EUROPEAN CUP HISTORY.COM
Feyenoord would defend their trophy in a competition that lacked the big names that usually started each European Cup campaign. There was no Real Madrid (for the first time ever) or Barcelona from Spain, no Juventus, Milan or Internazionale from Italy, no Manchester United, Liverpool or Leeds from England and no Benfica from Portugal. But the holders would not be able to take advantage of the situation as they crashed out in the first round. Drawn against the unfancied Romanians of UT Arad, Feyenoord could only manage a 1-1 draw in Rotterdam, and a goalless draw in the return saw them go out on the away goals rule. But that was not the end of the Dutch challenge for that season, for Feyenoord’s deadly rivals from Amsterdam were about to take over their mantle.
Ajax had now accumulated a great deal of European experience. They had been European Cup finalists in 1969 and Fairs Cup semi-finalists in 1970, now they were ready to make an even bigger impression. Ajax began their latest European campaign with a trip to Albania to take on Nentori Tirana. The Dutch side took an early two goal lead and although the hosts fought back to gain a 2-2 draw, a 2-0 win in Amsterdam saw Ajax safely through. They were similarly comfortable winners in the next round as they knocked out FC Basel 5-2 on aggregate. This saw Ajax through to the quarter-finals where they would meet their toughest opponents so far.
Celtic had begun their fifth consecutive European Cup campaign by putting a total of 24 goals past Icelandic and Irish opposition. With the elimination of Feyenoord, they were the only former winners of the competition remaining and were widely favoured to reach the final stages. In the quarter-finals they were presented with the opportunity to avenge their defeat in the previous years final against Dutch opposition as they were drawn to take on Ajax.
The first leg in Amsterdam was a dull and tame affair for the first hour and, with no goals having been scored, Celtic were the happier of the two sides. The final third of the game, however, was to change all that as Ajax went a long way to booking their place in the semi-finals. On 62 minutes the course of the game was changed when Cruyff picked up a loose ball, controlled it perfectly with his first touch and with his second sent a crashing left foot shot past Williams in the Celtic goal and into the net. Eight minutes later, Hulshoff scored direct from a free-kick, and then, in the last minute, Keizer dribbled past Gemmell on the right before scoring from a tight angle to give Ajax a 3-0 lead. Although Celtic fought back bravely in the second match, and gave themselves some hope when Johnstone scored after 27 minutes, such a first leg lead was too much for them to come back from. For the second time in successive seasons, Celtic had been beaten by a Dutch side, and now Ajax were into the semi-finals.
Ajax v Celtic
The 1970/71 season had seen the introduction of a new method of resolving contests between two sides that had finished level after two legs. UEFA had now decided that such games in the first two rounds would be decided by a penalty shootout. The first case of a penalty shootout in the European Cup came when a 1-1 draw in Germany between Borussia Moenchengladbach and Everton was followed by a game producing the same score line in England. After extra-time the two sides were still locked together at 2-2 on aggregate and so the tie had to go to penalties. Joe Royle became the first player to miss in a penalty shootout when the first Everton spot kick was saved, but Ball, Morrisey, Kendall and Brown were then all successful for the English champions while Herbert Laumen’s miss for Borussia and a save by Andy Rankin in the Everton goal from Ludwig Muller sent Everton through to the quarter-finals. Their manager Harry Catterick commented: ‘I still say these penalties to decide a match are like a circus, but I can’t think of a better answer apart from a third game.’
Everton v Borussia Moenchengladbach
Surprisingly, Everton were unable to progress any further in the competition. Drawn against the Greeks of Panathinaikos, only a last minute goal saved them from defeat in their home game as they scrambled a 1-1 draw, but that meant that the goalless second leg in Athens was sufficient to see Panathinaikos become the first Greek side to reach the last four of the European Cup.
Everton v Panathinaikos
The second round had seen the champions of Italy drawn to play the champions of Spain. Cagliari against Atletico Madrid may not have had the same kudos as, for example, Milan versus Real Madrid, but it lacked nothing in drama and excitement. At half-time in Italy, Cagliari looked in command of the tie with a 2-0 lead, but a Luis goal for Atletico in the second half gave the Spaniards some hope and a hat-trick from Luis in Madrid saw them through to face previous seasons semi-finalists Legia Warsaw who they knocked out on away goals. In the semi-finals Atletico would play Ajax while Panathinaikos would be up against a Red Star Belgrade side that had comfortably beaten UT Arad – conquerors of Feyenoord – by six goals to one, before recovering from a 3-2 defeat in East Germany at the hands of Carl Zeiss Jena, to win the second leg 4-0, although they were left without the services of their famous outside left Dragan Dzajic who was sent off and banned for four games after a brawl.
