Sunday, November 7, 2010

Uefa Cup 1967 1968 Ferencvaros Leeds United

Second leg
Nep Stadium
11 September 1968
Refere: G.Schulenberg
Attendance: 76,000

Originally, the Final was supposed to be played the following week, but the Warsaw Pact's invasion of Czechoslovakia earlier that year now led to a lengthy delay and even the prospect of the tie being declared void. Many clubs can claim ail manner of bizarre reasons for post-ponements. Indeed, the subject has become the staple of radio phone-in shows over the last few years - but few could boast that the intervention of General Secretary Brezhnev and Cold War tensions almost handed them a European trophy on a plate. Revie and the Hungarians were adamant that the game should go ahead, and once UEFA, or EUFA as it was still known in the UK, had withdrawn their provocative proposai to segregate Eastern and Western European teams in future, the match was officially sanctioned for the second week in September. It turned out to be the most valiant performance in the club's history.

The common view beforehand was that Ferencvaros, probably the best team in Europe according to Bill Shankly and Sir Matt Busby, would humble United in Budapest's NEP Stadium. Leeds, however, put on a resolutely defensive display, which saw ail ten out-field players entrenched between the penalty area and the half-way line for prolonged periods of the game. Jones, at the apex of this system, gave the lead by harrying ail four Ferencvaros defenders, with the two wingers Hibbitt and O'Grady tucking in to pack the mid-field. Attacking play was restricted to set-pieces and the occasional unsupported foray from Jones or Lorimer. Leeds were too preoccupied with fortifying Sprake's goal to hazard even two players up front to try to extend their lead. Initially, the Hungarians played smoothly, passing the bail around, creating space, trying shots, but once Cooper had acrobatically cleared off the line and Sprake, enjoying the fines! game of his perversely variable career, had thwarted fine attempts from Albert, Szoke and Novak, they abandoned their natural game.

For much of the second half Ferencvaros continued to carve out chances. Yet United kept their nerve, with Sprake, briefly hereafter known as 'the Hero of Budapest', showing why Revie kept faith with him in spite of his famous blunders. Thus, already eight games into the following season, the team finally put the previous one to bed by becoming the first British club to win the Inter-City Pairs Cup, an achievement that had the Sketch's correspondent, a certain Mr J. Bean, extolling them as 'the most professional side ever to cross the chan-nel'. After collecting the trophy from Sir Stanley Rous, President of the Pairs Cup Committee, the United party, led by the Earl of Harewood, celebrated back at their hôtel with the press corps and the solitary fan who had hitch-hiked his way to the game. It was the cus-tomary Leeds knees-up, a few drinks and everyone doing their party piece, ail 'Cushy Butterfield' and 'Ilkla Moor'. By the time they got home the following day there had been a sea-change in the way they were perceived. Having donc to foreigners what they had done to domestic opposition for years, they had finally become accepted by the English press, as much for their spirit as for their prowess. Desmond Hackett of the Daily Express, usually a critic, wrote: 'When tired limbs screamed rebellion over extra exertion, there was not one Leeds player who failed to drive himself in that f'urther yard of effort.' This sort of acclamation had been long overdue.
Ten thousand fans turned up on the Headrow to welcome Leeds home. At the reception the Mayor, partaking in the party atmosphere, made light of his disability by conducting the communal singing with his crutches. Once the players had gone into the Town Hall for the banquet, however, 300 supporters embarked on a mini-riot, tram-pling flowerbeds, stopping traffic and chanting obscene songs...

Ferencvaros: Geczi, Novak, Pancsics, Havasi, Juhasz, Szucs, Rakosi, Szoke (Karaba 60), Varga, Albert, Katona
Leeds: Sprake, Reaney, Cooper, Bremner, Charlton, Hunter, O'Grady, Lorimer, Jones, Madeley, Hibbitt (Bates 68)

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