Express & Star

WATCH: The night Brazilian legend Pele graced Villa Park

During his lifetime Pele graced an array of football stadiums - and one of those was Aston Villa's Villa Park.

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Express & Star coverage of the match

The Brazilian legend was part of a Santos side who made a famous visit to Birmingham back in 1972.

More than 54,000 people turned out to watch Pele and his Brazilian colleagues strut their stuff on that cold February night.

Villa beat Santos 2-1, while a dazzling Pele performance and world-class Edu free kick ensured the fans weren't disappointed.

The only things close to outshining Pele that night were the floodlights, which blazed bright enough to blind the Brazilians.

Despite Pele's dominance, Villa - then in the Third Division - took an early lead when Pat McMahon nodded in a corner after a Charlie Aitken flick-on.

And it took a succession of smart saves from the Santos goalkeeper to keep the score at 1-0 at half-time.

At a time of electricity rationing, Villa had forked out £5,000 to hire a generator for the evening - and still the lights wouldn't function correctly.

When one of the four corners was plunged into darkness it was Pele leading the protests with legendary referee Jack Taylor.

But the problems were resolved at half-time and play resumed after a lengthened break.

Twelve minutes into the second half Villa doubled their lead. Bruce Rioch was brought down on the edge of the Santos box and future Walsall manager Ray Graydon lashed in the spot kick, sending the Villa fans wild.

The goal sparked a reaction from Santos, who piled on the pressure. The white-shirted stars had a goal disallowed for offside and the friendly seemed destined to be Villa's until Edu produced the game's stand-out moment in the 72nd minute.

Pele, wearing number 10 as always, was fouled 25 yards out to the right of the goal. The resultant free kick was beautiful.

Edu hit the ball perfectly, using his left foot to curl the shot around Villa's four-man wall and past Jim Cumbes into the far bottom corner. Perfection.

When 90 minutes was up Pele ran straight off the pitch, receiving a huge ovation from all parts of the crowd.

February 21, 1972: Aston Villa 2 Santos 1.