50 Years Of The Lisbon Lions

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In two weeks Celtic FC will celebrate one of its biggest moments in club history-the 50th anniversary of its victory in the 1967 European Champions Cup final against Inter Milan which launched Celtic and Scotland into the football map of Europe.By far Celtic’s European Champions Cup triumph it is the club’s biggest success in Europe besides they reached two more European finals-in 1970 they were defeated by Feyenoord in European Champions Cup in Milan and in 2003 by Porto which had Jose Mourinho on the bench.But the Champions Cup triumph back in 1967 changed everything for Celtic,one of the two clubs from Glasgow which dominates Scottish football together with their biggest rivals Rangers FC.Founded in 1888 by an Irish priest Celtic has been the club of Roman Catholic Irish population which in that time suffered discrimination in the city which by time has been polarized between Catholics and Protestants with the Catholics supporting Celtic and the Protestants siding with Rangers.But it wasn’t that under Willie Maley that Celtic would start dominate Scottish football and become a power in Scottish football.However it was Jock Stein who launched Celtic into the football map of Europe,born in October 1922 in a Protestant family Stein from the early age saw football as an escape from a hard life as a miner and after playing for various small clubs,in 1951 ended in Glasgow where for the next six years he will play for Celtic until 1957 when he will retire from playing and takeover the bench of the Celtic reserve team which would feature some of the names which would be in Lisbon a decade later like Billy McNeill and Bobby Murdoch.By the time when in 1965 Stein took over the club’s bench,Celtic was in a state of disarray.The club hasn’t won a Scottish league title since 1954,the same year the last time they won the Scottish Cup and since 1985 the Scottish League Cup,the situation at the club was so bad that they were losing to minor provincial clubs,while their biggest rivals-Rangers easily walked to Scottish league titles.That changed when Jimmy McGrory was fired from the bench and Stein was hired.Stein was the club’s first Protestant manager which even still in that time was controversial since still the 19th Century sectarian differences weren’t cleared and the Troubles period in Northern Ireland began to appear on the horizon.Nevertheless Stein achieved in his first three months of his appointment success besides a rocky start which saw a 4-2 defeat of the Celts against Hibernian and a 6-2 trouncing by Falkirk,but the Celts won the Scottish Cup for the first time in more than a decade.And then began Cetic’s return to the top of Scottish football,besides Stein signed only one player which was Joe McBride who in his first season for the Celts scored 43 goals,the Celts ended their title drought for the first time in 12 years in 1966 which marked the domination of the Celts for the next nine years which they would win nine straight titles.Then came 1967 the year Celtic conquered Scotland and Europe.The Lisbon Lions themselves were Celtic players (with the exception of Bobby Lennox) born within 10 miles of Celtic Park which marked that for the first time a homegrown team won the European Champions Cup.Celic’s journey began in Switzerland where they easily defeated in two legs FC Zurich,after passing the French side FC Nantes in the 2nd round,came their biggest challenge-FK Vojvodina Novi Sad.The red-whites from Serbia won the first leg and the second leg was one of the most dramatic matches which Celtic played.They barely won 2-0 with a goal scored by Billy McNeill in the final moments of the match which saw them to avoid a play-off match in Rotterdam.The last obstacle to Lisbon was Dukla Prague which the Celts easily defeated in the first leg in Glasgow with the second leg in Prague ending in a 0-0 draw.Now the Celts faced the biggest match in their history against Helenio Herrera’s Inter Milan which known under him as Grande Inter dominated European football by winning the European Champions Cup in 1964 and 1965 and for using the defensive tactic called the Catenaccio which meant they rarely conceded goals,on the other side the Celts were an attacking team.On the 25th of May 1967 Celtic will write history as the first club from Britain to win the European Champions Cup and it would mark the fall of the Grande Inter.The final itself played in Lisbon in the afternoon at the Estadio Nacional started well by Inter which thanks to an early goal by Sandro Mazzola where Inter used its catenaccio and played total defence for the rest of the match counting on a slim victory,however after an hour Inter’s defensive wall crumbled besidesInter’s goalkeeper Giuliano Sarti made so many fine saves at the goal,Tommy Gemmell scored the equalizer and five minutes before the match ended a long-range shot by Bobby Murdoch was diverted by Steve Chalmers which scored the winning goal which gave the Celts their first to date European triumph.It meant the end of the Grande Inter and Herrera left the club after the final in Lisbon,as for Celtic,they gave Britain their first European Champions Cup trophy and put themselves and Scotland on the European football map,but most notably a generation of homegrown players had their match of their lives which put them in the history books of world football,while Jock Stein was immortalized as Celtic’s best manager ever,but one thing was sure everything was never the same again.

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