CELTIC AND AJAX Amsterdam are two of the sides who are said to have revolutionised the way football was played.
Jock Stein’s team from the East End of Glasgow were the first non-Latin side to win the European Cup when they defeated Internazionale by two goals to one in Lisbon in 1967. Celtic did more than win a football match; at the time and even till now, their victory was a triumph for the caviler over conservatism.
Photo caption: Celtic’s Tommy Burns and David Moyes remonstrate with Ajax Amsterdam’s Johan Cryuff at Celtic Park in the first round of the 1982/83 European Celtic. Photos: Celticwiki
Ajax, with an expressive brand that became known as ‘Total Football’ were three-time European champions from 1971 to 1973 – posting final successes over Panathinaikos and then those kings of catennacio Internazionale and Juventus. The 1973 victory was the fourth from Holland in succession, with Feyenoord having beaten Celtic 2-1 after extra-time in the 1970 final at the San Siro in Milan.
Johan Cruyff was the the leader; the director and composer of Ajax. Holland’s most famous footballer passed away today at 68, dying of lung cancer.
By 1982/83, Celtic and Ajax, from the respective Scottish and Dutch leagues that were are considered less glamorous in comparison to those in Italy, Spain, England and Germany, were back in the European Cup.
Having won nine league titles in succession from 1966 to 1974, Celtic were not the same force in the early 1980’s as Aberdeen and Dundee United – the ‘New Firm’ – were contesting for top honours.
Billy McNeill – Celtic’s skipper in Lisbon – had taken over from Stein in 1978 and won a second successive league in 1981/82. Packie Bonner, a goalkeeper from Cloughglass outside of Burtonport, had been Stein’s last signing and by 1980 had established himself as Celtic’s No 1.
“Ajax were a fantastic side and were drew them in the first round of the European Cup,” Bonner wrote in his autobiography Packie Bonner: The Last Line. “Cruyff was in his second spell at the club and, although 35 at the time, still had the presence and authority on the pitch to dictate a game.”
The first leg at Celtic Park finished in a 2-2 draw.
“It is not so important for me to win any more,” Cryuff told The Daily Record beforehand. “The big thing is to have 60,000 people in the stadium to see Celtic and Ajax and for them to go back to the next game because they enjoyed themselves.
“This Ajax team is, I think, like Celtic. They want to go forward constantly. They are not built to be defensive. I know enough about Celtic to know that this will be an exciting tie.”
All four goals came in the first half hour with Jesper Olsen shooting the visitors in front on four minutes before Charlie Nicolas levelled from the spot for Celtic on 14 minutes. Soren Lerby, another Ajax Dane, made it 2-1 and Frank McGarvey squared it up again.
“Celtic’s tenure in the European Cup this season threatens to be a brief but memorable one after this epic first round, first leg tie against Ajax at Parkhead last night,” wrote Mike Aitken in The Scotsman the next day.
“Cruyff indicated that at 35 he still has genuine class in his play. His most notable contribution came in the second half when a double shuffle inside Celtic’s box topped off by outstanding acceleration almost cost Celtic a goal when younger men were posted missing.”
“The first half was the best you would see in European football,” Cruyff said.
“The truth is Ajax destroyed us,” countered Bonner.
“Olsen gave Danny McGrain possibly the toughest 90 minutes of his career. And yet we were still in it come the final whistle as the Celtic support rose as one to salute the Dutch side.”
With two away goals, Ajax were favourites to go through before the second leg at the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium, which was chose over the hosts’ 28,000-capacity De Meer Stadion due to the large interest in the match.
“We had the opportunity to train at the stadium the night beforehand, which was something I always loved,” Bonner added. “While were were out there I noticed the pitch seemed to slope from the 18-yard line all the way to the goalmouth.
“It wasn’t a huge gradient but it could be a useful tool and I mentioned it to Charlie [Nicolas] that, if he saw the Ajax goalkeeper, Piet Shrijvers, a few yards off his line then a decent chip shot would be almost impossible to save.”
In front of 65,000, Nicolas did just did with an impish chip on 33 minutes to round off a move that involved Paul Mcstay, Graeme Sinclair and McGarvey.
“It was a brilliant goal,” Bonner added. “A typical Charlie Nicolas goal.”
Ajax got back on terms when Gerald Vanenburg’s shot deflected past Bonner 20 minutes into the second half to make the aggregate 3-3 but tellingly, leave the home side in control as a consequence of the away goals rule.
However, with one last throw of the dice, Celtic conjured a winning goal when George McCloskey poked home the winning goal with two minutes to play.
“It was probably my best memory of European football,” Bonner added. “Along with watching 3,000 Celtic supporters cavorting about the terraces when the final whistle sounded.”Tags: