EUROPEAN CUP HISTORY.COM
In order to defend their title, Benfica would have to get past the champions of their own league, Sporting Lisbon, the first team to win the English League and F.A.Cup ‘double’ in the twentieth century, Tottenham Hotspur, the side that had just won their third Italian Championship in four years, Juventus, and the winners of the previous five European Cups, Real Madrid.
Benfica received a bye into the second round as holders, and Real Madrid were to join them there with few problems as they beat Vasas Budapest 5-1 on aggregate. The other expected challengers, however, had more interesting first round games. Juventus made it through after a close tie with Panathinaikos which they eventually won 3-2 on aggregate, while Sporting Lisbon fell at the first hurdle, losing 2-0 to Partizan in Belgrade after a 1-1 draw. The real drama, however, came in the tie between Tottenham and Gornik Zabrze of Poland. The English side were much fancied to challenge for the Cup, but seemed to be out of it after 48 minutes of the first leg in Chorzow as the home side took a 4-0 lead. Torn apart by the pace and footwork of the two Gornik wingers, Wilczek and Lenter, Tottenham faced an embarrassing score line and an ignominious first round exit. But then the Polish left half, Kowalski, was injured by a Mackay tackle which left him as little more than a passenger for the final half hour of the game. The 90,000 Poles in the stadium whistled their discontent at what they saw as Spurs brutal tactics, but Tottenham ignored the jeers and took advantage of the situation as a late rally saw goals from Jones after 70 minutes, and Dyson three minutes later give Tottenham a chance for the second game. The return game a week later saw Tottenham quickly impose the kind of superiority that had been expected from the start. Ten seconds from the kick off, Allen crashed a shot against the angle of the crossbar and post, and immediately the crowd and the home team were brought to life. After only 26 minutes they were 3-0 up on the night and ahead in the tie. A goal from Pol for Gornik briefly evened things up on 28 minutes, but within 10 minutes the home side had scored twice more, and by the full time whistle they had managed to run up eight goals. In the end, Tottenham had come from 4-0 down to win the tie 10-5 in what must be one of the greatest turnarounds in the competitions history.
Tottenham v Gornik
The second round progress of the four main challengers proved to be much smoother. Real Madrid racked up a total of twelve goals against the Danes of Odense with Di Stefano and Puskas both scoring three while del Sol and Gento chipped in with two each. Tottenham effectively knocked Feyenoord out with a 3-1 first leg win in Rotterdam, while Juventus followed a 2-1 first leg away win with the 5-0 defeat of Partizan Belgrade in Turin. The holders returned to the European Cup fray away to Austria Vienna. Benfica followed a 1-1 draw in Vienna with a 5-1 victory at home.
The fourth Benfica goal at the Stadium of Light was scored by a new addition to the team who went by the name of Eusebio - a player who would go on to become one of the all time great European Cup players.
The likelihood was that two of the four fancied teams left in the competition would be drawn against each other in the quarter-finals and, sure enough, Real Madrid and Juventus found themselves paired together. That should have left Benfica and Tottenham with a clear run to the semi-finals, but they both had to come from behind before progressing to the next round. Without the injured Eusebio, Benfica – with the quick and skilful seventeen year old winger Antonio Simoes making his first appearance - took an early lead in Germany against Nuremberg, but were beaten 3-1 in the first leg. They came back emphatically in the second game, however, running out 6-0 winners with both Eusebio and Jose Augusto scoring twice. Tottenham also lost their first game, going down 1-0 to a dangerous Dukla Prague side that contained several members of the Czech squad that would reach the World Cup Final the following summer. A 4-1 win in blizzard hit London, however, thanks to two goals each from Smith and Mackay, saw Spurs safely through. Afterwards the Spurs captain Danny Blanchflower commented: ‘The Czechs are nice people but they play soft football – they are not realistic enough. They couldn’t adjust themselves to the conditions and didn’t seem aware of defence at times.’
Tottenham v Dukla Prague
The big game of the round turned out to be as close as expected, although when Real Madrid came away from Turin with a 1-0 win courtesy of a classic Di Stefano goal which saw him shake off two defenders and blast the ball into the roof of the net, few thought that Juventus had much chance at all. Juve had been totally outclassed by Real and had only kept the deficit down to one thanks to a heroic defence marshalled by Welshman John Charles. The Italians, however, turned the tie around with a 1-0 away win when Sivori sidefooted a Charles cross home on 38 minutes to register Real’s first home defeat in European competition. Two days after Juventus’ win in Madrid, the two teams met again in Paris. Real Madrid took an early lead through Felo, but Sivori scored again for the Italians on the half hour to level the scores. In the second half, however, del Sol and Tejada scored for Real and kept them on course to reclaim the trophy that they had held for so long.
