As Leeds United came to the forefront of English football in
the mid 1960s, their blanket defence and sharp counter attacking
provided the perfect blend for European competition. Their first
experience, in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup of 1965/66, brought
a semi final place at the first time of asking. They beat Torino,
Leipzig, Valencia and Ujpest Dosza
on the way, before being outclassed by the crack Spaniards Real
Zaragoza in a play off match at Elland Road.
In their second bid for the trophy, United went even further,
fighting their way through to the two legged final. After a first
round bye, Leeds hammered DWS Amsterdam 8-2 on aggregate before
winning 2-0 in Valencia to deny the fine Spanish team for a second
successive year; the toss of a disc was required to eliminate
Italy's Bologna after each leg brought a 1-0 home win.
A proficient United performance in May's semi final saw off Kilmarnock;
the tie was over to all intents and purposes after a Rod
Belfitt hat trick in the first leg at Elland Road and a goalless
draw in Scotland only formalised things.
United had a protracted wait for the chance to secure the trophy,
with the final deferred until the start of the following season.
Fixture congestion had delayed the other semi final until June,
and it was 30 August before the first leg of the final, against
Yugoslavia's Dinamo Zagreb, in the 40,000 capacity Maksimir Stadion.
It had needed one of the competition's greatest comebacks for
Dinamo to book their own final berth. They lost 3-0 in Frankfurt
against Eintracht, before trouncing the West Germans 4-0 in the
second leg after extra time; the final goal came from a Rudolf
Belin penalty in the 102nd minute.
The crack Yugoslavian club had been reformed in June 1945 after
the rise to power of the National Communist Party. The post war
era brought success, with three championships and four Cup wins.
They also appeared in the 1963 Fairs Cup final, losing to Valencia.
Dinamo were managed by former Yugoslavian international Branko
Zebec, who had played in the World Cup finals of 1954 and 1958,
and the first European Nations Cup final. His team were a tough
prospect, particularly at home, where they had not conceded a
goal in European competition for two years, and were known as
"the pride of Croatia, if not of the whole of Yugoslavia". Rob
Bagchi and Paul Rogerson in The Unforgiven: "No team likes playing
such important games at the beginning of the football season,
but even Revie had to admit
that by August Leeds were in far better shape than they were in
May. After seven weeks' holiday and five weeks' training, tiredness
was no longer a plausible excuse. The problem this time was momentum.
UEFA weren't quite as unsympathetic as the FA would probably have
been, and scheduled the final ties for the last week in August,
allowing Leeds three League games to find some form. Having been
such good starters in the past, however, United chose this moment
back to top
Leeds drew 1-1 at home to Sunderland, before losing away to Manchester
United and Wolves. They could not fashion a goal in either match
and were lacking in ideas, as noted by Eric Stanger in the Yorkshire
Post after the Wolves defeat. "Leeds United go into the first
leg of the Inter Cities Fairs Cup final this week with their credit
rating at its lowest since their return to the First Division.
Three games so far have yielded only one point and so bankrupt
is their attack that they must be wondering where the next goal
is coming from. Mr Don Revie,
their team manager, says: 'They have surprised me before and they
are quite capable of doing so again.' And, looking further ahead,
'While it is nice to get off to a good start, don't forget the
Football League is decided over 42 games. Last year we got only
19 points from the first 17 games, but we were still there at
"Whether they will be again without recruiting at least one forward
of proved scoring ability (easier said than done) is a moot point.
Mr Revie must now have tried every combination of forwards open
to him without hitting a winning line.
"At Wolverhampton, in desperation, he played Bremner at centre-forward
from within 10 seconds of the start. Bremner's nuisance value
in that position is considerable, apart from the fact that on
Saturday he made at least two chances for Belfitt which should
have been taken. But, on balance, is it worth sacrificing his
inventiveness in midfield? With Giles again absent Leeds had no
one in midfield to match the constructive ability of Bailey and
Revie was without the injured Willie
Bell, Paul Madeley, Albert
Johnny Giles as the Peacocks flew out to Zagreb; he chose to omit
Jimmy Greenhoff, opting
for Rod Belfitt to lead the attack and 19-year-old Mick Bates
on the right flank.
United lacked nothing in confidence as the first English finalists
since Birmingham City in 1961. Skipper Billy Bremner promised:
"If fitness and determination count for anything, this will be
the season when we get on the honours trail. The Inter Cities
Fairs Cup will do for a start, then we will get cracking on the
issues at home. Every player has trained that little bit harder
and, given the run of the ball, we shall not have much longer
to wait before giving our fans something to cheer about."
