EUROPEAN CUP HISTORY.COM
Dutch sides had been threatening to dominate European football for some time now. The rest of the continent had been warned when Feyenoord reached the 1963 semi-finals and when Ajax had put seven goals past Liverpool in 1966. Now Ajax’s appearance in the 1969 final had put Dutch football well and truly on the map. Despite their success in reaching the European Cup Final, Ajax had not won the Dutch championship in 1969 but had finished behind Feyenoord, their bitter rivals from Rotterdam.
Feyenoord were managed by the former Austrian international player, Ernst Happel. Happel had built a team around the sweeper Rinus Israel, the brilliant young midfielder Wim van Hanegem alongside Wim Jansen and the Austrian Franz Hasil with the Swedish goal scorer Ove Kindvall in attack, fed by the two Dutch international wingers Henk Wery and Coen Moulijn. They began their European Cup campaign in devastating style as they put sixteen goals past KR Reykjavik of Iceland – which included a competition record 12-2 win in the first leg - but they were to receive a much sterner test in the second round where they were paired with reigning champions Milan.
Having disposed of Ajax so comfortably in the Final six months earlier, the Italians were expected to get past Feyenoord with similar ease, and when they took the lead after just nine minutes in the first leg at the San Siro those expectations seemed set to be realised. But with the Dutch side denying Rivera the space he thrived on, Milan were unable to build on their early goal and were able to take only a slender 1-0 lead to Rotterdam two weeks later. The cup holders were soon on the back foot in the return as goalkeeper Cudicini left a Wim Jansen shot that he thought was going wide, only to see it hit the post and go in after just six minutes, and when van Hanegem headed the winner with less than ten minutes remaining, the supporters in the De Kuip stadium who had queued all night for tickets roared in wild celebration. Having knocked out the European champions, Feyenoord were rewarded with a quarter-final tie against the East Germans of Vorwarts Berlin. Despite a one goal defeat in the first leg, the Dutchmen progressed thanks to second half goals from Kindvall and Wery to reach the semi-finals for the second time in their history.
Feyenoord v Milan
The second round had seen two former winners drawn together as Celtic took on Benfica in an epic European Cup tie. The first leg saw Celtic produce the kind of football that had swept them to victory in 1967. In the opening minutes of the game, Gemmell had crashed a shot home from 30 yards to give the Scots the lead. Despite having had a Hughes goal mysteriously disallowed, Celtic were still two ahead by half-time as Wallace scored from a narrow angle. Benfica were unable to cope with Celtic’s skill and pace and were further hampered by Eusebio limping off injured. A third goal was inevitable and it came when Hood headed a Murdoch cross into the net. The home side could well have scored more, but their 3-0 lead appeared unassailable ahead of the second game in Lisbon.
The second leg could not have been more different. Celtic were under pressure almost from the first whistle and relied on their goalkeeper John Fallon to keep the Benfica attacks at bay. A combination of the woodwork and two brilliant Fallon saves to deny Eusebio kept Benfica at bay up until the 36th minute, but with half-time approaching, the home side turned the tie on its head. First a brilliant Eusebio header opened the evenings scoring and then, just two minutes later, Graca found himself through on goal and he shot the ball into the net off the post. Early in the second half, Eusebio left the field with a leg injury just as he had in the first game, but that did nothing to stem the tide of Benfica attacks as Fallon was again called upon to make several superb stops. But as the clock ticked away with the aggregate score remaining at 3-2 it seemed as though Celtic would hang on to their overall lead. Then, with the final kick of normal time, the substitute Diamantino scored direct from a free kick and ecstatic Benfica supporters poured onto the pitch to celebrate an incredible comeback. The game went into extra time, but there were no further goals and the tie had to be decided by the toss of a coin. The two captains were summoned to the referee’s dressing room and when the spinning coin came down it was Celtic who, despite Benfica’s brave recovery, were fortunate enough to progress to the quarter-finals. Despite their good fortune, Celtic were unhappy at the way that the tie had been decided and suggested to UEFA that the toss of a coin should be replaced by a scoreline based on the number of corners forced in extra-time. This method of deciding games was rejected, but the toss of a coin would no longer be used in the European Cup, for the penalty shootout was about to make its first appearance.
