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1961 European Cup Final (Berne)
Benfica 3 vs. Barcelona 2
Pereira, Joao, Germano, Angelo, Neto, Cruz, Jose Augusto, Santana, Aguas (capt), Coluna, Cavem
Scorers: Aguas, Ramallets (og), Coluna
Barcelona: Ramallets (capt), Foncho, Garay, Gracia, Verges, Gensana, Kubala, Suarez, Evaristo, Kocsis, Czibor
Scorers: Kocsis, Czibor

In the modern days of the Champions League, the top sides are carefully seeded and separated to ensure that they are kept apart until the later stages of the competition. Back in 1960, however, the teams were simply drawn out of a hat and would play whoever they were drawn against, whether it was the first round or the semi-finals. This is why, in that year, the two apparently dominant teams in Europe met each other in the second round of the European Cup rather than the final.

Despite having won the Spanish Championship two years in a row, despite having a ground that was at least as large and spectacular as that of Real Madrid, and despite having players that they believed could match the likes of Di Stefano, Puskas and Gento, Barcelona could not get close to matching the way that their Real Madrid rivals were perceived around Europe because of one simple fact – Real had won the first five European Cups while Barcelona had none. Barcelona’s defeat by Real in the previous years competition, followed by the incredible performance in the final by Di Stefano, Puskas and co, had merely served to accentuate the general perception that Real were a much greater club and team than their Catalan rivals.

As early as the second round of the 1960/61 competition, however, Barcelona had the chance to end Real’s amazing run and to establish themselves as the dominant force in European football. Having beaten the Belgian side Lierse by five goals in the first round, Barcelona were drawn once again with Real Madrid who had received a bye through to the second round. With Herrera having been dismissed as manager following Barca’s defeat in the previous season’s semi-finals, Yugoslavia’s Ljubisa Brocic was now in charge, and in the first leg in Madrid he achieved something that no manager had previously managed during the first five years of the European Cups life. Up until November 9th 1960, Real Madrid had played 15 home ties in the European Cup and had won them all with a combined aggregate score of 66-8, but on that day their run came to an end. Twice Real took the lead – through Mateos after only two minutes and Gento on the half hour – but twice their defence, which had to play without the giant Uruguayan Santamaria due to injury, was unable to prevent an equaliser. It was Luis Suarez who scored both goals for Barcelona, the first from a free-kick and the second a hotly disputed penalty just three minutes from the end. Put through by Evaristo, Kocsis sped into the box before being sent tumbling to the ground by the chasing defenders. The linesman put his flag up, but there was some dispute over whether he was flagging for a foul or if he was signalling that Kocsis was offside. English referee Arthur Ellis decided that it was a penalty and Suarez calmly converted the spot kick that saw Barcelona emerge as the first side ever to return unbeaten from the Bernabeu Stadium in a European tie. There was, however, still plenty for Barcelona to do. Real had Santamaria back for the second game and the forward line that had demolished Eintracht at Hampden was in place.

Barcelona started the second leg in style as they immediately put the Real goal under pressure. Early in the game, Evaristo found the Madrid net, only to be denied by the linesman’s offside flag. Moments later, Gento cleared a Villaverde shot off the line as the European champions hung on desperately. Slowly, however, having survived the initial storm, Real took control of the game as they began to dominate possession, and on 25 minutes they appeared to have made the breakthrough when Del Sol latched onto a Canario pass to beat Ramallets in the Barcelona goal. English referee Reg Leafe, however, disallowed the goal for handball. Nine minutes later and Real were still on the attack, but Barcelona managed to break away and force a corner. From the corner kick, a shot came in from Verges which was saved by the goalkeeper Vicente, but hit the Real defender Pachin on the foot and rebounded into his own net for an own goal. The defender rolled on the ground in anguish before Di Stefano ran back to hustle him back into action.