Real’s reward for coming through such a tough tie was to be drawn against what appeared to be the weakest team left in the semi-finals. Standard Liege had scored 15 goals in disposing of Fredrikstad, Valkeakosken and Rangers in the previous rounds. Rangers had reached the last eight after a controversial tie with the East Germans of ASK Vorwaerts. The Scots had won the first leg 2-1 in East Berlin, but the East Germans were refused visas to enter Britain for the return game. The second leg was then moved to Malmo in Sweden, but with Rangers leading 1-0 in the rearranged match, the fog came down and the game was abandoned. With Rangers having to return home for a league game on the following Saturday, the match was then played at 10 o’clock on the Thursday morning with Rangers winning 4-1 in front of less than 2,000 spectators. The subsequent quarter-final game against Standard Liege in Glasgow was notable for the fact that the 75,000 fans heading to Rangers Ibrox ground had caused such congestion that the home sides 18 year old right winger Billy Henderson did not make it to the stadium until just minutes before kick-off, by which time his place had been taken by a not completely fit Alex Scott. Rangers did win the match 2-0, but this was insufficient to overturn the 4-1 lead that Standard had earned from the first leg. Standard Liege thus became the first Belgian side to reach the last four of the European Cup.
Real Madrid, however, would prove to be a very different proposition. The semi-final tie was effectively over after the first leg in Madrid which saw Real not only win by four goals to nil, but prove to onlookers that they were still more than capable of winning back their trophy. Despite their advancing years, Gento still had electric pace on the wing, Di Stefano could still cover the pitch as he controlled the game, and Puskas was still deadly in front of goal. Standard were completely outclassed and, with both Puskas and Gento thumping shots against the post, the margin of victory might have been even greater. The second leg was little more than a formality as goals from Puskas and del Sol in Liege finished off the Belgian side and sent the former champions into the final with an emphatic 6-0 aggregate win.
The first leg of the second semi-final saw Tottenham travelling to Lisbon to take on Benfica. Guttmann saw his opponents as one of the stiffest tests that his team had faced in Europe so far saying: ‘I saw Spurs beat Dukla and I believe all round that they are better than us. We must win by at least three goals for safety. Our problem is how to achieve those goals.’ The English side had built their reputation on flowing attacking football, but during their European campaign they had switched from their normal 3-4-4 to a more defensive formation for away games with a fourth defender being added. Although this had brought mixed results – they had lost two out of three away games so far – manager Bill Nicholson persisted with the same system for the semi-final. Once again, the change was unsuccessful, although the game was not without controversy.
Within twenty minutes, Tottenham’s tactical change appeared to have backfired as poor defending saw them go two goals behind through goals from Aguas and Jose Augusto, although Tottenham’s free scoring centre-forward, Jimmy Greaves had had a goal disallowed in between the two Portuguese strikes. A headed goal by Smith from a Blanchflower cross brought the Londoners back into the game just after half-time, but Jose Augusto then scored his second of the match from a Simoes corner to make it 3-1. Nine minutes from the end, Greaves crossed from the right for Smith to beat Pereira in the Benfica goal. The referee pointed to the centre circle to signal a goal, but then he saw his linesman flagging for offside and another Tottenham goal was disallowed. Benfica had a healthy lead to take to England, but not the three goal cushion that their manager had felt was needed.
Tottenham had little choice but to attack in the second leg, but their hopes appeared to be dashed after just fifteen minutes of the return when Aguas put Benfica 4-1 up on aggregate. The home side, however, refused to give up. On their next attack Spurs hit the post and, on 23 minutes, they looked to have cut the deficit when Greaves scored from close range. Danish referee Aage Poulsen pointed to the centre circle, but the Portuguese players dragged him over to the linesman who had momentarily flagged but then put his flag down. For the third time in two games, Tottenham had a goal disallowed. The home side continued to pour forward, however, and with seven minutes to go till half-time, Smith crashed a shot home to equalise on the night. Four minutes after the break Tottenham scored again as Blanchflower sent Pereira the wrong way from the penalty spot after White had been fouled by Cruz. Before the games ended there were screams from the home crowd as Germano appeared to handle the ball in his own area, but the referee waved play on, while in the final moments of the match, Mackay blasted the ball against Pereira’s crossbar. Eventually, however, time ran out for Tottenham and Benfica progressed with a 4-3 aggregate win. Guttman said afterwards: ‘It was the hardest game of my life. I thought Spurs would equalise in the last ten minutes. They can win the European Cup soon.’ Tottenham did not play another European Cup game until 2010.