Benfica v Celtic
Benfica were not the only former winners to go out at the second round stage. Milan had been beaten by Feyenoord, while Real Madrid, with Gento making his 88th and final European Cup appearance, were knocked out by Standard Liege 4-2 on aggregate. Celtic were now the only side remaining who had won the competition before and the way was open for a new name to appear on the roll of honour.
One team that had high hopes of making a strong challenge was Leeds United. The Yorkshire side had set a new record points total as they won the English title, while they had already tasted European glory by winning the Fairs Cup in 1968 after reaching the final a year earlier. They had started their first European Cup campaign in style as they matched Feyenoord’s sixteen goal tally when disposing of Lyn Oslo without reply. In the second round they put out Ferencvaros – the team they had beaten in the Fairs Cup Final – with a pair of 3-0 victories. They then came up against Real Madrid’s conquerors Standard Liege who continued the trend of each Leeds tie proving more difficult than the last. This time it was two 1-0 wins that saw the English side through to the semi-finals. Another side that would have viewed the lack of big names remaining in the competition with relish were the Italian champions Fiorentina. The Florence team had already got past Oesters Vaxjo of Sweden and Dynamo Kiev when they were paired with Celtic in the last eight. Like Benfica they were beaten 3-0 in Glasgow, but they were unable to repeat the comeback that the Lisbon side had achieved as they only managed to pull one goal back in the return match.
Celtic, Leeds and Feyenoord were joined in the final four by the Poles of Legia Warsaw who, with their star player Kazimierz Deyna to the fore, had beaten Galatasaray 3-1 to reach this stage. In the semi-finals the Poles were drawn to play Feyenoord, while Leeds and Celtic would be left to fight out a ‘Battle of Britain.’
The first leg between the two British sides was played at Leeds Elland Road ground with the home side rated as hot favourites. Within 45 seconds, however, Celtic were in front for that was all the time it took for Connelly to score for the Scottish champions. Fifty seconds into the second half and the same man found the net again, but this time it was disallowed for offside. There were, however, no further goals in the match which left Celtic well placed to progress. The second match at Glasgow’s Hampden Park was played in front of a record attendance for a European Cup game that still stands today. 135,826 spectators packed into Scotland’s national stadium to see a game dominated by Celtic. The opening half saw Murdoch, Connelly and Auld take control of the midfield and create a succession of chances. Celtic forced six corners in the opening eight minutes as they attacked right from the kick-off against a Leeds side who had played a draining F.A.Cup Final against Chelsea just four days earlier. During the first half both Cooper and Madeley would clear the ball off Leeds goal line as they clung on in the face of constant Celtic pressure. And yet, the only goal of the half came when Leeds Scottish captain, Billy Bremner, smashed in a shot from 30 yards that flew into the net off the angle of the post and crossbar. To the astonishment of the crowd and the Celtic players, the aggregate scores were now level at 1-1. Within six minutes of the restart, however, Celtic were well in command of the tie. On 47 minutes, Hughes headed a corner home to equalise. Moments later the Leeds goalkeeper was carried off following a challenge from the goal scorer, and his replacement was beaten almost immediately by a Murdoch shot. Celtic were rarely troubled after that and the huge crowd roared ‘easy, easy’ as the game drew to a close and Celtic booked their passage to a second European Cup Final. In the final Celtic would take on Feyenoord. Following a goalless draw in a Warsaw downpour on a quagmire of a pitch, the Dutch side beat Legia with a third minute header from van Hanegem and a 20 yard drive from Hasil after 32 minutes.
