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Saturday 25th November v. Cliftonville (away) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 3:00pm

RSC ANDERLECHT (Belgium) [1989/1990 - European Cup Winners' Cup; First Round]
Overview | First Leg | Second Leg | "I Was There"

ON THAT glorious sun-drenched afternoon at the Oval in May 1989 when Paul Hardy's goal won Ballymena their sixth Irish Cup - few would have thought that it would be the last trophy for two decades at the Braid.
United's reward for their exploits in the Irish Cup was a place in the European Cup Winners' Cup First Round. This would be the Sky Blues' fourth campaign in European football's second competition having played Beveren, Roma and Hamrun Spartans in their previous European Cup Winners' Cup campaigns.
This also turned out to be the last time Ballymena United competed in the competition as it was abolished nine seasons later in 1999 due to falling interest levels and to make way for the expansion of the UEFA Champions League.
United secretary Don Stirling flew out to Geneva for the draw on the 11th July, 1989. In a draw that could have paired the County Antrim minnows against footballing giants such as Celtic, Sampdoria or Barcelona it was daunting enough opposition in the form of Belgian cup winners - RSC Anderlecht.
Despite being pulled out of the hat first, the Sky Blues had to travel to Brussels first for the away leg - as there was a fixture clash in Belgium on the date of the initial second leg. The first leg was to be played on September 13th, and the second two weeks later on the 27th September.
RSC Anderlecht from the Belgian capital of Brussels, possessed an intimidating record in European and domestic football. Having won five European trophies; the Cup Winners' Cup twice in 1976 and 1978; the UEFA Cup in 1982 and the European Super Cup twice as well. Prior to the games against Ballymena United they had also won 20 league titles - making them the most successful team in Belgium.
Ballymena started their 1989/1990 season very poorly and were without a single domestic victory going into the first leg in Belgium. The United players and officials arrived on the Tuesday before the match and were apprehensive about playing this team full of international players.
They had every reason to be as the Belgians gave them what was described as a "footballing masterclass" in the Vanden Stock Stadium - as the home side triumphed 6-0 in front of their own fans.
United player John McKee described the game as "Lambs for the slaughter". As it took just over ten minutes for the home side to open the scoring through Kari Ukkonen, then the onslaught of goals came as Luc Nillis and Marc Van der Linden grabbed two apiece before Anor Gudjohnsen got the half dozen, to condemn Ballymena's woes.
The return leg two weeks later, proved a little more difficult for Anderlecht and their team of stars, as they were pinned back and made to work for their victory - which ended in a rather flattering 4-0 win at the Ballymena Showgrounds.
Vervoort scored twice; with Marc Degryse and Anor Gudjohnsen getting a goal apiece – two of these coming in the last five minutes, as the Braidmen’s part-time legs began to tire in front of an appreciative home crowd.
This was (and still is) Ballymena United's heaviest aggregate defeat in European football, with Anderlecht winning 10-0 over the two legs.
However, the true measure of the quality that Ballymena United faced against RSC Anderlecht was in the fact that they reached the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup that season, unfortunately losing 2-0 Sampdoria in the final. They also defeated Spanish giants FC Barcelona in the second round that season.
This was to be the last time the Skies would play in Europe for fifteen years.
Review by Neil Coleman