Video of the Day: The 1961 European Cup Final

by | May 23, 2016

Since the turn of the century, Spanish football clubs have dominated European club football, with eight wins out of sixteen tournaments in both the Champions League and the Europa League. Even this level of domination is as nothing in comparison with the formative years of competitive European club football, though. By the end of the 1959/60 season, Real Madrid had won each of the five European Cup competitions that had been played out whilst Barcelona had won the two Inter Cities Fairs Cup competitions played. The following season, however, saw that stranglehold start to loosen slightly. The introduction of the European Cup Winners Cup, and there were no Spanish entrants in the first running of this competition, which was won by Fiorentina.

The European Cup, however, remained dominated by the Iberian peninsular, even though Real Madrid’s imperial phase was coming to an end. Real had only qualified for the tournament as its holders, having been pipped to La Liga championship by Barcelona at the end of the previous season, and when the two clubs were drawn to play each other in the First Round of the 1960/61 competition, Barcelona beat Real Madrid by four goals to three on aggregate, with the winning goal coming nine minutes from time in the second leg at the Camp Nou from Evaristo de Machedo. They then went on to reach the final with wins against the Czechoslovak club Spartak Hradec Králové and the West German champions Hamburg.

Benfica, meanwhile, had begun the competition at the Preliminary Round stage with a comfortable five-one aggregate win against the Scottish champions Heart of Midlothian. Under new coach Bela Guttman, they then went on to beat Újpest, Denmark’s AGF and Rapid Vienna to reach the final, which was played at the Wankdorf Stadium in Bern. In the final, Benfica finally ended Spain’s hold over the trophy, and they repeated the trick the following year, beating Real Madrid by five goals to three in Amsterdam. Following the end of the 1961/62 European Cup final, however, Guttman fell into dispute with the club over a wage increase. As he left the Estadio de Luz for the last time, he warned that ‘Not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion’. Benfica have played in eight European finals since then… and have lost all eight of them. Commentary in Bern comes from Kenneth Wolstenholme.