Eusebio-inspired Benfica rock Real
Benfica may have entered the 1962 European Cup final as the defending champions, but they were expected to be the victims of a momentous mismatch. As Águias’ position as continental kings was indebted to Barcelona somehow edging Real Madrid 4-3 on aggregate in a tie in which the Catalans were outplayed, ending the solitary winners’ quest for a sixth straight title and enabling the Portuguese side to upset Barça 3-2 in the decider.
Now, however, Los Merengues were back to their devastating best. Indeed, with Francisco Gento, Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas in dazzling form, Miguel Munoz’s men had scored 24 goals and conceded just twice en route to the final. Benfica, by contrast, had a brilliant performance from goalkeeper Costa Pereira to thank for scraping past Tottenham Hotspur in the semis.
It was expected to be men against boys in Amsterdam’s Olympisch Stadion 50 years ago this Wednesday. Di Stefano and Puskas were both 35 yet still at the peak of their powers, and they had established internationals such as Jose Santamaria, Luis Del Sol and Gento – all mentioned as arguably the best players in their respective positions in the world – for company, while Bela Guttmann fielded 18-year-old Antonio Simoes, Eusebio, 20, and 21-year-old Fernando Cruz.
The first quarter of the contest was true to the script. Gento terrorised the Benfica backline with his electrifying footwork and explosive pace down the left, while a delicious volleyed pass from Di Stefano had allowed Puskas to thump home the deadlock-breaker, before the Argentinian set up the Hungarian for another vicious finish to make it 2-0.
It now appeared a question of not which team would win, but by how many Real would emerge victorious. Benfica nevertheless refused to throw in the towel and after Jose Aguas halved the deficit from close range on 25 minutes, Cavem equalised with a piledrvier from distance nine minutes later.
However, Real and their No10 were to have the first half’s final say, with Puskas crashing the ball into the back of the net to become the first and to date only man to score a hat-trick in the European Cup/UEFA Champions League final twice (Di Stefano and Pierino Prati, who managed the feat in AC Milan’s defeat of Ajax in 1969, are the only other players to score a treble in the fixture).
Real had produced a superb second-half display to rout Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 final, but this time it was their opponents who would run riot after the restart. Mario Coluna restored parity once again with a long-range rocket, and after the Madrid heavyweights’ veteran attackers Di Stefano and Puskas had been denied the game’s seventh goal by the lightning reflexes of Costa Pereira, Benfica’s novice No8 Eusebio got it by winning and converting a penalty. The Mozambique-born striker then announced his arrival on the European stage in the thickest of fonts, earning a free-kick and firing it into the bottom corner to complete a 5-3 victory.
“Nobody gave us a chance going into that match,” recalled Guttmann. “Teams would tremble when they played Real, and people said I would regret putting a kid in the team. It was nonsense: it you’re good enough, you’re old enough. And, my word, was Eusebio good enough.”