Eric Todd wrote of Dinamo in the Guardian: "Much is expected
of Zambata, Yugoslavia's alleged answer to Jimmy Greaves, and
Rora who, a local correspondent says, is an excellent dribbler,
'packs good shots, very tricky,' also able to pass three or four
opponents and score. Belin, the Zagreb captain, is 'a great fighter
and the specialist for executing the penalty kicks' … Leeds usually
prepare a dossier on their future opponents, but such an opportunity
was denied them on this occasion. Mr Revie, nevertheless, is not
worried. His young men have done him and themselves great credit,
and he sees no reason why they should not do the same tomorrow."
The Yorkshire Evening Post carried Venture's summary of the Croatians:
"Dinamo Zagreb will be meeting English opposition for the first
time in a European competition when they face Leeds United. During
three Fairs Cup campaigns, four in the Cup Winners Cup and one
in the European Champions Cup they have visited all Europe's leading
countries except Russia and France. Dinamo have scored 64 goals
to date in the three European tournaments. Top score was seven
against Copenhagen in the Fairs Cup. Worst defeats? … 5-1 Barcelona
in the same competition and 4-0 by Atletico Madrid in the Cup
Winners' Cup. Teams to have beaten them by a three-goal margin
include Glasgow Celtic, Eintracht Frankfurt and Fiorentina.
"In the transfer market - and in hospital. That was the summer
bulletin on Stefan Lamza, one of Yugoslavia's international strikers,
who helped to put Dinamo Zagreb into the Fairs Cup final. When
soccer broke off in Yugoslavia, Lamza was looking forward to a
move to Belgium. His transfer to Standard Liege was all fixed
up except for a few details. Then he fell to the pavement from
the balcony of his flat. He was rushed to hospital with serious
head injuries and fractured ribs, and it is not known yet when
Lamza will play again.
"Dinamo are not finding it easy to keep their successful team
together. Offers have been made for several players, but one who
will be on duty against Leeds United is international Rudolf Belin,
who has collected a handsome sum from his own club to stay put."
The first leg of the final was played in oppressive heat, which
dictated the tempo of the contest. United were well used by now
to the more sedate and controlled pace of the European game and
settled well. Commencing with Belfitt as a lone attacker and Bates,
Bremner, Lorimer, Gray and O'Grady
ranged across midfield, the Leeds game plan was all about containment
and frustrating the opposition. Gary Sprake, Paul
Reaney, Jack Charlton and
Norman Hunter were joined for the night by Terry Cooper at left-back
and were well used to spending long hours soaking up heavy pressure.
back to top
Allowing their opponents to pass the ball around in their own
half as they wished, United contented themselves with deep defence
allowing Dinamo the preponderance of first half possession.
Eric Todd: "With good reason the pace of the early play was not
much more than leisurely although Dinamo did more of the attacking.
They were not allowed to get anywhere near Sprake, however, such
was the quickness to cover and to tackle of Charlton and his colleagues.
"At this early stage confirmatory evidence was forthcoming that
Leeds would adopt a defensive policy although this did not preclude
an occasional attack by them. After one splendid move by Belfitt
and Bremner, O'Grady had a shot saved by Skoric, who a few minutes
later dived full length and turned the ball away for a corner
after a first time drive from 25 yards by young Bates, who was
making his first appearance in this competition.
"Most of the dangers to Leeds so far had been threatened by Cercek,
a lively outside-right who knew how to beat his man - occasionally
- and centre the ball. But his inside colleagues lacked judgement
in moving for it and, with half an hour gone, Sprake could tabulate
his activities only in terms of goal kicks. No sooner written
than Rora from long distance lobbed in a teaser, which Sprake
collected under his crossbar."
United looked very good value for their share of the spoils,
as noted by Eric Stanger: "Leeds in fact ran harder and more often
than in any game so far this season while the defence, in which
Charlton and Bremner kept a tight hold on the quick raiding Zagreb
attack, were seldom in difficulty. There was, however, a curious
lack of skill and the hot, steaming atmosphere must have been
difficult for both sides. Fouls by Cooper and Bremner got the
crowd really worked up but the Spanish referee, a stickler for
the letter of the law, was quick to punish the slightest trivial
digression by a free kick."
Everything went "according to plan for the first half hour, with
Leeds not only containing Zagreb's attacks, but carrying the more
potent threat through well controlled raids" (Andrew Mourant).
Just when it seemed that United would make it to the interval
on level terms, they fell
behind in the 39th minute. Belin put Piric away on the right and
he made ground down the flank before flinging over a centre. Cercek
came barging through to head past a helpless Gary Sprake, with
Leeds remonstrating hotly but in vain that he had fouled Jack
Charlton on the way to meet the ball. Spanish referee Adolfo Bueno
Perales, a firm but fussy official, would have none of it and
waved away all protests.
The United players were furious, but quickly recovered their
equanimity and shape. Defeat by a single goal would still represent
a decent outcome and they reached the break with no further scares.
