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1966 European Cup Final (Brussels)
Real Madrid 2 vs. Partizan Belgrade 1

Real Madrid: Araquistain, Pachin, De Felipe, Zoco, Sanchis, Pirri, Velazquez, Serena, Amancio, Grosso, Gento (capt.)
Scorers: Amancio, Serena

Partizan Belgrade: Soskic, Jusufi, Vasovic (capt.), Rasovic, Mihajlovic, Kovacevic, Becejac, Bajic, Hasanagic, Galic, Pirmajer
Scorer: Vasovic


Inter’s attempt to win their third consecutive European title began with defeat in Romania. Up against Dinamo Bucharest, an early Peiro goal had seemed to set the holders on their way, but the Romanians had hit back to win the first leg 2-1. At half-time in the return game, the scores remained the same, but Inter were rescued by a Mazzola penalty and a late Facchetti winner. The quarter-finals, however, proved to be a far easier task for Herrera’s men as they put four goals past the Hungarians of Ferncvaros without reply in the first leg to effectively end the tie and ease themselves into the last four.

The first round of the 1965/66 season saw the end of a European Cup era when Feyenoord met Real Madrid. Real recovered from a 2-1 defeat in Rotterdam by thumping the Dutchmen 5-0 in the Bernabeu, but the result was overshadowed by two stories. The first came in the first leg in Holland when a challenge on Moulijn by Real’s Miera provoked a near riot. Moulijn was so incensed by the foul that he set off after his opponent with his team-mates joining him in the chase. Policemen, stewards and officials raced to stop the melee, but with supporters climbing over the perimeter fences to join in, the Czech referee decided to stop the match until tempers had cooled. The notable occurrence from the two games was that all but one of Real’s six goals in the tie were scored by a certain Ferenc Puskas. Sadly, Puskas, one of the greatest players in all of the competitions history, would never score in the European Cup again – at least he had gone out on a high. While Puskas’ days were numbered, however, Real Madrid were still a major force amongst the continents champions. Having hit Feyenoord for six, they then put seven goals past Kilmarnock with Puskas and Santamaria making their final European appearances for the club, before gaining revenge for their 1962/63 defeat by Anderlecht as they beat the Belgians 4-3 on aggregate to set up a titanic semi-final clash with Internazionale themselves.

Since the Red Star Belgrade team that reached the 1957 semi-finals and the 1958 quarter-finals, Yugoslavian teams had made little impact on the European Cup, but Yugoslav football was on the way up thanks to their ‘golden generation’ which had seen the national team win Olympic gold and reach the final of the European championship in 1960, as well as getting to the semi-finals of the 1962 World Cup. Many of the players that had achieved success with the national team played their club football for Partizan Belgrade, Yugoslav champions in 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1965. Milutin Soskic in goal, Farudin Jusufi at full back, Velibor Vasovic and Lazar Rasovic in the middle and Milan Galic up front were the stars of a side that were finally to make an impact in Europe. Their campaign began promisingly with victories over the both the champions of France and West Germany as Nantes and Werder Bremen were each eliminated by two clear goals. That put Partizan through to the quarter-finals where they would take part in a memorable encounter with Sparta Prague. The first leg in Prague had seen Hasanagic give Partizan the lead after a quarter of an hour, but that lead was to last little more than five minutes and by the end of the game, Sparta had stormed to an emphatic 4-1 win which made them strong favourites to reach the semi-finals. The Czechs, however, were blown away by Partizan’s first half onslaught in Belgrade which saw goals from Hasanagic and Vasovic and two from Kovacevic wipe out their first leg advantage. A further goal from Hasanagic after the interval made it 5-0 on the night and 6-4 on aggregate to complete a remarkable comeback.

The semi-finals would see Partizan taking part in an emotional tie that would bring Manchester United, in their first season back in the European Cup after the Munich disaster, returning to the scene of their final game before embarking on that fateful journey home. Matt Busby, who had barely survived the air crash that had claimed so many lives, had rebuilt the Manchester United team since 1958. United now revolved around the attacking prowess of Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and a young Irishman by the name of George Best. These three great players, all of whom would go on to be named European Footballer of the Year, helped United to the league title in 1965 and were now propelling them towards the European Cup that they had seemed destined to win before fate had intervened some seven years previously. Their early progress was comfortable as both HJK Helsinki and Vorwarts of Berlin were despatched with relative ease, but the quarter-finals posed a much stiffer task as they were drawn against the great Benfica, who now had the great Guttman in charge once more, and had already set a new European Cup record by beating Stade Dudelange 18-0 on aggregate. A close but exciting game at Old Trafford left the tie finely poised with United taking a 3-2 lead to Lisbon. With such a slender lead, manager Matt Busby instructed his side to adopt a completely defensive strategy for the first quarter of an hour to ensure that Benfica did not get the emotional lift that an early goal would bring them. Fortunately for Manchester United, his team talk was ignored by one man. After 15 minutes of the match the score in the Stadium of Light was Benfica 0 Manchester United 3 as George Best took on one of the best teams in Europe almost single handedly and teased and tormented them into submission. Best headed home a free-kick 6 minutes, and added another seven minutes later, with Connelly scoring almost immediately afterwards. With Crerand and Charlton adding further goals in the second half, Manchester United achieved a 5-1 score line that sent alarm bells ringing around Europe. George Best’s performance was so inspiring that he was christened ‘El Beatle’ by the Portuguese media and he was fully expected to help United get past Partizan Belgrade and become the first English side to reach the European Cup Final.