Tottenham v Benfica
And so the European Cup Final was the game that many had hoped for, the undisputed masters of European Cup football against the young pretenders who had taken their crown. Would Real Madrid re-impose their superiority or would Benfica confirm that they were now the major force in Europe? A crowd of over 60,000 gathered in Amsterdam’s Olympic Stadium hoping to witness a memorable clash of the titans, and they were not to be disappointed.
The first half of this classic final was dominated by Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas. For 45 minutes, Di Stefano lay deep and controlled the game for Real Madrid, while Puskas provided the killer touch in front of goal. On 18 minutes Di Stefano volleyed the ball down field to Puskas who killed it with his first touch, raced forwards 50 yards and flashed a shot into the corner of the net for the first goal of the game. Five minutes later Puskas doubled Real’s lead with a swerving 30 yard shot which Costa Pereira got a hand to but could not keep out, and appeared to have put the young upstarts of Benfica in their place. The reigning champions hit back, however, and within ten minutes were back on level terms. First Eusebio crashed a shot against a post and Aguas scored from the rebound, and then Cavem thumped home a deflected Aguas effort. Despite this setback, Real reclaimed their hold on the game and with six minutes left before the interval, Di Stefano threaded a stunning through ball past the Benfica defence and Puskas was on hand once more to complete his hat trick.
Benfica were only a goal behind at half-time, but Guttmann knew that he had to change things around if his team were to successfully defend their European crown. Although it was Puskas who had scored all three goals for Real, he knew that it was Di Stefano who was causing the real damage and it was the Argentinean who had to be stopped. Guttmann sent Cavem out to mark Di Stefano in the second half and hoped that things would turn around.
The decision proved to be a tactical masterstroke. With Di Stefano effectively shackled and Puskas now starved of service, Benfica took over the game and soon found themselves back on level terms through Coluna’s 50th minute strike from 25 yards out. Then it was the turn of their young superstar to take over as Eusebio was brought down in the box after outpacing the tiring Di Stefano, before converting a penalty on 64 minutes. Then, just five minutes later, the ‘Black Pearl’ took a short free kick from Coluna to crash a powerful shot home. There was still time, however, for Di Stefano to be brought down in the box for what nearly everyone in the stadium thought should be a Real penalty, but the referee thought otherwise and Benfica were able to control the rest of the game. There were no further goals and Benfica ran out 5-3 winners of a match that was later dubbed ‘the night of the long shots.’ On the final whistle Eusebio raced 30 yards to exchange his red shirt for the blue one worn by Ferenc Puskas. As the aging Hungarian handed his jersey to the young star, he seemed to be symbolising the passing of the great Real side and the coronation of a new and exciting team from Lisbon. Eusebio was then carried shoulder high from the pitch by flag waving Benfica supporters. A famous victory had been won. Di Stefano, meanwhile, left the pitch in a rage, followed by his teammates with their heads bowed.
To have beaten both Barcelona and Real Madrid in successive European Cup Finals was proof that Benfica were worthy holders of the title ‘European Champions.’ They had beaten the best and had done so in thrilling fashion. Not only that, but they now had one of the most exciting players in world football in Eusebio under the guidance of Bela Guttmann, arguably the most successful coach of all time. Benfica had shown that they were the best around and that they were more than just one season wonders, but could they go on to dominate for years as Real Madrid had done? That was a question still to be answered.
1962 European Cup Final (Amsterdam)
Benfica 5 Real Madrid 3
Benfica: Pereira, Joao, Germano, Angelo, Cavem, Cruz, Jose Augusto, Eusebio, Aguas (capt), Coluna, Simoes
Scorers: Eusebio 2, Aguas, Cavem, Coluna
Real Madrid: Araquistain, Casado, Santamaria, Miera, Felo, Pachin, Tejada, del Sol, Di Stefano, Puskas, Gento (capt)
Scorer: Puskas 3
1961/62 European Cup Highlights (in Italian)
You can find details of all the results, dates and scorers on the RSSSF website here.