50th Anniversary Pre-Match Briefing: 1971 European Cup Winners' Cup final replay

Today it is half-a-century since Chelsea vanquished Real Madrid at the second time of asking to lift a European trophy for the first time in our history. To mark the anniversary and with the chance to watch the full game on demand below, club historian Rick Glanvill looks ahead to the action in the style of our modern day Pre-Match Briefing previews…

Either way tonight, Chelsea’s continental campaign will conclude as it began: in Greece, the land where mortals are transformed into demi-gods. The final between the Blues, Kings of Swinging London, and Real Madrid’s ‘Generación Ye–Ye’, a 1-1 draw, was hailed as ‘the Clash of the Titans’ in local newspapers. Now, just 48 hours later, the cup winners of England and Spain meet again in Piraeus, the ancient port of Athens.

On the way back to their base at the Apergi Hotel in Kifissia after Wednesday’s hard-fought game, the Londoners’ coach passed a signpost indicating the site of Marathon. The legend of Pheidippides, who ran 25 miles to bring news of battle victory, could come back to haunt the two teams this evening should extra-time be required again.

Chirpiest as ever was Dave Webb, insisting that as he had blocked a Real shot on the line in the dying minutes – just as he had against Leeds at Old Trafford in the FA Cup final replay a year earlier – the trophy is most assuredly ours. And if the Apollo mission can put another man on the moon, why can Chelsea not reach for the stars for the second time in 14 months?

Unlike some earlier rounds in which penalty kicks settled a drawn tie, UEFA elected to stage a replay 48 hours later at the same ground. Given the short turnaround the stadium is expected to be less than half full, with fans of the Londoners far outnumbering the Castilian contingent.

Hopefully there will be no repeat of the drawn-out opening ceremony that delayed the original kick-off by five minutes. And by the end of the night we will know for sure whether Dave Sexton is clairvoyant as well as visionary: four days ago our coach predicted a 2-1 victory for the Blues.

This is the first time a one-off European cup final has ever been replayed at the same stadium.


Talking tactics

The trophy was already being brought out when Ignacio Zoco equalised with the last kid of normal time two days ago. It was almost ruled out: Swiss linesman Bucheli raised his flag for offside on another Madrid player, but referee Scheurer correctly noticed John Dempsey had miscued an interception, so the strike stood. That meant another 30 gruelling minutes in draining humidity. The Blues’ reliable centre-back was mortified and has vowed to his team-mates he will make amends should the opportunity arise.

Goalscoring has been an issue all season and a main source, Peter Osgood, was only able to play thanks to cortisone injections and the usual medical brilliance of our physio, Harry Medhurst. Meanwhile Peter Bonetti looks over his bout of pneumonia, but the Chelsea dynamo, John Hollins, needed Harry’s magic spray to complete extra-time on Wednesday.

Ironically, the surplus time that cost us the win was added for time-wasting after Peter Houseman, who had left everything one the pitch, kicked the ball away.

In truth, Houseman, Ossie and Holly looked to be struggling with their reported injuries and it was the box-to-box work of Alan Hudson that kept the Blues ticking over. The Castilians also found Keith Weller – who on this form could give ‘Ernie the fast milkman’ a run for his money – too hot to handle, and Charlie Cooke’s scheming dribbles left some of Europe’s finest in their wake.

What looked for 40 minutes like the winner again showed Ossie’s knack of summoning a ‘Eureka!’ moment however well he was playing. He reacted quickest when a move initiated by Cooke, redeployed in a deeper role to avoid man-marking, led to a Johnny Boyle cross knocked down in the box. The Blues’ no.9 duly pounced and slammed home left-footed.

There was singing on the coach back to the hotel and by all accounts the players have kept the bar busy there, but Sexton also has a number of injury worries this evening: Dempsey (ankle), Hollins (knee), Houseman (groin), McCreadie (broken nose), Osgood (ankle) and Weller (heel). If Holly does not make it Boyle could switch to midfield with Paddy Mulligan replacing the Scot at right-back.

The suggestion coming from the Real camp ahead of tonight is: ‘if we stop Cooke, we will win.’ Sexton may well reorder his formation to put paid to any special treatment Los Blancos have in store for the Scottish schemer. One plan under consideration is to switch from a 4-3-3 formation to 4-2-4, with Tommy Baldwin adding to weight of attack and Cooke and Hudson as central midfielders.

