This Thursday, Royal Sporting Club Anderlecht will meet West Ham United, 46 years after winning the 1976 European Cup Winners' Cup final. 11 years earlier, the team from London had won that competition, but in '76 it was Sporting that got to add its first European Cup to its record against the Hammers.
1976. Royal Sporting Club Anderlecht hosts West Ham United in a Heysel Stadium filled to the brim for the final of the European Cup Winners' Cup, having previously swept aside FC Rapid Bucharest (Romania), FK Borac Banja Luka (ex-Yugoslavia), Wrexham AFC (Wales) and Sachsenring Zwickau (ex-Germany). But despite home advantage and 51 296 spectators, the Mauves faced a leaden task that night.
Coach Hans Croon - who already knew that evening that his time at Anderlecht would end after that season due to the missed title - had to puzzle. Erwin Vandendaele, his regular centre back, had to drop out injured, which meant Gille Van Binst moved to the center back position. The Dutchman convinced Jean Thissen - also injured - to play despite his injury. A young Michel Lomme got his chance in the starting line-up.
Unfortunately, Sporting's unusual back line only resisted the numerous London attacks for half an hour. Pat Holland found the net from close range and beat goalkeeper Jan Ruiter. To make matters worse, Ludo Coeck was injured and had to be replaced by young Franky Vercauteren, who took his place in midfield along with Jean Dockx.
But it heralded the start of a purple-and-white resurgence. Robbie Rensenbrink and François Van der Elst were the conductors of the orchestra, as had been the case throughout the European campaign. Robbie, the brilliant Dutch left-winger, wore his gala suit for the occasion. The Snake Man was unstoppable, and was served by Peter Ressel shortly before half-time to slot in the equaliser in a controlled manner.
After half-time, Swat Van der Elst brought RSCA into the lead with a superb shot into the top corner. But the Hammers came back. Keith Robson equalised after a long hour of play, everything was to be redone. But the equaliser by the British could not stop the power of the two Mauve star players, Rensenbrink and Van der Elst. The Snake Man and Mister Europe, who else, took Sporting from 2-2 to 4-2 thanks to a penalty from Robbie and a devilish solo goal from Swat.
The victory marked the first ever European cup in purple and white's trophy cabinet. One to which they would add a European Super Cup that same summer after winning against European champions Bayern Munich. The players of that season wrote history. They will forever have their page in one of the most important chapters of Anderlecht's history.
Rewatch the game:
RSC Anderlecht : Ruiter; Lomme, Broos, Van Binst, Thissen; Dockx, Haan, Coeck (32’ Vercauteren); Van der Elst, Ressel, Rensenbrink
West Ham United : Day; Coleman, Bonds, T. Taylor, Lampard (46’ A. Taylor); Mc Dowell, Peddon, Brooking; Holland, Jennings, Robson
Goals : 28’ Holland (0-1), 42’ Rensenbrink (1-1), 47’ Van der Elst (2-1), 68’ Robson (2-2) & 72’ Rensenbrink (3-2)