Five weeks after crushing Benfica in Lisbon, Manchester United took to the field in Belgrade where they were unable to reproduce the form that they had shown in the quarter-finals. They did have early chances, but they were missed and, as the game wore on Partizan took control and with Best playing with a heavily strapped knee, United were unable to respond. Just after half-time, Jusufi crossed from the Partizan right and with goalkeeper Gregg caught in the no mans land between goal and ball, Hasanagic headed home. Almost at once, the English side appeared to have equalised, but Connelly’s goal was disallowed for offside. Then, on the hour, Vasovic, who had received the Yugoslav player of the year award before the game, played in Becejac who swept the ball home to make it 2-0. From then until the final whistle it took all United’s defensive strength to keep the deficit down to two and keep them in with a chance of progressing. Ultimately, the tie was won by Partizan in Belgrade. With Best unavailable for the second leg as he awaited a cartilage operation, Manchester United could only find the net once and that was courtesy of their opposing goalkeeper Soskic who palmed a low cross into this own net late in the game. That was sufficient for Partizan to complete a surprise victory that sent them into the European Cup Final against one of the giants of European football.

In the other semi-final there was another surprise as Inter’s grip on the European Cup was finally broken. Real Madrid might have been without most of their giants of the past, but a new generation had emerged which would achieve what no other side had managed for nearly three seasons as they knocked Herrera and his team out of the competition. Both legs were as tight and low scoring as would be expected. The first game in Madrid was decided by a single Pirri goal for Real. In Milan, Amancio increased the Spaniards aggregate lead on twenty minutes. Although Facchetti pulled a goal back to ensure a nail biting final ten minutes, Inter were out while Real went forward to their eighth final in the competitions eleven year history.

Without legends such as Di Stefano and Puskas, the Real Madrid side that took to the pitch for the European Cup Final in Brussels was very different to that which European football fans had grown used to over the previous decade. Composed almost entirely of young and little known players, including five who had come up from the youth team, the youngsters looked to Gento, the one survivor from the 1956 winning side and now the captain, to provide the experience that they so lacked. And they certainly needed character to cope with the rampant Partizan side that surged forward from the first whistle. With their half back line of Becejac, Rasovic and Vasovic dominating the play, the Yugoslavs took control of the game and limited their more illustrious opponents to occasional breakaways. Galic, Partizan’s outstanding forward who had obtained special release from the army to play in this his first game of the year, squandered two first half chances, while a Hasanagic effort hit the crossbar. The strong Partizan defence was on top of the Real attack during the first half and at half-time the game remained goalless. The Yugoslav domination continued after the break and, on 55 minutes, they gained some reward. Galic’s persistence on the wing gained Partizan a corner and as Hasanagic nodded back Pirmajer’s kick, the captain Vasovic rose to power the ball home.

Partizan finally had the goal that their play had deserved, but that only served to shock Real into life. Real Madrid’s young players shook off their nerves and, inspired by Gento in midfield, now threw caution aside and, although it left them vulnerable to the counter attack, Partizan were unable to respond. Within 15 minutes Real were level as Amancio, having been sent clear by Grosso’s pass, drew Soskic from his goal to glide the ball home. The Spaniards were now in the ascendancy and it took them only five more minutes to take the lead as Serena hit a shot out of the blue from 30 yards out that flew into the top corner of the net. Partizan were now unable to hit back and the Spanish giants were able to see out the rest of the game with relative ease to claim their sixth European title. The few policemen around the perimeter were unable to stop the Spanish supporters streaming on to the pitch to celebrate another famous win for Europe’s most famous team.

Partizan may have come close to a famous victory, but they had now missed their chance as the side was immediately broken up with their star players heading west. Soskic went to Cologne, Galic to Standard Liege, Rasovic to PSV and Vasovic, who had scored in the final, was transferred to Ajax where he would come to feature again in the story of the European Cup. In Madrid, meanwhile, Real celebrated yet another European triumph, this time with a team entirely composed of Spanish players. Many may have considered them to be a spent force in European football, but their sixth title in eleven years had proved otherwise. Despite the best efforts of the continents top teams, Real Madrid ruled over Europe once again

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