THREE years after the Lisbon Lions had carved their name into Celtic folklore, Jock Stein's outfit found themselves with a chance to repeat history.

 

Domestic domination continued for Stein's side even though some of the Lions were already nearing the end of their Parkhead days.

Change was in the air, but for this campaign the Lions still formed the spine of a Celtic side which married goal-striking potency with spell-binding quality.

A breakthough seasons for the likes of George Connelly had provided proof that the Parkhead conveyor belt of talent was still operating at mamximum efficiency.

However, in the third part of our series, ALISON McCONNELL recalls how 1970 was the year when it was all so close - and yet so far.

Celtic made it to their second European Cup Final, going into the game in Milan against Feyenoord as overwhelming favourites, but in order to get there, they had a few hurdles to overcome first.

Standing between them were some formidable European heavyweights in the shape of Basel, Benfica and the super-confident Italian cracks Fiorentina.

And then the stage was set for the biggest clash of all ... Don Revie's mighty Leeds United and the famous Battle of Britain.

FIRST ROUND

September 17, 1969 FC Basel 0 Celtic 0

October 1, 1969 Celtic 2 FC Basel 0

THE first game in the run to Milan began in Switzerland with some of the Quality Street gang emerging into Jock Stein's side. Davie Hay made his European debut in the 0-0 first-leg game, while Kenny Dalglish and Danny McGrain were also in the squad. Celtic were held in Switzerland but progressed comfortably after a 2-0 win in Glasgow.

Harry Hood scored his first European goal for Celtic after just 65 seconds when Jimmy Johnstone teed him up before Tommy Gemmell sealed the victory with a decisive strike midway through the second period of the game.

For all it was a fairly straightforward tie, the Swiss side made it difficult for Celtic with goalkeeper Marcel Kunz in particular singled out for particular praise in the aftermath of the two-legged tie.

In any case, though, Celtic made it through - and they now faced a return to Lisbon, the scene of their European triumph in 1967.

SECOND ROUND

November 12, 1969

Celtic 3 Benfica 0

November 26, 1969

Benfica 3 Celtic 0

THIS was the fabled tie that was ultimately settled on the toss of a coin. It had looked to be a straightforward affair for Celtic after they enjoyed a 3-0 win over Benfica in the first-leg of the tie at Celtic Park.

Goals from Tommy Gemmell, Willie Wallace and Harry Hood put the esteemed Eusebio in the shade as Celtic ran rampant.

A John Hughes 'goal' was wrongly chopped off, otherwise they would have taken a more emphatic win to Lisbon. As it was, they were in for a shock in the return leg.

By the time the interval rolled around, Benfica had hauled it back to 2-0 and they continued to press for the rest of the second period.

On the cusp of the full-time whistle, they levelled and although confusion reigned, the game ultimately had to be settled by the toss of a coin.

Dutch referee Laurens van Ravens summoned 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 room, while other members of the club packed the corridors of Estadio da Luz.

McNeill would recall that he would "rather be anywhere else at that moment". He asked Stein what he should call only for the manager to shout: "You're on your own."

McNeill called "heads" and won. 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 Scot the silver Dutch two 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.

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 the message came back that Celtic had progressed to the quarter-finals it was reported that some of the Portuguese supporters left the ground in tears.

QUARTER-FINAL

March 4, 1970

Celtic 3 Fiorentina 0

March 18, 1970

Fiorentina 1 Celtic 0

THE Italians swept into Celtic Park in confident mood - press reports at the time suggested they were on an unprecedented £1,500-a-man to beat the Parkhead side.

The first leg effectively put the tie beyond them, though, with Bertie Auld enjoying one of the most memorable performances of his Celtic career.

Auld learned he was in the starting line-up just half an hour before kick-off after being out injured for six weeks. He netted two and set up the third with Stein effusive in his praise after the game. "Bertie could not have done more for us," he said. "I have got to single him out for the way he played there tonight."

Auld himself was a tad more modest, saying: "The rest of the lads carried me for the last 20 minutes. After being out of first-team football for six weeks, I felt just about jiggered."

Celtic lost 1-0 in Florence, but progressed due to the comfortable aggregate win and in the process became the first British team to beat an Italian side over two legs in a European competition.

Stein is quoted as saying after the game that he would happily settle for Feyenoord in the semi-final and Leeds in the final, but instead the victory teed up a tantalising 'Battle of Britain' clash.

SEMI-FINAL

April 1, 1970

Leeds 0 Celtic 1

April 15, 1970

Celtic 2 Leeds 1

CELTIC went into the tie as overwhelming underdogs, with few of the English press giving them a chance against Don Revie's side.

Celtic's team had cost £44,000 to assemble, while Leeds had spent £300,000 building a side to reign at home and abroad. Their ranks include striker Allan Clarke, then Britain's most expensive player at £165,000.

Scotland captain Billy Bremner - who would be named English Player of the Year in between the two ties - was also in the Elland Road team and it was envisaged that it would be Leeds who would go on to the final.

Celtic had to take to the pitch in red socks in that first leg after the referee had told the teams immediately before the game that he didn't want both sides wearing white socks.

Leeds had not lost a goal in Europe all season - a record that was to fall inside 40 seconds when George Connelly's deflected shot crept in at the left-hand post.

It would prove to be the difference between the teams in that opening leg before the return, which was played at Hampden.

After the game, Stein said: "The critics and commentators have laughed at our football long enough down here. Maybe tonight's result will stop them laughing."

A crowd of 136,505 people packed out Hampden - a record attendance in any Uefa registered competition for a game and one that is unlikely to ever be beaten - for the return leg where Celtic carved out a 2-1 win on the night and a 3-1 aggregate victory to record one of the most illustrious results in their history.

In the aftermath of the game, Jimmy Johnstone took most of the accolades, although the goals had come from John Hughes and Bobby Murdoch.

Celtic had become the first British team to make it to two European Cup finals.

Johnstone had ran both Terry Cooper and Norman Hunter ragged. They had swapped positions after Hunter complained to Cooper about his ineffective marking of the winger.

"Kick him!" Hunter was said to have shouted to his colleague. "You try and kick him! was Cooper's retort."

Bertie Auld procured a bowler hat from a fan and paraded the field wearing it.

A few years ago he told the Evening Times about the night. "Incredibly emotional," he said.

"We seemed to grow by the minute after they had taken the lead and to prove, home and away, that we were better than a much-vaunted Leeds side was a lovely feeling."

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