1967 Celtic: The Lisbon Lions

Celtic FC came back to upset Inter Milan 2-1 on May 25, 1967, to become the first club from outside of Spain, Portugal, or Italy to win the European Cup (now called the UEFA Champions League).

Abhishek Singh

@Abhishek-singh

Updated: Jul 11th 21

4 min read / 122 views

There will be celebrations on New Year's Eve in Scotland, just as there will be everywhere else in the world. However, for many Scots, there is one unique reason to rejoice that surpasses even Hogmanay. It's the tale of how a legendary and unexpected victory for a Glasgow football club in Portugal 50 years ago restored a marginalised community's dignity and esteem. Celtic FC came back to upset Inter Milan 2-1 on May 25, 1967, to become the first club from outside of Spain, Portugal, or Italy to win the European Cup (now called the UEFA Champions League). Only 22 clubs have won the cup since its creation in 1956, and it is often regarded as the most coveted club soccer trophy in the world.

 

Coach: Jock Stein

Trophies: Scottish League, Scottish Cup, Scottish League Cup, Glasgow Cup & European Cup

Star Players: Jimmy Johnstone, Billy McNeill, Stevie Chalmers, Tommy Gemmell, Jim Craig, Ronnie Simpson, Bertie Auld

 

The 'Lisbon Lions,' named after the 1967 European Cup host city, had two claims to greatness. To begin with, every one of the 11 players was born within 30 miles of the club's stadium. This incredible accomplishment demonstrates Jock Stein's ability to develop a winning team rather than buy one. Furthermore, this triumph over a renowned Inter team marks a watershed moment in European club football history. 1967 has become a watershed event for Celtic and its followers when the underdogs of Scottish society became the most successful underdogs on the football pitch.

 

Celtic qualified for the European Cup after winning the Scottish Division One title for the 21st time in 1965–66, beating Rangers by two points. Celtic were drawn in the first round to face Zürich of Switzerland. At home, Celtic won 2–0. They then won the away leg 3–0, thanks to goals from Stevie Chalmers and Gemmell. In the second round, Celtic faced Nantes of France and won the away leg 3–1. Celtic faced Vojvodina Novi Sad of Yugoslavia (now Serbia) in the quarter-finals, losing the first leg 1–0. After Chalmers gave Celtic a 1–0 lead in the second leg, the tie appeared to be heading for a draw. Celtic's captain Billy McNeill scored the game-winning goal in the 90th minute.

 

In the semi-finals, Dukla Prague of Czechoslovakia was defeated 3–1 in Glasgow, with Johnstone putting the hosts ahead before Stanislav Trunk equalised. Celtic won thanks to a second-half brace from Willie Wallace. Celtic advanced to the final when the two teams drew 0–0 in Prague. In two of the previous three seasons, 1964 and 1965, Inter had won the European Cup.

 

Inter were considered big favourites heading into the game, with pre-match hype focusing on them winning a famous tripletta of European Cups. Inter took the lead after only six minutes when Jim Craig fouled Cappellini in the box, and Mazzola scored the penalty to put Inter up. Gemmell finally equalised for Celtic when Craig passed to him from the right-wing and he scored with a powerful 25-yard shot after just over an hour. The game's balance remained unchanged, with Inter defending aggressively against a sustained Celtic push. With around five minutes left, Stevie Chalmers deflected a long-range shot from Bobby Murdoch past a surprised Sarti. Rather than an intuitive intervention, Chalmers and his teammates claimed that they had prepared the manoeuvre many times in training. This was the game-winning goal.

 

Celtic were not only the first British winners of the Cup (beating any English club), but they were also the first Northern European winners after Latin clubs had dominated the competition for the previous 11 years. The same side would reach the final again in 1970, losing to Feyenoord, but this was the pinnacle of Scottish football, cementing Celtic's place among Europe's finest clubs to this day. The narrative of the "Lisbon Lions," which was commemorated on a great scale for its 25th and 50th anniversaries, provides an enduring link for generations of Celtic followers.


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