• Rewind to 1971

The year Chelsea won 21-0 in Europe

Jon Carter
September 29, 2011
Chelsea beat Real Madrid to become holders of the European Cup Winners' Cup © Getty Images

Current Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is known to favour two things above all else for his club. Firstly, the Russian billionaire wants the Blues to play attacking football, while he is also keen for them to pick up European silverware. In 1971, the Blues must have been a vision of perfection in his eyes as they had landed the European Cup Winners' Cup and began their defence of the trophy by beating Jeunesse Hautcharage 21-0 over two legs, with the second an incredible 13-0 win at Stamford Bridge.

Having downed the great Real Madrid 2-1 in a replay in Greece to land their first European title - the 1971 Cup Winners' Cup - Chelsea were a new force to be reckoned with on the continent. Based on the defensive solidity of captain Ron 'Chopper' Harris and the goals of striker Peter Osgood, the Blues were described as an ''expressive, glamorous and often self-destructive side'' and had picked up their first FA Cup trophy in 1969-70 to propel them to the top of the English game after several near misses.

However, Chelsea's exploits in Europe before 1971 were nothing to shout about. They had won the First Division in 1954-55, but were denied their rightful place in the inaugural European Cup by pressure from the Football Association and Football League, who wanted to place more emphasis on domestic efforts and persuaded the London club to withdraw from the competition.

It would be a decision that Chelsea would come to regret as they were not seen back in European football until their first FA Cup win allowed them passage into the Cup Winners' Cup in 1970-71. With wins over Aris, CSKA Sofia, Club Brugge and then English rivals Manchester City in the semis, the Blues gave their fans their first major European final, against Madrid, which they won.

With the shoots of a European history beginning to blossom, hopes were high for the current champions when they were drawn against a club from Luxembourg, based in the south-western town of Hautcharage (and a population of around a thousand people) the following season.

Few from England (if any) had ever heard of Jeunesse Hautcharage, and the history of Luxembourg clubs in Europe was not distinguished. Double figures were not an unusual sight when the country's top teams came up against the cream of Europe's crop and one of their most successful teams, Union Luxembourg, had embarrassingly lost 13-0 to Cologne in 1965. Such results would befall clubs from the Luxembourg top flight regularly, whereas Jeunesse Hautcharage were a lower-league side who had caused a major shock by winning the Luxembourg Cup. Their portents were not good.

The Guardian, while more preoccupied with the news of Arsenal's draw against a Norwegian amateur side in the European Cup, led with the headline 'Easy draws for the British clubs' and asserted that Chelsea's simple fixture ''should see them into the last-16''.

And so it proved. The 8-0 first leg result in Luxembourg was labelled as ''more of a massacre than a match'' by the Daily Mirror's Nigel Clarke and saw Osgood claim a hat-trick. It took just three minutes for 'Ossie' to get off the mark as he brought the ball down with expert skill to slam past goalkeeper Lucien Fusilier. A few minutes before half-time, Osgood completed his hat-trick and Clarke asserted that ''it was only the enthusiasm of the amateurs, inspired at times by a splendid brass band, that kept them running.'' A first-half brace from Peter Houseman and one from John Hollins made it 6-0 by the break and Tommy Baldwin and David Webb added two more in the second half. Unusually, Chelsea boss Dave Sexton was subdued after the match, claiming only that he was ''pleased to have got eight goals away from home.''

The 1971-72 Chelsea squad were described as "expressive, glamorous and often self-destructive" © Getty Images

But, ahead of the visit to Stamford Bridge, Jeunesse Hautcharage had more on their plate than just the scoreline. According to author and football historian Cris Freddi: ''As well as the three Welscher brothers, one of their players wore glasses, one of their substitutes was just 15, and Guy Thill was born with only one arm!''

The Luxembourg minnows were never in with a shout of even making the game interesting. Osgood struck again with two in the first five minutes, while Alan Hudson, Hollins, Webb and Harris made it 6-0 again at the half-time. Goalkeeper Fusilier was left wounded with three stitches in his eyebrow after a collision with Osgood, who then bagged a second-half hat-trick alongside two from Baldwin and one from Houseman.

Osgood had wanted to better the eight-goal haul by AC Milan's Jose Altafini (also against Luxembourg opposition, Union, in 1962-63) and had bet goalkeeper Peter Bonetti that he would score six to add to the three from the first leg. But, while he became the fourth Chelsea player to score five goals in a match (after George Hilsdon, Jimmy Greaves and Bobby Tambling) he could not muster the important sixth.

The Daily Mirror took the chance to laud the feat with the headline: 'Chelsea goal kings of Europe', instead of focusing on holders Leeds' embarrassing exit from the UEFA Cup at the hands of Belgian minnows Lierse SK, despite the Yorkshire club holding a 2-0 advantage from the first leg. For Chelsea, it was an incredible feat and one that went down in their history, although the 21-0 aggregate scoreline did not do the brave players of Jeunesse Hautcharage justice.

Chelsea's delight, though, would soon turn to despair as they discovered that not all minnows in European football go down quite so easily.

What happened next? Chelsea went on to lose their second round match to another tiny team, Sweden's Atvidaberg. It was one of the biggest shocks in European football history as they held on at home for a 0-0 draw and then pinched a goal to draw 1-1 at Stamford Bridge and progress on away goals. Chelsea's standalone record of handing Jeunesse Hautcharage the largest ever aggregate defeat in UEFA competition did not last long as Feyenoord Rotterdam achieved the same aggregate score against US Rumelange: winning the first leg 9-0 and second 12-0 in the 1972-73 UEFA Cup. Eventually, the name of Jeunesse Hautcharage disappeared as the club amalgamated with Union Sportive Bascharage in 1997, to form UN Kaerjeng 97. Chelsea would have to wait until 1998 to pick up another European trophy, winning the Cup-Winners' Cup for a second time against Stuttgart, before they added the UEFA Super Cup a couple of months later.

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