Wednesday, May 31, 2017

31 May 1961 - When Benfica Bested Barcelona

On 31 May 1961, Benfica won their first European Cup, beating Barcelona 3-2. It was the first final for both teams and the first European Cup not won by Real Madrid.

Since the first European Cup Final in 1956, Real Madrid had won it five straight times. But in the 1960-61 competition, they were eliminated in the first round by Spanish rivals Barcelona, who then advanced to the final with wins over Spartak Hradec Králové and Hamburg (the latter in a playoff). They had also beaten Lierse in the premilinary round. Benfica, meanwhile, reached the final with wins over Hearts, Újpesti Dózsa, AGF, and Rapid Wien.

In the final, played before a crowd of 33,000 at the Wankdorf Stadium in Bern, Barcelona took the lead with a header from forward Sándor Kocsis in the 20th minute. But Benfica quickly rallied and were up 2-1 at the break thanks to a goal from captain José Águas (pictured) in the 30th minute and an own goal from Barcelona goalkeeper Antoni Ramallets (32'), who attempted to knock the ball away, but sent it off the bar and across the goal. Ramallets and the other Barcelona players argued that the ball did not cross the line, but the referee did not hesitate to award the goal.

A powerful 55th-minute volley from inside-left Mário Coluna extended Benfica's lead and proved to be the decisive goal, as Barcelona left winger Zoltán Czibor pulled one back in the 75th minute to set the final margin at 3-2 in favor of the Portuguese.

Benfica returned to the final six more times, but won it only once more, repeating as champions in 1962. Barcelona returned seven times, winning it in 1992, 2006, 2009, 2011, and 2015.

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