed doors meant no fans would be able to watch the game live.’

The rest is history. With an official attendance as 262, including players and backroom staff, the game played out behind closed doors was one to remember. Goals from Pike, Cross and Goddard, before Bernal’s 35 yard screamer leading to extra time. Cross sealed the 6-4 aggregate win with two more goals to record a famous hat trick.

West Ham progressed to the quarter finals, losing to the eventual CWC winners Russian side Dinamo Tbilisi.

You can watch the goals form that match here:

Published by dawudmarsh

Photographer based in London.

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