Tuesday, March 24, 2015

24 March 1965 - The Curse Of The Coin Toss

On 24 March 1965, Liverpool and Köln, having already drawn 0-0 over two legs in the European Cup quarterfinals, played a rematch in Rotterdam. As with the 1957 World Cup qualifying rematch between Spain and Turkey, the European Cup tie came down to a coin toss.

In fact, the 1964-65 European Cup competition was rife with outcomes decided by the flip of a coin. Both Anderlecht and Dukla Prague needed one to advance out of the preliminary round after scoreless playoff matches against Bologna and Górnik Zabrze, respectively. In a bit of foreshadowing for Liverpool, both teams were eliminated in the next round - Dukla Prague by Real Madrid and Anderlecht by Liverpool themselves to set up the quarterfinal match-up against Köln.

The first two matches, played in Cologne on 10 February and in Liverpool on 17 March, ended as scoreless draws, requiring a replay at a neutral ground. The teams met in Rotterdam on 24 March and Liverpool jumped out to a 2-0 lead with goals from forwards Ian St. John (20) and Roger Hunt (37). Given the teams' inability to score in the first two legs, the lead was as improbable as it was seemingly insurmountable.

But the Germans were undaunted and wasted little time in pulling themselves level. One minute after Hunt's goal, striker Karl-Heinz Thielen cut Liverpool's lead in half, then, three minutes into the second half, his fellow striker Hannes Löhr netted the equalizer. That would be the last goal of the match, as the teams finished 2-2. To break the deadlock, the rules at the time called for a coin toss, which Liverpool won. Their reward was a semifinal meeting with Cup holders Inter, who eliminated the English side by an aggregate score of 3-4 on their way to their second consecutive European Cup trophy.

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