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When Arsenal became the first club to lose a European final on penalties

Arsenal experienced a new style of defeat 40 years ago when Valencia beat them in a shootout in the Cup Winners’ Cup final

By Steven Pye for That 1980s Sports Blog

As Arsenal’s players trudged off the pitch after losing the 1980 FA Cup final to second-tier West Ham, they knew they had one more chance to ensure their gruelling 67-match campaign did not end without a trophy. Four days after their nightmare at Wembley, they had an opportunity to save their season. The European Cup Winners’ Cup final at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels on 14 May 1980 – 40 years ago today – would either soothe their pain or add salt to their fresh wounds.

“I suppose it is true that last Saturday’s Cup defeat by West Ham has brought us to the edge of a situation we have dreaded for weeks,” said Arsenal manager Terry Neill as he contemplated ending the campaign empty-handed. “If I know anything about these players, they’ll be so determined to make up for it. When they are like that, they are a hell of a force to reckon with.” Neill had to put a brave face on things, but he must have been mightily concerned by his team’s tired performance at Wembley. Could his players somehow raise their game one more time and beat Valencia?

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