Undaunted, Real continued to press forward in search of a goal. Even when the unfortunate Pachin picked up a leg injury on the hour and was forced, in those pre-substitute days, to hobble around in attack, the pressure was relentless. Pachin nearly redeemed himself when he put the ball into the net again – this time at the correct end of the pitch - only for the goal to be disallowed for offside, and Di Stefano became the third Real player to have a goal ruled out when his headed strike was also deemed offside. Ramallets was having an inspired game in the Barcelona goal as he pulled off a string of sensational saves, including one from a Di Stefano shot which he turned onto the inside of the post and away to safety. And yet, despite being denied only by goalkeeping heroics and goal line clearances, as the game entered its last ten minutes, Real found themselves going further behind. Once more Barcelona broke away and won a corner, and once again they scored from it, this time courtesy of an acrobatic flying header by Evaristo. The celebrating Barca captain, Segarra, somersaulted along the ground in delight.

And yet still the Madrid team threw everything forward. First Gento crashed a shot against the crossbar and then, on 85 minutes, the Barcelona defence finally cracked as a Del Sol pass found its way past the wall of defenders and Canario guided the ball home from close range. The Catalan crowd which had exploded with joy just moments earlier descended to a nervous hush as Real laid siege to the Barcelona goal for the remainder of the game. With such pressure it was inevitable that a final chance would come for Real and, in the dying seconds, it did as Marquitos, who had been thrown forward from defence, found himself unmarked with the ball at his feet just five yards out from goal. Back in 1956 in the first European Cup Final it had been Marquitos who had sensationally scored the winning goal against Stade de Reims to begin Real Madrid’s long reign as European champions, but now more than four years later, his wild shot which flew over the bar signalled the end of their invincibility. Moments later the final whistle blew and Real Madrid had been beaten at last. Any team that had finally ended Real’s European run would have celebrated wildly, but the fact that it was Barcelona, their deadliest rivals, meant that the celebrations were especially joyous with fireworks punctuating the Catalan night. Back in the visitors dressing room, the Real players and officials were left to rue their luck. After seeing three goals disallowed, the post hit and numerous goal line clearances, they were understandably frustrated. After five glorious years of domination, their European reign was over, but any luck that they may have used up over those years had finally deserted them in Barcelona as Santiago Bernabeu himself recognised when he awarded each player a bonus for ‘a moral victory.’ Whoever the moral victors were, however, the score sheet showed that Real Madrid were out of the competition for the first time ever, a fact that sent shockwaves through European football. The Real era was over, but would their conquerors take over from them at the European summit, or would another team emerge to claim the trophy that had resided in Madrid for so long?

One team who might have hoped to benefit from Real’s exit was Stade de Reims – twice beaten by the Spaniards in the European Cup Final – but they were to exit at the same second round stage as they were knocked out in a thrilling tie against Burnley. After a 2-0 win for the English champions in the first leg, the tie seemed to be over when Robson put Burnley ahead on 33 minutes in Paris, but goals from Piantoni and Rodzik brought Reims back to within a goal on aggregate. Throughout the game, the Burnley players had had to cope with the intimidating French crowd that had roared their team on to the accompaniment of fireworks being fired across the pitch, but that crowd would be whipped into an even greater frenzy as the game approached the hour mark. Throughout the game the French players had made a practice of stealing ground at free-kicks, but as they rolled the ball forward once more, the intensity of the occasion got to Burnley manager Harry Potts as he ran onto the pitch to move the ball back to its original spot. The French players were incensed and one of them attempted to hit Potts as he was dragged off by club officials. The French police then had to protect the beleaguered Potts from the angry home crowd. The atmosphere did not improve when Connelly ran from his own half past five defenders and slotted the ball home to give Burnley a 4-2 aggregate lead. With 15 minutes left, Rodzik scored again to increase the tension once more, but Burnley held on to scrape through to the next round, although the Reims players refused to shake their hands at the end. Elsewhere, Wismut Karl-Marx-Stadt recovered from a 3-1 defeat in Vienna to beat Rapid 2-0 in their home leg, only to lose the replay 1-0 in Basel.