How Chelsea reached this stage

Aris (Greece) - won 6-2 - round one
CSKA (Bulgaria) won 2-0 - round two
Bruges (Belgium) won 4-2 quarter-final
Man City - won 2-0 semi-final
Real - drew 1-1 - final

How Real reached this stage

Hibernians (Malta) - won 5-0 - round one
Wacker (Austria) - won 2-0 - round two
Cardiff (Wales) - won 2-1 - quarter-final
PSV (Netherlands) - won 2-1 - semi-final
Chelsea - drew 1-1 - final


The Real thing

When these two teams met in a benefit at the Bridge in 1966 one reporter likened Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris’s harassment of the legendary Ferenc Puskas to the desecration of an ancient monument.

Well Puskas and fellow Real great Alfredo di Stefano have now gone, and critics say the likes of Paco Gento, now 39, are past their prime. Yet Wednesday showed they remain a force to be respected and feared, with plenty of flair players in attack, capable of game-turning flashes of brilliance.

Several players are household names in cosmopolitan circles: Amancio, Pirri, Ramon Grosso, Manuel Velazquez and Ignacio Zoco, scorer of their heart-breaking equaliser as the ref was about to blow the whistle on normal time.

On Wednesday they kept their wingers high and wide to stretch Sexton’s defensive arrangements. Amancio ‘the Magician’ and Velasquez were the architects of most of the moves that tested Chelsea’s resolve to the limit for the best part of an hour.

Thankfully, once again, they had no one decisive enough in front of goal to make all that cleverness count, and the aware Bonetti twice hared out of his area to clear when Real’s attackers bore down.

While the Spaniards have far more experience – Wednesday was the Blues’ first European final but the Spaniards’ eighth – Osgood’s second-half goal rattled even those old heads. Miguel Munoz brought Sebastian Fleitas and Toni Grande on for Miguel Perez and the tiring Gento, but Weller’s drives down the flanks, Cooke cutting through the centre, and Webb and Dempsey dominating set-plays really turned the tide – until that last-gasp sickener, after Munoz desperately ordered Zoco forward.

Extra-time brought the best out of The Cat, tipping over Pirri’s drive and claiming Amancio’s purposeful crosses. Both wearying teams cleared off their own line. Munoz has hinted he will try to put more of a clamp on Chelsea’s most creative players tonight, but may be without Pirri, who has broken a bone in his hand.

The question is: will the stamina-sapping turnaround affect his ageing veterans more than the Blues’ walking wounded?

Sticking around

More than 5,000 Chelsea fanatics made the trip out for the final, most through the club’s travel partners 4S (‘Sun, Sea, Sand and Superjet’), arriving by Comet from Stansted. Plenty of Londoners were at the airport on Tuesday to cheer Dave Sexton and his squad after they touched down, and Omonia Square has resembled the Shed for days.

Wednesday was brutally hot and the players were glad the game was played in the afterglow of night – 9.30pm local time – with the temperature in the mid-60s. Real had arrived several days earlier to acclimatise.

Sadly just a few hundred of the Blues fans who had such a fine view of the twinkling Aegean from their seat in midweek have been able to stay around for this evening. Some of those who did have had unforeseen expenses to meet, and the Chelsea players had a cash whip round to help them out. That was in Drachmas, of course, and we are sure there was some last-minute working-out of the exchange rate to Britain’s three-month-old new decimal currency! Hopefully it will all be worth it.

Boeing Boeing gone

The players’ take-off from Heathrow on Tuesday was delayed for an hour after it was discovered a passenger may have checked in luggage but was not on board. These days, with hijacking and terrorist bombs in the news, one can never be too safe, and the airline involved lost a jet to a mid-air explosion a year ago. Happily, all the baggage was removed to the tarmac and soon accounted for, the flight eventually continuing without incident.

Citizens dismissed

Neither side concede many goals but nor are they Europe’s most prolific teams. Real surprisingly lost at Wacker of Innsbruck and Cardiff City but are yet to concede more than one goal in a match.

The Blues let in just four goals on the way the final. After our 2-0 aggregate semi-final win against Man City (and Leeds’ success against Liverpool in the Fairs Cup), there have been five ties in European competitions between Football League clubs.


