1969-11-26: Benfica 3-0 Celtic (Agg 3-3), European CupThis is a featured page

Match Pictures | European Cup 1969-70 | Matches: 1969 - 1970 | 1970 Pictures


  • Celtic had been due to play St Mirren on the Saturday 22nd November. Evan Williams had been lined up to make his League debut. The game was called off on the Saturday when heavy rain made the pitch unplayable.
  • Second Leg away. Tollcross travel had been advertising a one day trip to the game with ticket for 29 1/2 guineas whilst A.T. Mays were offering a night in a hotel, travel and ticket for the game, coach to and from the ground and an overnight hotekl room for £33.
  • Celtic took a large party for this away leg including all the players bar Steve Chalmers who had played in the European Cup win against Inter Milan. Steve Chalmers stayed at home with his ankle in plaster. They stayed at the Palacio Hotel again and as soon as they arrived were called out to train immediately. The following day they returned to the Nacional Stadium to visit and to train there.
  • John Clark was out injured with a leg strain with Jim Brogan stepping in for him. In too came Tommy Callaghan whoi would play in a withdrawn role in a 4-3-3 plan.
  • First leg 3-0, Aggregate 3-3! What a turnaround.
  • Celtic went through on a coin toss! Sir Robert made a complaint to UEFA about the practice of coin tosses settling ties, and the system was changed soon after to penalty kicks. Kelly claims Celtic would not have complained if they had lost the toss.
  • Urban myth grew that it was King Billy's head on Dutch referee Van Ravens' coin !
  • Game is played in torrential rain.
  • Benfica score with the last attack and Celtic thought the referee was blowing for time up.
  • Scots media are unable to phone home with result as phone lines were only open in the stadium for 90 minutes. Fans back home wait nervously for the result.
Apollo 12 landed on the moon on 19th November with astronauts Conrad and Bean.
Davie White, the Rangers manager was sacked.


(from www.thestateofthegame.com)
Benfica 3-0 Celtic (AET)
(Agg 3-3; Celtic won on the toss of a coin)
(Eusebio 35, Graca 40, Diamantino 90)

Although the talk from the Benfica camp after the first match was that Eusebio would be out for three weeks, he duly lined up for the second leg. Only 50,000 of the expected 80,000 fans had turned up, such was the overwhelming nature of Celtic’s first leg victory.
However, Benfica were a changed side from the first match and came roaring at the Hoops from early on.

Celtic’s hero was keeper John Fallon who pulled off a series of near miraculous saves to keep Benfica at bay. Jorge hit the post before Fallon held a rocket from Eusebio in the 21st minute. It was clear the side from Lisbon were by no means out of the tie.
In the 35th minute they got their reward for their constant pressure when a Eusebio header put them one up. A few minutes later Graca went through the Celtic defence on his own, dispatching the ball into goal from off the post.
Two-nil Benfica and the contrast of the tie had changed completely.

The next bit of action saw Bertie Auld on the receiving end of a bad tackle. A melee followed and Jimmy Johnstone was butted by Silva. The referee decided to take no action and the situation, which looked likely to boil over, quickly settled down.

The second half brought about the early retirement of Eusebio, who was replaced by Martins.
Jimmy Johnstone missed Celtic’s best chance of the match. Jinky found himself with only keeper Henrique to beat, but the man nicknamed Z’Gato, came racing out of his goal to make the save.

Celtic managed to play with more poise and cohesion as the second half progressed. They began to show more attacking prowess, although their Portuguese opponents were never less than threatening.
With Celtic desperately clinging on to their one goal aggregate lead deep into injury time, the men from the Stadium of Light were awarded a corner kick. Substitute Diamantino, a different proposition from his lacklustre first leg display, headed the subsequently crossed ball into the Celtic net. As he did so the referee blew for full-time. Players and fans were uncertain for a moment if the goal would stand; several Celtic defenders were positive that the game was over before the kick was taken.

The delirious Benfica supporters were in no confusion however as they poured onto the pitch. At this point Laurens Van Ravens, the Dutch referee, led the teams off the field and into the dressing room. Police and soldiers had to come on to the pitch in order to clear it of spectators. Five minutes after the ball had hit the net it was announced the scoreline was 3-all and the game was into extra time.

Celtic’s players and the Scottish media were baffled by the three minutes plus of injury time played. With no major injuries throughout the game, this was an unusually long time to add. Extra-time was played out with no further goals and some match reports indicate that the second period was actually brought to a close one minute early.

In 1969 a drawn tie was not settled by a penalty shoot-out. The deadlock would be broken by the tossing of a coin. The normal practice in this situation was for the referee to lead the two captains to the centre circle, toss the coin into the air so that instantly the spectators would see from the triumphant captain’s reaction who had progressed. It was obvious to all in attendance this night that Van Ravens had a cavalier manner all of his own and so it was as he executed this task.
He took the two captains, Celtic’s Billy McNeill and Mario Coluna of Benfica, into his dressing room. Their respective managers went with them. The two linesmen and a handful of pressmen also squeezed into the cramped room, while club officials packed the corridors of Estadio da Luz.