In the Quarter-Finals, Barcelona had few problems against Spartak Hradec Kralove who had qualified for the competition after their one and only Czech championship win. Barcelona won their home leg 4-0, and a goal on 24 minutes from Luis Suarez in Prague ended any hope the Czechs might have of a comeback, despite the fact that they managed to claim a 1-1 draw on the night. There were also comfortable wins for Benfica – 7-2 winners over Aarhus – and Rapid Vienna who won both legs 2-0 against Malmo. The other quarter-final tie, however, was a much closer and more thrilling affair. Having disposed of Stade de Reims in the previous round, Burnley now came up against the powerful Germans of Hamburg who had reached this stage by putting eight goals past Young Boys Berne.

Hamburg were very much a home grown side. They had not signed anyone for several years but based their team around a group of players who had been with the club since leaving school. This inevitably engendered a real team spirit and this had given them the sort of confidence that had seen them drop only one point in 16 league games with Gerd Dorfel at outside left and Uwe Seeler, one of the top centre forwards in Europe, particularly standing out. Manager Guenther Mahlmann knew, however, that they had a difficult task ahead of them saying ‘we love playing against English teams and Burnley, as we all know, are one of the greatest teams in the world today. Everyone here is looking forward to our matches with them.’

The first leg in Lancashire, however, was not very enjoyable for Mahlmann and his team as they were comprehensively outplayed. With just 15 minutes to go, the likes of Pointer, Mcllroy and Connelly had inspired Burnley to a well deserved 3-0 lead. Moments later it could have been four as Mcllroy appeared to be brought down in the Hamburg penalty area. The referee waved away the Burnley penalty appeals, however, and the Germans immediately broke away for Doerfel to score. The game finished 3-1 and Burnley were installed as second favourites for the trophy behind Barcelona, but they would eventually rue the loss of that crucial final goal at Turf Moor.

The second leg in Hamburg’s imposing Volkspark Stadium could hardly have been more different from the first game. Roared on by a capacity 90,000 crowd, the German forwards, led by the inspirational Uwe Seeler, tormented the Burnley defence and soon halved their deficit when Sturmer opened the scoring after only nine minutes, hurling himself through the air to head into the top corner. Just before half-time it was Seeler himself who dived to head the ball home from a corner and level the aggregate scores. With the home crowd whipped up into a frenzy and the Hamburg team on a roll, Burnley’s task looked hopeless, but they fought back bravely and, early in the second half, edged ahead once more thanks to a blistering 25 yard shot from Harris which left Schnoor helpless in the Hamburg goal. Jubilant Burnley fans ran onto the pitch, waving their scarves and banners, but sadly for them that was to be only a brief moment of hope. Just three minutes later, Seeler set up Dorfel to put Hamburg level again, then Seeler scored a goal on his own, beating four defenders and the goalkeeper to give his team the lead. That was far from being the end of the excitement as, two minutes from time, Mcllroy looked about to secure a replay in Amsterdam, but he could only turn Connelly’s centre onto the inside of the post. The ball crept along the goal line and was cleared by a Hamburg defender as the Burnley players protested that it had crossed the line. The referee consulted his linesman but no goal was given – Burnley were out. After the game, as the Hamburg supporters celebrated a momentous victory, a reporter approached Burnley skipper Jimmy Mcllroy and asked him ‘with an F.A.Cup semi-final just three days away, have Burnley any injuries?’ Mcllroy replied ‘no, just eleven broken hearts.’

As seemed to have happened on so many occasions in the short history of the European Cup, the two favourites within the last four were drawn against each other in the semi-finals as Hamburg now found themselves up against Barcelona – whose poor league form had seen their coach Brocic replaced by his assistant Enrique Orizaola - for a place in the final. This meant that either a team from Portugal or Austria would reach the final for the first time as Benfica and Rapid Vienna met in the other semi-final. It was Benfica who seemed to have sewn up their place in the final when they won the first leg in Lisbon by 3-0, and when they scored the opening goal just after the hour in the return match, the tie was as good as over. The most controversial moment, however, was still to come. Rapid had equalised soon after Benfica’s goal, but they still trailed 4-1 on aggregate when, with less than five minutes remaining, they were denied what they thought should have been a penalty. When the referee refused to award the spot kick, the Austrian players and spectators ran riot and forced the game to be abandoned. UEFA reacted by sentencing Rapid to a three year ban on European ties being played in their stadium and awarded the match to Benfica. Sadly, however, it was not to be the last time that the European Cup would be affected by hooliganism.

