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Hajduk had an excellent team throughout the Eighties, but the league title proved elusive despite three Cup trophies coming to Split in this period. The most that could be managed were three second-places and three third-place finishes in the national championship. The Whites seemed to have come closest to a title in 1981, with a team coached by Ante "Biće" Mladinić finishing just two points behind champions Crvena Zvezda (Red Star Belgrade). Two years later, the same small margin separated Hajduk from Partizan.
In the wake of the 1981/82 season, the Hajduk management pulled off a sensational transfer coup in the arrival of Blaž "Baka" Slišković from Mostar. The mercurial, supremely tallented playmaker immediately became a Poljud's favorite. In the UEFA Cup, Hajduk overcame Stuttgart of Germany and Beveren of Belgium, while in the Round of sixteen a single goal would have sufficed to knock out Valencia and reverse a 1-5 scoreline from the first leg.
In the 1983/84 season, Hajduk was playing strong in the UEFA Cup and also in the domestic Cup competition, where it won Red Star Belgrade by 2-1 and 0-0 in two legs. Particularly memorable was the goal scored by Slišković, who managed to lob over helpless goalkeeper Ivković straight from the corner spot.
In the UEFA Cup, Hajduk knocked out Universitatea of Romania, Honved of Hungary and the Serbian team Radnički. In the second leg of the quarter final versus Sparta Prague, the Whites secured their progression with another set-piece wonder goal by Baka Slišković, a 118th minute free kick which outfoxed the Czechs' goalkeeper to make the score 2-0. Alas, Hajduk's old nemesis, the away goals rule, barred the way to the final, as a 2-1 home win against Tottenham was anulled by a 0-1 setback in London.
Hajduk's head-turning performances in the UEFA Cup continued. Metz of France were the first victims next time around (5-1, 2-2), followed by Torino of Italy (1-1, 3-1) and the Ukrainian Dnipro, then representing the Soviet Union (1-0, 2-0). In the quarter final, however, Waregem of Belgium kept their nerve in the penalty shootout.
In that season's domestic league 1984/85, Hajduk came second with four points behind champions Sarajevo, but did win the individual honor with top marksman Zlatko Vujović having scored 25.
Coach Josip Skoblar led the team to another Cup triumph in 1987. The semifinal clash against Red Star surprisingly featured home defeats by both teams. The Belgrade team won 2-1 in Split, but Hajduk returned at Marakana stadium, the game's only goal coming from Aljoša Asanović. The away goals rule, thankfully, did not apply, and the match went to penalties. Goalkeeper Zoran Varvodić then became Hajduk's hero. The final game against Rijeka was also decided from the spot. With the game tied at one goal apiece and the extra time running out, Skoblar decided to put in Varvodić from the bench. His saves in the shootout once again proved decisive, which endeared him to the fans, and earned him the nickname Rambo.
Hajduk's achievements around the turn of the decade – two Cup finals against Red Star – were understandably overshadowed by the political upheaval and the outbreak of war in the former Yugoslavia. In 1990 the team, coached by Luka Peruzović, was very unlucky not to bring home the trophy. After missing many promising chances, Pančev's highly suspicious goal was allowed to stand and the Whites went home empty-handed.
Material from publications by Jurica Gizdić used with permission: Hajduk in Official Competitions, 100 Years of Hajduk, Hajduk's Presidents and Hajduk's Coaches. The History of Hajduk by decades was prepared by Dag Baldasar.