Both semi-finals were won by teams recovering from a first leg defeat. In Madrid, Ajax were beaten by a single Irureta goal for Atletico, but the Dutchmen came back to win the second leg 3-0. The first goal was scored by Keizer after just eight minutes, but the Amsterdam crowd had to wait until the 75th minute for Suurbier to give them an aggregate lead, before Neeskens sealed their passage to the final with five minutes remaining. But that comeback was nothing compared to Panathinaikos’ amazing recovery against Red Star Belgrade. In the first match, Red Star, roared on by a vociferous Belgrade crowd, were two up by half-time thanks to goals from Ostojic and Jankovic. One minute after the break and it was 3-0 as Ostojic struck again. Kamaras brought the Greeks back into the game when he scored after 56 minutes, but when Ostojic completed his hat-trick in the last minute, Red Star looked to be in an unassailable position at 4-1. But Panathinaikos came back in the second leg. A goal from Antoniadis in the first minute gave them the perfect start and when the same player scored again on 55 minutes they knew they were in with a chance. The winning goal came on 64 minutes from Kamaras and was enough to see them through to the final on away goals.
Atletico Madrid v Ajax
Ajax v Atletico Madrid
Red Star Belgrade v Panathinaikos
Panathinaikos v Red Star Belgrade
A European Cup Final between teams from Holland and Greece showed that the continents premier club competition was no longer the sole preserve of the bigger countries. The presence of Panathinaikos in this showpiece event was certainly a surprise, but they had undoubtedly earned their place at Wembley after wins over Everton and Red Star Belgrade. Managed by European Cup legend Ferenc Puskas, their key player was the captain Mimis Domazos. Nicknamed ‘the General’ he was, at the age of 28, one of the most high profile stars in Greece. Captain of the national team and married to Greece’s number one pop singer, he had already led Panathinaikos to seven championship titles and the tricky inside forward would now skipper his side to the biggest game in their history. Another leading figure in the Greek side was the veteran Aristidis Kamaras. A qualified lawyer with a flourishing practice in Athens, he was now in his ninth season playing in attack for the club and had scored in both semi-final matches, but had so far played second fiddle in the goalscoring stakes to his forward partner Antonis Antoniadis. The tall, strong 24 year old Antoniadis had scored ten of his teams 16 goals so far in the competition and was now looking to match the 12 goals that his manager Puskas had scored in the 1959/60 season.
Following their appearance in the 1969 Final and the victory for their rivals Feyenoord a year later, the presence of Ajax at Wembley was less of a surprise. The star of the side was still Johan Cruyff. Tall and slender but with great control and acceleration his brilliant ball skills meant that he would invariably create as many goals as he scored. Now 24 he was widely regarded as one of the top players in the world. Captain Velivor Vasovic was now playing in his third final and, despite having scored in the previous two occasions, was still looking for his first win. Also remaining from the 1969 side that lost to Milan were the defenders Suurbier and Hulshoff as well as the wingers Keizer and Swart. Two of the new additions to the team were to be found in midfield where two young Dutch internationals by the name of Gerrit Muhren and Johan Neeskens were to play a large part in the success of Ajax over the next few years.
On the big day, Wembley was a cacophony of horns and klaxons as thousands of Dutch and Greek supporters converged on the famous stadium. The game saw Ajax take an early lead when Van Dijk headed in a Keizer cross and from then on the Dutch side were in control of the game. Panathinaikos main tactic was to send high balls towards the head of Antoniadis, but with the big centre-forward being shackled by Hulshoff, the Greeks rarely threatened to breach the Ajax defence. The only reason that the game was not effectively over by half-time was the outstanding performance by Economopoulos in the Panathinaikos goal as he denied Van Dijk and Keizer in particular. At the interval, Nico Rijnders, the defensive midfielder who always suffered from a high pulse rate, blacked out and had to be replaced by Horst Blankenburg – tragically Rijnders would die of a heart attack just six years later. As the game wore on with Ajax still just one goal ahead, the Greeks, spurred on by the tireless running of Domazos and Elefterakis in midfield, came more and more into the game, but eventually the Dutch side, epitomised by the brilliant Cruyff, sealed the match just two minutes from the end as he chipped the ball over the Greek defence and young substitute Arie Haan shot into the net.
As bravely as the Greeks had fought, the class of Ajax had won out in the end and the Dutch players were able to celebrate a notable triumph. Just two years earlier they had fallen short on the big stage, but now they had shown that they were the new team to beat. Holland was now the powerhouse in European football and with the likes of Cruyff, Neeskens and Haan still having plenty of footballing years ahead of them, it was going to take something special to prise the trophy away from Amsterdam. Two different Dutch sides had now been crowned European champions in successive years – would the old powers be able to regain their status, or would the Dutch domination continue?
1971 European Cup Final (London)
Ajax 2 Panathinaikos 0
Ajax: Stuy, Neeskens, Hulshoff, Vasovic (capt), Suurbier, Rijnders (Blankenburg 46), Mühren, Swart (Haan 46), Van Dijk, Cruyff, Keizer
Scorers: Van Dijk, Haan
Panathinaikos: Ekonomopoulos, Tomaras, Sourpis, Kamaras, Vlachos, Elefterakis, Domazos (capt), Kapsis, Grammes, Antoniadis, Filakouris
You can find details of all the results, dates and scorers on the RSSSF website here.