In the other semi-final, the drama was confined to the football, but there was no shortage of it. Having managed to gain only a slender one goal advantage from the first leg, thanks to a goal from Evaristo, Barcelona looked to be heading for a surprise exit when goals from Wulf after 58 minutes and Seeler on 68 minutes gave Hamburg the lead overall in Germany. With the clock ticking down and Hamburg heading for the final, Barcelona were saved by a last minute goal from the head of Kocsis – who had been injured for the first leg - which earned them a replay in Brussels a week later. When the teams met again, another Evaristo goal, this time just before the interval, was enough to see the Spanish champions through to the final in Berne.

Few people around Europe doubted that, having squeezed past the dangerous Germans of Hamburg, Barcelona would inherit Real Madrid’s title of champions of Europe. Not only had they knocked Real out of the competition – something that no other team had achieved in the first five years of the tournament – but they had a forward line that was comparable to that which had famously dominated the European Cup so far. Instead of Canario, Puskas, Gento, Di Stefano and Del Sol, Bacelona had the skill and dribbling ability of Kubala, the powerful heading and shooting of Kocsis, the speed and finishing of Evaristo, the creativity and imagination of Suarez and the pace and power of Czibor. Behind them was Ramallets, the captain and first choice Spanish goalkeeper for a decade. Now 37, he was close to retirement and saw the European Cup Final as the perfect way to crown his career. Kubala at 34 was also to retire after the game, while, due to Barcelona’s financial problems resulting from the building of their new stadium, Suarez was about to be sold to Internazionale to rejoin his old coach, Helenio Herrera. In addition, Barcelona also had some experience of playing in European finals. The success of the European Cup had now led to the introduction of the European Cup-Winners Cup and, before that, teams from the continents major cities had taken part in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup which Barcelona had won twice.

In Benfica’s only previous European Cup campaign, they had been knocked out in the first round. Not that this came as a great shock to anyone as the same had happened to the Portuguese representatives in four out of the competitions five years – the exception being Sporting Lisbon who reached the dizzy heights of the second round in 1958-59. It had, therefore, been an achievement to get past Hearts (5-1) in the opening round and then Ujpest Dozsa (7-4), but for Benfica to then beat Aarhus and Rapid Vienna to reach the final was beyond their wildest dreams. One man who was probably less surprised than most, however, was Bela Guttmann. Guttmann was a Hungarian who had played for MTK Budapest before turning his hand to management. He had gone to Holland where he won the Dutch title with Enschede, then to Italy where he won with Milan, before going to South America where he won championships with Penarol in Uruguay and Sao Paolo in Brazil, and then moving to Portugal where he won the league with Porto. In 1959 he joined Benfica where he signed a two year contract on the cool and logical assumption that if he won the league he would wish to guide them in the European Cup the following season. Despite making only one signing in Jose Augusto, who would go on to become arguably the finest right winger in Europe, Guttmann transformed the team by changing their previous 4-2-4 team system to a WM formation. Sure enough, Benfica won the championship in his first campaign, losing only one match in the process, and now here they were in the European Cup Final. Guttmann had created a formidable team based around the big, brave and agile Pereira in goal, the rock-like Germano in the centre of defence, the creativity and intelligence of Coluna in midfield, and the remarkable goal scoring of Aguas who averaged a goal a game over the course of nearly 500 matches in Portugal and had already scored ten goals in eight European Cup games up until the final.

