There are few occasions in the lifetime of any fan when the word ‘heroes’ can reasonably be applied in sport. One such occasion occurred last night in the National Stadium in Lisbon. Celtic not only won the European Cup. Stonewall football was killed for all time by a sold gold bullet made by Jock Stein and fired by his Celtic commandos.
Let us not underestimate the importance of the deeds dome by Celtic. Every football manager throughout the world mist now reconsider his position.
Not one can now say – and expect a solitary fan to support his team: “We’re not here to entertain, we are here to win a trophy.”
In my opinion, Celtic last night saved football, from Glasgow to Rio de Janeiro, from s creeping paralysis and even death.
Deliberately, I have not mentioned Inter Milan until this point in my chronicle because, in Portugal and in the ears of the 12,000 fans from Glasgow, these are now unpleasant words.
But now I must tell you, in large letters, the result of last night’s European Cup Final: Celtic 2 inter Milan 1.
Inter and their grossly overrated manager, Helenio Herrera, have been exposed for all time. Tey are the most hated team in Europe, having done more than any pother to throttle the life out of football;. And they prepared. As they showed last night, to stoop to any shady tricks to win a football match.
They are now dead. Herrera, who hoisted himself to the top by loudmouth talk, is discredited. His team, his much boosted team, is nothing, for who wants to know anything about those who run second in a big race.
I find myself unable to say one good thing about Herrera and his big, strong but aged players. They knew before they took the field that they could not match Celtic for fitness. So they said: “We will slow the game down to a pace that will suit our age. If we have to kick in the process, we will do so. If we have to pull the odd jersey or two, that will be too bad but that is what we will do.”
And they did. If you were lucky enough to see this magnificent spectacle on TV last night – and who didn’t? – then you must know what I am talking about.
If Inter Milan had any ideas about winning this match they were obscure to me. After the final whistle, when a few Scottish journalists had overcome the NO ENTRY notice above the Celtic dressing room door, Ronnie Simpson told me: “Gair, the only worry I had out there was the danger of sunstroke.”
Simpson made one save and, fair is fair, he may have had a shade of luck running for him when Mazzola shot and hit him on the leg as early as the third minute. After that Ronnie did next to nothing.
In contrast, Sarti, in the Italian goal, had the star role on the field and what a great player he turned out to be. He saved at least four shots that up until last night I would have said were unbelievable.
Example 1: He managed to get the nails of his fingers at the end of his long arms and touch a header from Johnstone over the bar in the seventh minute.
Example 2: Right at the start of the second half, Tommy Gemmell, Celtic’s secret weapon in the final, came up and he scored what I thought was a great goal. The ball passed Sarti and was on its way to the back of the net when the keeper, by some miracle, managed to turn round, dive backwards and stop it before it was over the line.
Celtic, right through a historic final, played football as promised by Mr Jock Stein when he and his party of 20 players set foot in Portugal on Tuesday.
He told the Portuguese newspapers there would be no question of the Scottish champions playing defensive football. He said: We will attack until we win this game.”
And he was proved right. Celtic lost the first and what previously was thought to be the vital first goal in the game, but his players were not disheartened.
Mazzola’s penalty in the eighth minute, after a foul by Jim Craig, was but a brief respite in the Celtic onslaught. They outplayed Milan from the start, and they were determined and appeared to know that eventually goals would come if they kept attacking. They did. In the 63rd minute up came Murdoch as he had come a score of times before. He touched the ball across the field to Craig – and Craig, mark you, was Celtic’s RIGHT- BACK. Craig pushed the ball through to Gemmell, Celtic’s LEFT-BACK, and a glorious shot beat Sarti at his top right-hand corner.
This was Celtic’s cup-winning scene. Herrera had been prepared for Gemmell coming up in attack, but he had not expected that Celtic would throw everything into an offensive that would include five forwards, three half-backs and two full-backs.
Craig was one of the greatest successes in the Celtic team, although he was unfortunate to give away that penalty. Indeed, there were no failures in a team that fought for Mr Stein, Celtic and Scotland.
Willie Wallace was perhaps not as noticeable as he is in most games back home, but that was because he was playing a specific role in this most important of all matches. He was told to hold back.
Johnstone did the raiding on the right, Lennox cut around the flank on the left and always both Craig and Gemmell came up to make a seven-man forward line.
The elderly Inter Milan players had no answer to the Stein tactics and after Gemmell had scored the equalising goal, it was only a question of whether Herrerra’s plan could hold out until the finish of 90 minutes, then through the half an hour of extra-time and on to a replay here tomorrow.
With Celtic playing as they did last night – and I have never seen them play better – there was no chance of such a miracle for Italian football.
Five minutes from the final whistle, Murdoch swept a low ball straight across the Italian six-yard line and Steve Chalmers pushed out his foot to put the ball in the back of the net – and that was the end for Inter Milan. The better team won the European Cup. In fact, if justice had been done, Celtic, with their running, their skill and their shooting, should have won this match against the pedestrian Inter Milan by 5-1 or 6-1.
But the main thing is this – Celtic have brought the cup back to Britain for the first time in history, and that is something that none of the top clubs in England – Manchester United, Chelsea, Spurs, have been able to do.
Every fan in the British Isles should be proud of Celtic tonight. They did a magnificent job for their country and if they have killed the stereotype, defensive football idea, they will have brought Europe a completely new concept of football and how it should be played