Barcelona S.C., New York, New York, U.S.A. (Sunday, June 4, 1972)
Downing Stadium / Attendance: 1,300
Aside from the four games against Wolves, this was Aberdeen's only other game on the tour which was not against local opposition: The New York opponents being Barcelona S.C. from Ecuador. The connection between the Spanish team F.C. Barcelona and its namesake from Ecuador - other than a similar badge - was the president of the Ecuadorian outfit emigrated to Ecuador from Spain, and named the club after his hometown club and city.
Although the recorded attendance for the game was 1,300, there was apparently 200 non-paying fans standing on the Triborough Bridge, which overlooked Downing Stadium.
Barcelona had won the Serie A (Ecuador's topflight league) twice in the previous three years, while the 1972 season saw the team finishing third. Aberdeen and Barcelona also shared the honour of having never been relegated from the top division of their home country, a feat that stands to this day. Aberdeen and Celtic are the only two teams to have accomplished that in Scotland, while Barcelona is the only Ecuadorian team to hold that distinction.
Barcelona had been in New York for a while already, losing to a Colombian all-star team at Downing Stadium the week prior. Aberdeen came into this game on a cold streak as well, having not won in four games and only scoring once during that stretch.
However, based upon how this game started you never would have known. Davie Robb opened the scoring after four minutes of play, getting his head on the end of a Jim Forrest cross. Two minutes later, Forrest turned scorer as he caught a cross on the volley which the 'keeper - according to match reports - should have done a better job with. Twenty-one minutes in Robb notched his brace with a second header, this time from a Robert Miller cross. Joe Harper scored the Dons' fourth goal to give Aberdeen a huge lead after only 24 minutes, this one coming from a free kick laid off by George Murray.
Serie A's top scorer Nelsinho converted a header in the 39th minute to showcase a free scoring first half, and the teams went into the break with Aberdeen ahead 4-1.
Any hope of a Barcelona comeback was laid to rest with a fifth Aberdeen goal after 55 minutes. Drew Jarvie was given credit, but he later conceded that the Barcelona centre half got the last touch (although the record books would say differently). Aberdeen saw out the rest of the game. Full-time: Aberdeen-5 Barcelona S.C.-1.
Davie Robb said Barcelona were "the dirtiest team I have ever played against." Barcelona players were reportedly bickering among themselves, as well as towards the referee and the Aberdeen contingent. Add to that cocktail a mix of punching and rough fouls, and all with little punishment from the referee. On the other hand, Joe Harper was booked five minutes into the game for standing in front of the Barcelona 'keeper. Robb commended his teammates as they "could have easily lost the place."
The hard-fought victory was achieved under less than ideal circumstances for Jimmy Bonthrone's men, as the Dons only had 14 fit players for the match and some players were playing out of position. Alex Willoughby was moved from centre midfield to right back and Barrie Mitchell was moved from striker to centre half.
Barcelona officials blamed at least some of their team's poor showing on the absence of star striker Alberto Spencer, who did not make it from Ecuador in time for kick-off. Spencer was voted the 20th best South American footballer of the 20th century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics.
Aberdeen would next be moving on to their final Canadian game of the tour against the Montreal Olympics. The Dons were hoping to end the hoodoo that had plagued the team thus far in Canada, with a loss in Vancouver and draw in Toronto. Montreal were also in New York City on the day before Aberdeen's match vs. Barcelona, and the Olympics defeated the St. Louis Stars 1-0.
Author: George Pirie