The interval gave them time to pull themselves together, though
they had to cope with some difficulties in the dressing room.
Billy Bremner: "The boss started to give us an interval pep talk
and stress the tactics we must employ during the second half when
there was an almighty banging and hammering at the door, then
a head popped round the door and a voice began to jabber away
in Yugoslav. We got rid of the interrupter, Don Revie started
to talk again … there was another almighty sound of banging, and
another head popped round the door. The boss never did manage
to complete his half time summary for these constant interruptions.
It was like a madhouse."
Nevertheless, the break brought a breathing space and United
came out to carry the game to Dinamo. O'Grady shot but from too
far out to trouble keeper Skoric. Then, after Blaakovic fouled
Bremner, Norman Hunter hammered the free kick in, but marginally
wide of goal.
The shock came as a wake up call to the Slavs and they went 2-0
up on the hour. Centre-forward Zambata was given too much space
on the right flank and he fired the ball across the area. Left
winger Rora moved in at pace from his flank and half volleyed
past Sprake. The goal sent the 40,000 crowd wild. It was the first
time that Leeds had conceded more than once away from home in
Fairs Cup football, and they were rocking.
back to top
Moments later, Zambata launched a blistering drive from 20 yards
which Sprake performed wonders to turn over the bar.
Dinamo continued to have the better of the contest, though United
had their moments with Jack Charlton thrown forward as an auxiliary
Eric Stanger: "Leeds tried hard to rally in the last 15 minutes.
Exchanges became a little heated at times and following one incident
between O'Grady and Gracanin,
players clustered around in threatening attitudes on the field.
Happily the referee stepped in and the trouble died down. It was
not a rough game but nor was it memorable for the standard of
football. The importance of the occasion and the heat had its
effect on both sides."
Eric Todd: "Giles, Bell and Madeley were missed tonight, although
the Leeds defenders, Charlton and Cooper especially, did all that
was required of them until well into the second half. Apart from
a few creditable raids by O'Grady, however, the Leeds attack looked,
as indeed it was, short of a schemer and a finisher. All very
well it may be to decide upon defensive measures, but it is as
well for a side to carry a safe breaker. Leeds did not have one.
"Dinamo were no more than average until the proceedings were
far advanced. Passes went astray and the great Belin himself was
as remiss as anyone. Once Dinamo had taken the lead, however,
there seldom was any fear that they would lose it. Zambata, too
tricky an individual to be left unattended, added to Leeds' misfortunes,
and from then on he and Rora, supported by a fine half-back line,
led Leeds a lively dance. And Leeds could not keep in time with
it. For their young players at least this was a valuable, albeit
In the circumstances, United did well to come out of a torrid
evening with a two-goal deficit; they could easily have fallen
apart, as many of Dinamo's previous visitors had. Home supporters
set celebratory bonfires all round the ground at the finish to
mark the triumph.
Phil Brown in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "The defence, as I
saw it last night, is partly so good because the Dinamo attack
is so busy and it takes a lot of the weight off the defence. The
Dinamo forwards, brilliantly linked in defence by Belin, the attacking
wing-half and a magnificent player, gave United a lot of work
last night and again one felt that United's forwards, although
better in this respect than at Wolverhampton, might have given
more help. I'll except Bates, who in his first Fairs Cup-tie,
had a most likeable game, including a couple of breezy cross shots
which were not far out. United's attack droops when Giles is out
as he was last night, but he should be right again next Wednesday
after his back injury. With Giles in United are, I am sure, halfway
up that high hurdle, for he can make his young colleagues play,
which is more, at the moment, than they can do for each other."
Commenting on the 2-0 victory, the Zagreb and Belgrade daily
Borba noted: "More was expected on the part of the visitors, especially
from Charlton and Hunter. They were best in defence, and Bates
was the best of offensive players among defensive Leeds."
Politika of Belgrade commented: "There is no dispute about the
crystal clear victory. After the second goal, the British started
making mistakes and
if the Dinamo players had concentrated a little more, more goals
would have been scored. Leeds played typical British soccer, very
defensive in the first half, a little more open in the second
half. Although in ideal physical condition, the Leeds players
play without imagination or spirit, and panic grips the players
and the entire team when a goal is scored against them."
Don Revie said after the game: "Naturally, I am a little disappointed
but I think we can pull back these two goals at Elland Road. Having
seen Zagreb at Frankfurt, I think they are a far better side at
home than away."
It was something of an anticlimax after all the weeks building
up to the game, but in the cold light of day Leeds United could
console themselves with the knowledge that an early goal at Elland
Road would throw everything back into the melting pot and make
life extremely hard for the classy Slavs. United had fought their
way back from desperate positions before and were determined to
do so again.
back to top