Leeds v Celtic
Celtic v Leeds
Legia Warsaw v Feyenoord
Feyenoord v Legia Warsaw
Just as Leeds had been for their semi-final, Celtic were overwhelming favourites for the final in Milan. They had knocked out Benfica, Fiorentina and Leeds United and had experience of winning the trophy before. Manager Jock Stein was certainly confident as he predicted that Celtic would find the final easier than their previous tie: ‘Feyenoord have not the calibre, the fitness or the fight of Leeds. A quick goal and we should do it. The one big danger to us is ourselves. If Jimmy Johnstone in particular is on song we shall win.’
Before the game, Milan was invaded by 25,000 Scots bedecked in green and white hoops and 25,000 Dutchmen wearing red and white halved shirts. All was set for a memorable occasion, but the game found itself under threat from industrial action in Italy. There was already a national strike by Post Office workers and telephone operators, as well as local municipal workers and traffic police, but on the eve of the game there was also a threat from those working at the San Siro, including those in charge of the floodlights. Fortunately, the frantic behind closed doors negotiations managed to produce an agreement and the game went ahead as scheduled.
Celtic may have wished that the game had indeed not taken place for they found themselves subjected to the kind of dominance that they had previously subjected Leeds to. Ernst Happel had obviously agreed with his counterpart Jock Stein that Johnstone was the main danger as he ensured that the fleet footed winger was double marked out of the game. Whereas Murdoch, Connelly and Auld had dominated the midfield in both semi-final games, this time they were totally outplayed by Hasil, van Hanegem and Jansen. And yet it was Celtic who took the lead on the half hour as Gemmell fired home a low shot from a free kick on the edge of the penalty area. The lead only lasted two minutes, however, as another free kick was headed home by Israel the Feyenoord captain for a much deserved equaliser. Thanks to several inspired saves by Williams in the Celtic goal and, on two occasions, the frame of the goal, the Scots managed to hold on to the 1-1 score line not only for the rest of the 90 minutes, but up until the final moments of extra-time as well. Just as it looked as though everyone would have to return two days later for a replay, the winning goal was finally scored. There were just two minutes of extra-time remaining when a long free-kick from the Feyenoord half was hoisted towards the Celtic penalty area. Captain Billy McNeil stumbled and misjudged the ball. As he tried to recover he appeared to punch the ball away, but before referee Lo Bello could blow his whistle for a penalty, Ove Kindvall pounced, took the ball round his man before lobbing it over the goalkeeper and into the net. The red, white and black half of the stadium erupted for there was no time left for Celtic to recover. The European Cup was on its way to Holland for the first time where it would be greeted by 200,000 fans in Rotterdam.
It may have been the exploits of Ajax that had alerted the world to the potential of Dutch football, but it was Feyenoord who were the first club to bring the cup to the Netherlands. They had produced the kind of fluid football that the Dutch game would be famous for in years to come as they won a deserved victory over a team that had been overwhelming favourites. When football fans look back at the years of Dutch domination of the European Cup they usually think of the Ajax team with the likes of Cruyff, Neeskens and Haan, but thanks to van Hanegem, Hasil, Jansen, Kindvall and the rest, it was Feyenoord who got there first and no-one could deny their status of worthy champions of Europe.
1970 European Cup Final (Milan)
Feyenoord 2 Celtic 1
Feyenoord: Pieters-Graafland, Romeijn (Haak), Israel (capt), Laseroms, Duivenbode, Hasil, Jansen, van Hanegem, Wery, Kindvall, Moulijn
Scorers: Israel, Kindvall
Celtic: Williams, Hay, McNeill (capt), Brogan, Gemmell, Murdoch (Connelly), Auld, Johnstone, Hughes, Wallace, Lennox
1969/70 European Cup Highlights part 1 (in Italian)
1969/70 European Cup Highlights part 2 (in Italian)
You can find details of all the results, dates and scorers on the RSSSF website here.