1955 and all that

This the Blues’ fourth continental campaign and the first under UEFA’s auspices, but we might have had many more. Back in 1955 Ted Drake’s champions attended meetings in Paris and helped set up the inaugural UEFA European Cup. The club initially accepted an invitation to participate as England’s representatives and were drawn to play Djurgarden of Sweden.

The Football League, though, reluctant to allow the one-year-old UEFA to muscle in on the football calendar, put pressure on our then chair, Joe Mears (father of the current incumbent, Brian) to withdraw the Blues from the competition. This he reluctantly agreed to.

The 1955/56 cup was, of course, won by tonight’s opposition, and that success added to the Madrilenos’ fame, legend and global following. What if, instead, Drake’s side had taken on the cream of Europe and won? How differently might the story of ‘little old Chelsea’ have been in the intervening decade and a half? We will never know. But a first Euro success tonight would be a fine way to start making up for lost time.

Greeks bearing plaudits

Chelsea reaching the final came as no surprise to Greece’s Minister of Sport after our round one trouncing of his countrymen, Aris Thessaloniki. To rework the old saying, Constantin Aslandis could ‘see us coming to Piraeus’ and forecast Dave Sexton and his men would return to his native land six months later. He was right.

The locals here have taken Chelsea to their hearts, especially with our fluent attacking football in the final. One Greek newspaper glowed: ‘We want to see more of this steely Chelsea machine … a frightening force, with [Dave] Webb so strong as their Trojan horse.’

Another paper proposed a reciprocal agreement: that the host nation backs the Bleus tonight in the hope English people do the same for Panathanaikos against Ajax at Wembley on 2 June. Real have protested at the whipped-up favouritism, but the Chelsea support in Athens is tangible. Every local you meet will tell you they are fervently backing the English side – especially those still seeking a match ticket. It helps, of course, that blue and white are the colours of the Greek flag.

Man in black

Swiss whistler Rudolf Scheurer (whose 46th birthday is on Monday) handled the final well but will make way for his linesman and fellow countryman, Anton Bucheli.

About the host venue

The 45,000-seat stadium is open-air, surrounded – like Stamford Bridge of old – by an athletics track, and named after Giorgios Karaiskakis, the revolutionary leader during Greece’s war of independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 1820s. Despite liberal watering the players found the pitch bone-hard beneath the surface.

Only route to Europe

The Football League’s decision not to fall in with UEFA’s scrapping of the old Fairs Cup rule – that only one club from the same city can enter – leaves victory tonight as Chelsea’s only way into continental football next season. By finishing sixth in our domestic league, Sexton’s men qualified for a merit place in the revamped competition, to be called the UEFA Cup from 1971/72, but Spurs had already secured London’s slot by winning the League Cup.

European Cup Winners’ Cup regulations

Should the scores be level after 90 minutes, the match will enter a period of extra-time followed, if necessary, by a penalty shootout.

Five substitutes can be selected and two used during the match. Dave Sexton made club history by using both in the first leg of the semi-final at home to Man City, bringing on Keith Weller then Tommy Baldwin.

As in last year’s FA Cup, for the replay Chelsea will wear royal blue shorts and shorts with gold trim and socks, with Real – like Leeds at Old Trafford – donning all-white.

There is not enough time for Chelsea to produce a new matchday programme for the replay, but the English language one – the first produced by the club for a European final – is still available, priced at 10p (two shillings in old money). There is also an official UEFA programme in Greek available to those out in Athens.

Broadcasting coverage

Unlike Wednesday’s final, the replay will be broadcast live on BBC One, meaning ‘Tomorrow’s World’, ‘Me Mammy’, starring Yootha Joyce and Milo O’Shea, and ‘Look – Mike Yarwood!’ will be postponed.

On the wireless, BBC Radio London will carry live audio commentary from Athens starting at kick-off.

On Wednesday the Football Association knocked back Chelsea’s plans to work with Viewsport to broadcast the final live via closed circuit television in London cinemas. Club chairman Brian Mears commented, ‘It would clash with the England-Wales game at Wembley, but I think many fans would prefer to watch an English club playing in a European final abroad.’

Now if you fancy watching the replay win you can do so in full below...

More from chelsea