The next game we look at from the vault of Welsh matches goes back to April 1985, and a game in a World Cup qualifying campaign against Spain.
In the previous October, Wales had travelled to Seville to play Spain and had been soundly beaten by a Spanish side, who the past summer had gone all the way to the European Championship Final, only to lose to the hosts, France.
One of the goalscorers in Seville during the defeat of the Welsh was Emilio Butragueno, the Real Madrid goal poacher was not available for the return game in Wales, but the Spanish side still looked a very powerful outfit.
Up to the point of the match, Wales had in four attempts never defeated Spain, but with the game being played at The Racecourse Ground in Wrexham where Wales had a good record, plus after losing the first two games in the group, Wales had won the last two matches against Iceland at home, and an excellent result away to Scotland, so was back in the hunt for qualification. What followed was a great evening of football for Welsh fans, which left over 23,000 fans in attendance and thousands of others watching on television in raptures.Embed from Getty Images
Just a minute before half-time, Kevin Ratcliffe put a long ball from just inside his half into the Spanish penalty box. The ball was headed back by a Spanish defender for the goalkeeper, Luis Arconada to pick up and stop any danger. However, Antonio Maceda, the elegant Spanish defender, moved tentatively towards the ball looking like he was about to clear with Ian Rush ready in case any error occurs, at the last-minute Maceda decides to leave it for Arconada. What transpired is that Maceda got in the way of Arconada and the pair made a complete mess of the attempt to get to the ball. Rush did not need asking twice and he swooped on the loose ball to score from around two yards, putting the ball into an empty net. Wales were in front and the Welsh fans went wild.Embed from Getty Images
Nine minutes into the second half, Wales scored the second, and I have to say in all of the goals scored by Wales, this is my personal favourite. Wales had a free kick on the right-hand side in the Spanish half. It was a great opportunity to put more pressure on the Spanish defence and put another ball into their penalty box. Robbie James, a superb set-piece exponent, stood over the ball and clipped in an out-swinging cross. The initial cross was half-cleared by the Spanish and the ball was headed out towards the edge of their penalty box. Mark Hughes was stood close to where the ball dropped and as the ball bounced once and with Spanish players coming out to try to close down any danger, Hughes steadied himself and then launched into mid-air scissors kick, catching the ball around shoulder height. The ball rocketed into the top right-hand corner of the Spanish goal. Arconada dived but it was a pointless waste of energy. The Welsh players jumped on Hughes in celebration. It was a stunning goal. The technique used by Hughes was of the highest order. He scored many great goals in his career but this one surely has to rank as one of the best. Fans went crazy Wales were well on the way to a great victory.
Welsh fans were singing loudly with songs such as “Are you watching Inger-lund” and enjoying the occasion. Wales was in total control of the game and were having a great time. Just four minutes before the end of the game, they enjoyed themselves even more. Peter Nicholas won an aerial challenge just inside the Spanish half, the ball reached Hughes with his back to the Spanish defence, he spotted a run from Rush in behind the Spanish defence. Hughes hooked the pass over the top into Rush’s path. Rush was into the penalty box, took one touch to control the pass, and then with Arconada racing out, calmly flicked the ball under his body into the Spanish goal. A very calm finish, which you expected no less of from Ian Rush. One of the all-time greatest goalscorers.Embed from Getty Images
Wales had beaten Spain for the first time in a fantastic team performance. Qualification for the World Cup really looked a possibility. However, as we know, a home draw to Scotland and Spain winning their last two qualifiers put paid to that. However, that night in Wrexham in April 1985 will long stay in the memory.
The two teams that night were as follows:
1/ Neville Southall
2/ Neil Slatter
3/ Kenny Jackett
4/ Kevin Ratcliffe
5/ Pat Van Den Hauwe
6/ David Phillips
7/ Peter Nicholas
8/ Robbie James
9/ Ian Rush
10/ Mickey Thomas
11/ Mark Hughes
Juan Carlos Perez Rojo