As we look forward to this weeks game in Portugal a look back at the last time we met in the second leg. Like this time we go in 1-3 down but this time there wont be nearly 65,000 lilywhites trying to scream Spurs home. The best two teams in Europe clashed in one of the most famous games played at White Hart Lane.
After the pulsating first leg Tottenham had other things to consider in the two weeks before the second leg of their semi-final with Benfica. They were still involved in the struggle to retain their Championship and the weekend before had won the FA Cup semi-final with Manchester United to set up another FA Cup Final appearance.
Tottenham were confident they would reach the European final despite being two goals down from the first leg. Bobby Smith’s physical presence had been a major asset in the earlier rounds and it was felt he and Jimmy Greaves would turn the tide. Costa Pereira was considered one of, if not the best, goalkeepers in Europe at the time. For the second game Danny Blanchflower moved back to Right Half and Terry Medwin came into the side at the expense of Tony Marchi. This allowed Spurs to play 4-3-3. A formation that was fairly new at the time.
The Guardian described the scene as “the Tottenham Volcano, one of the most active in the land, rumbled and spat occasionally and when the teams came out it erupted with a terrifying cascade of vocal lava.” Phil Sour in the clubs official history simply said it was ‘terrifying.’
The game started and after quarter of an hour, disaster. Aquas scored and made the task even harder. The crowd actually turned the volume up as the team took control and dominated the rest of the game. In the 23rd minute Smith flicks a ball forward, Greaves nips between two defenders and fires home. The referee awards the goal but the linesman rules it offside. Our third good goal disallowed in the tie.
His header looped up and over the defence with Pireia stranded after not reaching the ball. The ball dipped down and the Lane was exploring with sound and at home I was already in midair screaming when the impossible occurred. The ball instead of dropping into the goal landed on the top of the bar and bounced harmlessly into the Park Lane crowd. A few Moments later it was over, we were out. The better team had lost and Benfica were relieved to hear the final whistle. They would however retain the trophy beating Real Madrid in the final.
Rather than blaming the three disallowed goals Bill Nicholson said he had tried to exhort the team to slow down. Players afterward admitted rather than their usual game the team had picked up on the crowds passion and had become too hectic as desperation had taken hold.
The British press agreed. The Daily Mail descried the game as ‘the most thrilling and heart-aching hour’s football I have ever seen’. Sports writer Ian Wooldridge described the ending as ‘the greatest pounding that Spurs have ever mounted’.
Twenty years after the game The Daily Express’s David Miller wrote that “It was still the most electrifying 90 minutes he had experienced on a English ground.” Tottenham would learn from their experiences, as Jimmy Greaves said “ We were no longer the innocents abroad.”
I know watching at home I was completely shattered. It had not seemed possible that the mighty Tottenham would not overcome Benfica. Inconceivable we would not go on and be European Champions. Tottenham would fall short in their attempt to retain the Championship but as FA Cup Winners would compete in the following season’s European Cup Winners Cup.
Watch the highlight s on this link . http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E76GxhSs4JQ
One note for those of you who worry about the Thursday / Sunday schedule and wonder why some older fans seem dismissive. This game was on a Thursday. We had League games the following Saturday and Monday. A couple of weeks later Spurs played three games in four days.
Top Image - Bobby Smith
Thanks - THFC, THOS, The Independent, The Times, Daily Express, Daily Mail, British Pathe, David Bowler - Danny Blanchflower, Jimmy Greaves - This One’s On Me. Phil Sour - The Official History, Bob Goodwin - the Complete Record. The Guardian, Images 2- Daily Mirror, 3- Getty Images, 1 & 4 - Press Association.
About the author:
Keith Harrison, Nilgiris, TN
View Full Bio
Flying Down to Rio
History of T.H.F.C.
Tribute to Bill Nicholson
The Road to Turin
Most Read Articles
The 100 Year War
Interview with Marina Sirtis
A Long Dark Shadow
By Royal Appointment
School Report: An Insight into the Younger Eric Dier
All Change At Spurs
History Of THFC: Part 1
Passage to India: Rohan Rickets
Thanks For The Memories
Our Tommy Carroll
The AVB Files: Part1
You The Jury
The Hand Of Hugo
Connection - Argentina
Creating a Reputation
Flying Down To Rio