Tuesday, June 2, 2015

2 June 1971 - It's True, Defense Wins Championships

On 2 June 1971, Ajax won the first of their three consecutive European Cups, beating Panathinaikos 2-0.

Prior to the start of the tournament, UEFA had made some changes to the rules, including the extension of the away-goals rule from the first two rounds to all rounds of the competition. That change greatly benefited Panathinaikos, who used away goals to advance out of the quarterfinals (over Everton, 1-1) and the semifinals (over Red Star Belgrade, 4-4). In doing so, they became the first--and to date only--Greek team to reach the Final.

Ajax, meanwhile, had reached the Final once before, losing to AC Milan in 1968.

Playing before a crowd of 83,179 at Wembley, Ajax proved too strong for the Greeks, taking a quick 5th-minute lead with a goal from forward Dick van Dijk. The only other goal came in the 87th minute from Ajax midfielder and second-half substitute Arie Haan. But the day was really won by the Ajax defense, who managed to completely shut down the tournament's top scorer, forward Antonis Antoniadis. The striker had tallied 10 goals in the run up to the Final, four more than his closest rivals.

The win was the second straight for a Dutch team--Feyenoord had won the previous year--and the first of three consecutive European Cups for Ajax. They returned to the Final twice more, winning in 1995 and finishing as runners-up in 1996.

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