Pitchside

On This Day: Spurs run rings around Eusebio’s Benfica

Pitchside

Tottenham put on a thrilling display to beat champions Benfica 2-1 in the European Cup semi-final in one of the most memorable games in history on April 5th, 1962.

The North Londoners narrowly missed out on a spot in the final because the eventual winners went through on aggregate after winning the earlier first leg tie 3-1.

But goals from Danny Blanchflower and Bobby Smith – along with an electric atmosphere at White Hart Lane - would long make the night special for their fans.

They out-dazzled even the great Eursebio among Benfica’s galaxy of superstars, who also included Jose Aguas and Mario Coluna.

A British Pathé newsreel shows how the drama unfolded.

At first the match looked like it would go the way of the match in Lisbon after Aguas put the visitors 1-0 ahead in the 15th minute.

Spurs were then denied what seemed a perfectly good goal – after having two disallowed in the first leg.

But Bill Nicholson’s side, fresh from securing the domestic Double the previous season, rose to the challenge.

So too did the 64,000-strong crowd, who roared like never before – making their original terrace anthem Glory Glory Tottenham Hotspur popular in the process.

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Bobby Smith scores for Spurs against Benfica on April 5th, 1962

Spurs eventually equalised after Smith hammered home a superb cross from John White.

Two minutes after the half-time break, Coluna tripped White in the penalty area and with calm deftness, Blanchflower struck home the resulting spot kick.

Spurs – knowing they needed another goal to force a replay - powered ever more forward and the crowd roared ever louder.

But the goal never came.

Winger Cliff Jones, who narrowly missed when volleyed the ball inches over the goal, later claimed the fans’ frenzy actually made it harder to perform as usual.

He recalled: “The crowd were amazing and lifted us but we felt they were so intense it translated itself to the pitch.

“Where normally the ball would be played through [midfield], it was being bypassed due to the urgency, which was coming through from the fans.”

Striker Jimmy Greaves twice missed from close range and middle-field anchor Dave Mackay came so near with a shot that many fans couldn’t believe he hadn’t scored.

Benfica’s manager Bela Guttman, a Hungarian Jew whose brother was killed in the Holocaust, described it as “the hardest game of my life.”

The great tactical innovator went on to help Benfica retain the cup by steering his team to a 5-3 victory over Real Madrid.

Between them, the two sides had won all seven of the European Cup tournaments so far staged.

Spurs would not repeat its success of the 1960-1961 season, although they did retain the FA Cup while Alf Ramsey’s Ipswich won the league.

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