The Semi-Final clash with Benfica is one of those truly defining moments in the clubs history. The two best club sides in Europe at the time were drawn together, the first leg would be in Lisbon on 21st March 1962. The Benfica side were already European champions having beaten Barcelona the season before. They supplied the majority of the national team including Eusebio one of the best players in the world who was known as the Black Panther.
Danny Blanchflower had been out injured and Tony Marchi had stepped in and played so well Bill Nicholson decided to play Danny at Inside-left upon his return. Our team that night was - Bill Brown, Peter Baker, Ron, Henry, Tony Marchi, Maurice Norman, Dave Mackay, Jimmy Greaves, John White, Bobby Smith, Danny Blanchflower and Cliff Jones. Spurs go into the game believing they can win over the two legs. Dave Mackay saying that at that time the team were at their absolute peak.
The Stadium of Light arena must of resembled a Roman amphitheatre that night with its intimidating crowd, according to different sources it ranges between 70 and 86 thousand. That includes the 500 Spurs fans that made the trip. The British press reported that even outnumbered they were heard the whole night. In what the Daily Express described as a ‘Niagara of noise’. The crowd did everything to put off the Tottenham players and took a dislike to Mackay for the way he kept Eusebio quiet.
Spurs responded well and White centered just after the half hour but Greaves just failed to get his head to the ball. A few moments later Mackay sets Jones free but he fires just wide. Two down at half time. Tottenham re-emerge and are kept waiting by Benfica. After seven minutes the ref calls them from their dressing room. Benfica attack and both Aquas and Eusebio go close but Brown was in good form.
After the game Nicholson wont comment on the officials and blames his defence for errors and laments the missed chances saying “The lads played very hard, but badly”. The British press unite in commenting on the poor referring standards. Most put it down to incompetence but several suggest their might be match fixing. There had been several scandals in main land Europe in recent months.
Jimmy Greaves was in no doubt and in 2010 wrote “The only European Cup tie I ever played in and Tottenham’s last until this season left an extremely unpleasant taste in my mouth. It was the 1962 semi-final against a Benfica side who included Eusebio and were second only to Real Madrid as a European power at the time. I had a goal disallowed in both legs of the tie which we lost 4-3 on aggregate, and there was never any doubt that they were perfectly good goals. Almost half a century later, I’m still genuinely convinced there was something bent about that tie.”
The only film of the tie I could find was these brief highlights from British Pathé
Unfortunately the soundtrack has not survived.
The Tottenham lads were sure they could turn the tie around as Dave Mackay said “ We shall do them at Tottenham, just wait and see”. Benfica were unhappy even with a two goal lead and immediately started putting pressure on the officials their goalie saying “Smith and Greaves are not gentlemen, they played very rough”. While Bela Guttman their coach added “ Tottenham played too hard, but they are a very good team, Two goals might not be enough”. This is echoed by Cliff Jones “We all felt we could pull it back, no danger at all”.
Please note - Top Image is from Second Leg at White Hart Lane. Images 1- Press Association, 2- Daily Mirror
thanks - THFC, Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Colin Gibson and Harry Harris - Those Glory Glory Nights, THFC Video same title,
About the author:
Keith Harrison, Nilgiris, TN
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