Despite the various qualities that Benfica possessed, however, they were rated as clear outsiders for the final and, as the game began in Berne’s Wankdorf Stadium, it came as no surprise that Barcelona were the overwhelmingly dominant team. The opening quarter of the match saw the Spaniards control the game and pepper the Benfica goal. Time and again the Portuguese goal came under attack as Suarez pulled the strings in the middle of the field, only for Barca to be denied by the tackles and interceptions of Germano or the athleticism of Pereira. Such desperate defending could not stop Barcelona for long, however, and a sweeping move down the right involving Kubala and Suarez on 21 minutes ended with Suarez crossing to Kocsis who headed powerfully into the net. 1-0 to Barcelona and the script was being followed perfectly. But then, ten minutes later, came the remarkable events that changed the game completely.

A rare Benfica attack saw Cavem send in a low cross from the left wing towards the edge of the penalty area. For no apparent reason, the experienced and dependable Ramallets charged out of his goal without any chance of getting to the ball. The ball went straight to Aguas who merely had to guide it into the empty net gaping in front of him for the eleventh and simplest goal of his European Cup campaign. As if that was not enough for Barcelona, worse followed just moments later. From the kick-off, Benfica were back on the attack, but the ball fell to Barcelona’s right-back Foncho to clear. Unfortunately for him, Foncho sliced the ball up into the air. As Ramallets came out to punch it away he was blinded by the late afternoon sunlight which shone in his eyes and, as he and the hapless Foncho came together he sent the ball back onto his own post and into the net.

Ramallets was never the same again. The man who had guarded his goal so dependably for so many years for both Barcelona and Spain had been found wanting on the biggest occasion of his career. He said later: ‘Yes it was a really big disappointment. You can imagine. I was 37 and I thought of retiring. I managed to play a few more games after that but it affected me a lot.’

Ramallets was not the only one to be affected. The whole Barcelona team had been so sure that they would win that this double blow appeared to knock the stuffing out of them. For the rest of the first half it was complete Benfica domination apart from one incident which saw a Kocsis header cleared off the line by Joao. The interval gave the Spanish side some respite, but it changed nothing as the Benfica dominance continued into the second half and it came as no surprise when a Coluna volley from 25 yards out found the net to put Benfica even further ahead.

There was still half an hour left, but the way that Benfica had controlled the game since they first took the lead convinced most observers that the game was effectively over. There was, however, still plenty of drama remaining. With the situation now desperate, Kubala decided to move inside to the centre of midfield and he immediately took hold of the game. Now the waves of attacks were heading in the opposite direction as Barcelona’s collection of stars suddenly showed what they were capable of. Benfica were forced into desperate defending as the shots rained in on their goal. Pereira in goal was forced into a number of crucial and spectacular saves, while Kocsis amazingly headed the ball against a post when presented with an open goal.

With 15 minutes to go, Czibor hit a long range shot that soared over the defence, past Pereira and into the top corner of the net to bring the score back to 3-2. Now it really was a case of backs to the wall for Benfica. It seemed impossible for the Portuguese defence to hold out until the end of the game. Evaristo hit the bar, Czibor caught the outside of the post, while Kubala, with time nearly out, hit a shot that struck the inside of the left hand post, rebounded behind Pereira onto the right post and came out for Benfica to clear again. Barcelona shirts swarmed around the Benfica penalty area and created chance after chance, but in the end, time ran out and Benfica held on to become European champions.

Barcelona were crushed. They had been so sure that they would win the Final and now here they were, beaten by an unrated Portuguese side and, having lost out to Real Madrid in the Spanish Championship, unable to attempt any assault on the European Cup for at least another year. In European terms, Barcelona were to stay in Real Madrid’s shadow for many years to come. They had been the first side to dent Real’s European invincibility, but they had no trophy to show for it and, having squandered what had seemed to be a golden opportunity to inherit what had belonged to Madrid for so long, it would take them another 30 years to finally get their hands on the European Cup.

Benfica, meanwhile, had begun the new European era as the champions and were able to celebrate a triumph that had been widely unexpected outside Lisbon. Now, however, their challenge had really begun as they set out to prove that this win was no mere flash in the pan. Next season Real Madrid would be back, along with a host of other top teams from around the continent. Could Benfica replicate the sort of dominance that Real Madrid had held over the European Cup, or would they turn out to be just one season wonders

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