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17 October 2014

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Celtic win European Cup 1967

Billy McNeill presented with the European Cup


On Thursday 25 May 1967, Scottish Football reached a pinnacle of success in Europe which has yet to be surpassed in the modern era, when Glasgow Celtic Football Club, under the leadership of manager Jock Stein defeated Internacionale of Milan 2-1 at the Estadio Nacionale in Lisbon to win the European Cup.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Kilmarnock FC exited the semi-finals of the Uefa Cup (known then as the Fair Cities Cup), when Leeds United defeated them 4-2 at Rugby Park, with both sides having played out a goalless encounter in the first leg at Elland Road on Wednesday 19 May.

Despite the disappointment of failing to become the first Scottish side to reach the final of a major European trophy, Malky McDonald's Killie managed to defeat Royal Antwerp of Belgium 8-2 on aggregate and La Gantoise of Ghent 3-1 along the way, before Don Revie's men booked their ultimately doomed place in the finals against Dynamo Zagreb.

Six days later, on Wednesday 31 May, Rangers failed to overcome Bayern Munich in the final of the European Cup Winners Cup in Nuremberg, with the Franz Roth notching up the only goal of a dull match during extra-time.

1967 was indeed an exciting time for Scottish football, but it was Celtic who eventually lasted the distance in Europe, when an officially-recorded crowd of over 45,000 crammed into the Portuguese national stadium to witness the famous Glasgow side wrestle the greatest prize in club football from the preserve of Europe's Latin sides, for the first time in the history of the tournament.

Before kick-off, few neutrals believed Celtic were capable of overcoming the negative defensive tactics of Helenio Hererra's outfit, who had successfully dismissed such giants as CSKA Sofia, Real Madrid and Torpedo Moscow en route to the final. But Stein's side were galvanised by an overwhelming self-belief in their own invincibility, and their football was both exciting and attack-based, drawing from the great Hungarian sides of the 1960s and pioneering the concept of 'total football', many years in advance of the Dutch masters.

Celtic keeper, Ronnie Simpson in action

© SNSpix

According to the Celtic players, Stein's instructions ahead of the game were simple: go out enjoy yourself; but his plan almost went off the rails in the opening moments when Jim Craig felled Cappellini and Mazolla netted the resulting penalty, sending Ronnie Simpson the wrong way with barely eight minutes on the clock and giving Milan a vital early lead.

The opener seemed nothing more than a minor diversion for the Glasgow side, as Stein pressed for his players to attack and lay siege to the Italian goalmouth. Milan reverted to their famous defensive pattern and successfully thwarted Celtic's every effort on goal, but not without the help of some miraculous saves from goalkeeper Sarti and a fair amount of good fortune from the woodwork.

When half-time arrived, the scoreline remained 1-0 in favour of Inter, but Stein knew that Celtic were capable of scoring from any position on the pitch, and shortly after the break their much-needed equaliser arrived - from the boot of Celtic's full-back, Tommy Gemmell. On 65 minutes, the adventurous defender linked up with Jim Craig and Bobby Murdoch to send home an unstoppable shot and level the score. Almost an hour had passed since Mazolla had handed Inter the lead, but Celtic had finally found the inspiration they needed to take full control of the game and press on for victory.

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