The ref asked the Celtic captain to call. McNeill revealed years later in his autobiography “Hail Cesar”, that on this occasion his stomach was churning and he felt that he would “rather be anywhere else at that moment”. He turned to his manager and asked him what he should call. Stein’s reported reply was “You’re on your own.”

McNeill called “heads” and won the toss. The referee then informed him this was just to see which of the captains would have the right to spin the coin. He handed the Scotsman the silver Dutch 2 guilder piece to toss into the air to determine which club would win the tie. “I stuck with my hunch and called heads again,” McNeill said in “Hail Cesar”.

The coin landed on the floor, rolled, hit the referee’s foot and lay still. As everyone bent down to get a look the Celtic captain punched the air when he saw he had made the right call. “When I spun the coin,” McNeill said to reporters later, “I couldn’t believe that I would win again. But I did and it was the greatest relief of my life.”

McNeill was allowed to keep the coin, worth six shillings in pre-decimal Britain, as a souvenir.

The 50,000 people on the terraces waited anxiously for the outcome. When the message came back that Celtic had progressed to the quarter-finals the Scots in the crowd went wild, while some Portuguese supporters openly wept.

Elsewhere in the European Cup that same night Turkey’s Galatasaray also won on the toss of a coin, knocking out Spartak Trnava of Czechoslovakia after a 1-1 aggregate draw.

On the chartered plane back to Glasgow Celtic’s Chairman Sir Robert Kelly told of his displeasure of winning such an important tie by these means. He indicated that Celtic would press UEFA to have new legislation introduced.
“We won this toss and this is the right time to take up the case,” he said. “It is a most unsatisfactory way to end such a vital tie in any competition. Certainly we would not have said anything about this if we had lost the toss to Benfica. But now that we are through, perhaps our words will carry some weight.”
Several years earlier, as president of the Scottish Football Association, Sir Robert, then plain Bob Kelly, made a complaint to UEFA about the practice of coin tosses settling ties.
“Tossing a coin is not part of the game,” he continued, “But corner kicks are. I feel that the team with the most corner kicks in extra time should be the winners. If the teams are equal, corners gained during the whole game should count.”

At this point in time that system was already in use in the Glasgow Charity Cup.

Manager Jock Stein was relieved to have made it through to the Quarter-Finals but was disappointed with the performance. “I thought we could have played much better,” he told reporters after the match. “We became careless after the first 30 minutes. A team of our European experience should not have lost the second goal, scored by Graca by the old one-two.”
Despite the win this trip to Lisbon was not as happy for Celtic as their 1967 visit had been. On the coach journey back to the hotel, six Celtic players and one official discovered that they had been robbed of money, from their clothes left in the dressing room during the match.

The draw for the quarter-finals was made at St. Gotthard Hotel in Zurich.

Jock Stein, who refused to travel to Switzerland, due to the unpredictable nature of airline travel in the month of December, spoke of his wishes for the draw. “We would prefer to avoid Leeds at this stage,” he said. “Obviously it would be great if we could make it to an all-British final.”

Celtic were the only former winner of the trophy remaining in the competition and the two British sides were seen as the ones to avoid.
Fiorentina’s Argentine coach Bruno Pesaola made it clear how he wanted the draw for the last eight to pan out. “At this stage in the competition I don’t want either Celtic or Leeds. The English club looks the strongest in the competition, but Celtic appear to be improving.”
The betting had Celtic at 7-2 behind Fiorentina at 5-2 and the favourites Leeds United at 2-1. Feyenoord were being written off by the bookies at 10-1.
The draw paired the Celts with Italian champions Fiorentina, at that time lying in second spot in Serie A.

Afterwards Jock Stein seemed happy. “Playing against a Latin team is always exciting,” he said. “They have that bit of extra glamour.
Obviously they are good. You have to be to win the Italian league.” Stein went on to say, “The only side we wanted to avoid was Leeds. For we would rather meet them later in the final if we can.”
Celtic were confident of progressing, as their rivals Rangers had played and defeated Fiorentina the previous summer. In the Toronto Challenge Cup the Glasgow side won 3-2 in New York, although they lost 2-0 in the second game in Toronto. Their performance in the first game was enough to show Celtic that the Italians had exploitable weaknesses.


SL Benfica:
Henrique, Malta Da Silva, Messias, Coluna, Alfonso, Toni, Jaime Graca, Aguas (Diamentio 61), Artur Jorge, Eusebio (Victor Martins 46), Simoes
Scorers: Eusebio (35), Graca (40), Diamantino (90)

Fallon, Craig, Gemmell, Murdoch, McNeill, Brogan, Johnstone, Callaghan (Hood), Wallace, Auld (Connelly), Hughes Subs:Williams, Hay , Macari.

Referee: Laurens Van Ravens (Netherlands)
Att: 50,000 (confirmed by Glasgow Herald of 27/11/69)


  • Match Report (see below)



Benfica v Celtic, European Cup, 26/11/69

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