EUROPEAN CUP HISTORY.COM
The first ever European Cup game took place on the afternoon of 4th September 1955 in Lisbon when Sporting Lisbon played out a 3-3 draw with Partizan Belgrade, and the first European Cup goal was scored by Sporting's Joao Baptista Martins, but the most significant game of the first round came four days later in Geneva. On 8th September, Miguel Munoz scored a 74th minute goal that sent Real Madrid on their way to a 2-0 win against Servette in the first leg of their first round tie. Nobody knew it at the time, but that was the beginning of five years of dominance by the Spanish champions.
The money and vision of Real president, Santiago Bernabeu had provided the Madrid club with not only a stadium that was the envy of Europe, but had also started to put together a team that would dominate the opening years of the Champions Cup. With the forward line that they posessed, under the guidance of coach Jose Villalonga, they were able to paper over some of the deficiencies that they had at the back, for few defences could cope with the likes of the great Alfredo Di Stefano from Argentina, Hector Rial from Uruguay and the lightning quick Francisco Gento when they were in full flow. The Swiss of Geneva were blown away by seven goals in the first round of the inaugural competition and, the Yugoslavs of Partizan Belgrade appeared to be as good as out after a 4-0 Christmas Day defeat in Madrid in the second round. But the second leg in wintry Belgrade saw Partizan leading 3-0 when a shot on goal only failed to croos the line thanks to the amount of slush in the penalty area. The Real defenders cleared the ball and they were now into the semi-finals, but there they were likely to be even more severely tested when they came up against the Italians of AC Milan.
In the other half of the draw, the French team Stade de Reims had also made it through to the last four. Reims were the major club in France when the European Cup began and they cornered the market in domestic talent. Guided by their manager Albert Batteux, Reims were League champions and Latin Cup winners in 1953, before winning the French championship again in 1955. Their inspirational player was Raymond Kopa, a mesmeric forward whose touch and vision catapulted Reims through the first two rounds. Winning aggregate scores of 4-2 over Denmark’s Aarhus and 8-6 against Voros Lobogo of Hungary saw the French side progress to a semi-final against Hibernian. Hibs were one of several of the clubs invited to take part in this first European Cup who were not, in fact, reigning champions of their respective countries. They were regarded as being one of the top teams in Scotland, having won the Scottish title in 1950 and 1953, but the main reason for their invitation was that they were the only team in the country who had floodlights installed at their ground – a fairly important prerequisite for taking part in a midweek floodlit competition. The first British team to take part in the European Cup had little trouble in getting past Rot Weiss Essen and Djurgaarden, but a Kopa inspired Stade de Reims was to prove a much harder proposition in the semi-finals.
The first legs of the two semi-finals saw both home teams take a decisive step to the final. In Paris, Stade de Reims led Hibernian by just a single Leblond goal as the game entered the closing stages, but a last minute strike from Bliard gave the Frenchmen a more convincing 2-0 lead. In Madrid, Real ran out 4-2 winners. Neither of the defeated sides could recover from that. One Glovacki goal (his sixth in six games) from a Kopa pass for the French team in the second leg saw Reims into the final, while Real edged through after a 2-1 defeat in Milan. And so, the first ever European Cup Final would see the same two teams that had played out the Latin Cup Final twelve months earlier play in the same stadium – Real hoping that the 2-0 score line would also be the same.
On June 13, 1956, 38,000 spectators paying around £20,000, gathered at the Parc des Princes to see who would be crowned the first ever European champions. After ten minutes there seemed little doubt that that team would be the one that the majority of the crowd were supporting - Stade de Reims. After six minutes, Reims were ahead as a free kick from Kopa – who had already been signed by Real to play for them from the start of the following season – reached the head of Michel Leblond who sent the ball looping over Alonso in goal – although the Real players complained that the ball had not crossed the line - and a Jean Templin goal soon afterwards gave the Frenchmen a two goal lead. Moments later a shot from Kopa was cleared off the Madrid goal line. A fine run and shot from Di Stefano brought Real back into the game, however, with a 14th minute goal and Rial’s header from a corner brought the scores level before half-time. In the second half, Di Stefano began to take control and his pass found Joseito who sent the ball past Jacquet and into the net, only for the goal to be disallowed for offside. But when future French national coach Michel Hidalgo headed Reims into a 3-2 lead from another Kopa free kick just after the hour, the game had swung back in their favour. Just when Real needed something special it was a surprise run and strike from centre-back Manuel Marquitos on 67 minutes that changed the game once again. Marquitos’s shot appeared to be heading wide of the goal, but a deflection off the leg of a defender sent it past Jacquet in the Reims goal to bring the scores level. With eleven minutes remaining, a second from Rial, after a great run and cross from Gento, gave Madrid the lead for the first time in the match. Two minutes from time the Spaniards were given a scare when Reims’s Templin hit the bar, but they eventually managed to hold out and win the match 4-3.
The European Cup Final had shown football fans throughout the continent what a force Real Madrid were and what a star player they had in the shape of Di Stefano. The Real bound Raymond Kopa commented: ‘After what I have seen in this game, I don’t know why Real need me. Their team is complete.’ The trophy was presented to Real captain Miguel Munoz by UEFA president Ebbe Schwartz. The European Cup was now in the hands of Real Madrid, and it would stay there for many years to come.
1956 European Cup Final (Paris)
Real Madrid 4 Stade de Reims 3
Real Madrid: Alonso, Atienza, Marquitos, Lesmes, Munoz (capt), Zarraga, Joseito, Marsal, Di Stefano, Rial , Gento
Scorers: Rial 2, Di Stefano, Marquitos
Stade de Reims: Jacquet, Zimny, Jonquet (capt), Giraudo, Leblond, Siatka, Hidalgo, Glovacki, Kopa, Bliard, Templin
Scorers: Leblond, Templin, Hidalgo
You can find details of all the results, dates and scorers on the RSSSF website here.