London Calling: Wembley Finals Featuring Manchester United, Barcelona, AC Milan and Benfica

Ahead of The Champions League Final between Manchester United and Barcelona we look at the previous European Cup final to be held at Wembley
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Ahead of The Champions League Final between Manchester United and Barcelona we look at the previous European Cup final to be held at Wembley

Ahead of The Champions League Final between Manchester United and Barcelona we look at the previous European Cup final to be held at Wembley

“The Home of Football”. It’s an oft-used phrase by us Brits but not one I buy into. I like to think of the game of football as born in England but like that dog in The Littlest Hobo, soon set off to travel wherever it’s wagging tail took it, making friends and having adventures along the way (Altogether now: “There’s a voice that keeps on calling me!”).

I guess though that if the game, say whilst travelling in Bolivia was stopped by police and asked for an address then, just then in order to stay out some Bolivian prison it might give Wembley as a home address.

This weekend though the ‘Home of Football’ tag will no doubt be dusted off and overused as the Champions League final comes to town. The world’s eyes will be on the stadium but it’s not the first time. Here we take a closer look at the previous occasions Old Big Ears has swept into the capital.  The trophy may never have stayed long in London but it has been won there on four memorable evenings. Here they are:

When…

22nd May 1963

London Calling…AC Milan and Benfica

Real Madrid’s five-time domination of the tournaments formative years had come to an end but still the trophy remained a favourite for nations with a Latino tilt. Benfica had won for the last two years running, and were powered by their young striker, Eusebio. Milan though were a team full of intelligence (Cesare Maldini and Giovanni Trapattoni would both go on and manage Italy) and flair. They had, after all knocked the mighty Dundee out in the semi-final stage and so feared no one.

The Match…

British clubs were still finding their feet in this strange foreign competition which might explain the poor 45,000 attendance but those who did bother to turn up were thrilled early on by a Eusebio goal for Benfica that suggested a third straight win was on the cards. It wasn’t. Milan pressed in the second period and two goals from their Brazilian (although he played for both Brazil and Italy) centre-forward José Altafini gave the Rossoneri the first of its seven European Cups.

The Twin Towers…

Altafini was the hero with his brace but it was Italian playmaker Gianni Rivera who shaped and moulded Milan’s win.

When…

29th May 1968

London Calling…Manchester United and Benfica

Benfica were back at Wembley (six of their starting line-up were left over from their previous visit) hoping to better their 1963 experiences but they were up against Matt Busby’s Manchester United, a club who only ten years previously had been devastated by the Munich air crash.

Michael Laudrup probed away at the Sampdoria defence underlining his quality but it was a young Catalan midfielder called Josep Guardiola who shaped Barcelona’s victory at Wembley. Come Saturday night, will he do it again?

The Match…

This time 100,000 crammed themselves down Wembley Way to witness an iconic night; at the end of which tears would flow and for their manager a knighthood would beckon. The game started tentatively. George Best and Eusebio were shackled by over-zealous defenders and it wasn’t until the 53rd minute when Bobby Charlton headed the opening goal that the game opened up. Instead of worrying about United’s talent, the Portuguese got on with their game and stretched United, equalising through Jaime Graca. Eusebio could have won it for Benfica but it was Busby’s men who had the legs in extra-time and goals from Best, Kidd and another from Charlton brought the trophy to England for the first time.

The Twin Towers…

Munich survivor, World Champion and United skipper Bobby Charlton was immense that night but John Ashton on United’s right wing was a triumph, making space and time for his more lauded Manchester United team-mates.

When…

10th May 1978

London Calling…Liverpool and FC Bruges

Bob Paisley’s side had won the trophy in Rome the previous May and now their legion of fans took the shorter trip south to London. The opposition were unfashionable. Belgian champions Bruges though were well organised and managed by Ernst Happel, an Austrian manager who twice took less fancied teams (Feyenoord in 1970 and Hamburg in 1983) to glory.

The Match…

Far from a classic! Cheered on by an overwhelmingly partisan side, Liverpool huffed and puffed but struggled to blow the Belgians down. Bruges had little attacking intent and it would take a spark of genius to seal it. Step forward Kenny Dalglish. Latching onto a through ball from Graeme Souness, Dalglish ignored the immensity of the situation and nonchalantly lifted the ball over an onrushing Birger Jensen in Bruges' goal.

The Twin Towers…

Kenny Dalglish scoring and throwing himself over the advertising hoardings remains an iconic moment at Anfield but his fellow Scot Alan Hansen, playing for Partick Thistle just twelve months earlier was never out of his depth and his willingness to add to his team’s attack was an early indication of the talent to come. Unbelievable.

When…

20th May 1992

London Calling….Barcelona and Sampdoria

Young whippersnappers won’t believe it but there was a time, not long ago when FC Barcelona didn’t have a European Cup to their famous name. In 1992 Johan Cruyff was manager, charged with changing that but faced with a strong Sampdoria side spearheaded by future Premier League managers Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini.

The Match…

After 90 minutes the game was goalless but don’t be fooled. This was a classic with both keepers – Barcelona’s Zubizaretta and Sampdoria’s Pagliuca – in inspired form thwarting heavyweights such as Michael Laudrup, Attilio Lombardo and Hristo Stoichkov. The game ebbed and flowed until the 111th minute when a controversial free-kick was lashed in from 25 yards by the thunderous boots of Ronald Koeman. Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ had at last delivered the, er, dream.

The Twin Towers…

Michael Laudrup probed away at the Sampdoria defence underlining his quality but it was a young Catalan midfielder called Josep Guardiola who shaped Barcelona’s victory at Wembley. Come Saturday night, will he do it again?

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