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1970/71 had been another season of "if only"s for
Leeds United. They led the First Division table for virtually
the entire season, starting like a steam engine and looking certainties
for an age to regain the championship
they had won so well in 1969.
In the end, however, they could not withstand the
remorseless, nagging pursuit by Arsenal. The Gunners steamrollered
their way to the title after mastering the black art of snatching
late goals to secure narrow victories. They made a virtue of grinding
out win after win and in the end Leeds had to yield, ending another
season as League runners up, the fourth time they had done so
in seven years.
But as the dust settled on a disappointing campaign
there was one final opportunity for the Elland Road club to secure
A magnificent victory at
Liverpool in the first leg of the Fairs Cup semi final provided
the foundation for a place in United's third Fairs final in five
attempts and they duly completed the job with a goalless draw
at Elland Road.
Leeds' opponents in the two legged final were Juventus
of Turin, the club to whom they had sold the legendary John
Charles in 1957. The Welshman
inspired the Italians' dominance of their domestic game over the
next five years, but, after he left Italy for a short return to
Elland Road, they conquered the Serie A only once, in 1967.
However, after several lean years when they slipped
off the podium, Juve were now starting to re-emerge as one of
the giants of Italian football. Former Inter captain, Armando
Picchi, who led that club to 3 Scudetti and a couple of European
Cups in the Sixties, had been appointed coach at Juventus in 1970
and was the architect behind a revival. The club's advance provided
a gilded showcase for some outstanding young talent, such as Roberto
Bettega, Franco Causio and the world's most expensive footballer,
Pietro Anastasi, signed in 1968 from Varese.
Their forces also included the West German forward,
Helmut Haller, World Cup finalist in 1966, defensive midfielder
Giuseppe Furino, who went on to win eight Scudetti with Juve between
1972 and 1984, defender Sandro Salvadore, a veteran of more than
300 Serie A games for the club, and schemer Fabio Capello, in
later years an outstanding pan-European club manager, eventually
going on to coach the England team.
The Italian club was in sombre mood as the Fairs
Cup final neared: 35-year-old Picchi was in the final stages of
a battle against cancer and was to lose that struggle the day
after the first leg. The Czech coach of Juve's youth team, Cestmír
Vycpálek, was promoted to the role of head coach and took control
for the final.
As if in empathetic sorrow for Picchi's plight,
as United flew into Turin the skies yielded a flood of tears.
Geoffrey Green in the Times: "The heavens have been raging here
over the nearby Italian Alps. A grey pall hangs over the city;
thunder and lightning have rattled the window panes as if some
irate neighbour were moving heavy furniture in the upstairs apartment.
The rain has fairly bucketed down. Leeds, however, are smiling
gently. The conditions could be right up their street.
"The Yorkshiremen may well need every side perk.
Eight of them, in one way or another, were involved in the British
championship last week at the end of a nine months' slog which,
for most of them, entailed nearly 60 hard matches and which saw
them finally lose the League title. All of them, however, are
said to be fit, which is as well since they now face a basically
young, talented and enthusiastic Juventus side shepherded by the
experience of two elder statesmen - Salvadore, the 31-year-old
former Italian international defensive sweeper, and Haller, now
33, the West German World Cup
"Under their wings are young men like Anastasi,
a brilliantly elusive centre-forward acquired three years ago
at the age of 20 for the astronomical sum of Ł440,000, who would
surely have led the Italian forward line in Mexico last summer
but for injury; Bettega, a 20-year-old forward, and other striplings,
such as Capello, Spinosi, Piloni, the goalkeeper, Cuccureddu and
possibly Causio, another striker. All these have just about qualified
for their own latchkeys and - Anastasi apart - are unknown to
us at home."
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If the Juventus players were for the most part a
closed book to the British football public, Don
Revie would never leave such things to chance and ordered
the customary cataloguing and dossier compilation to provide his
men with an insight into their opponents. He was fully aware of
their strengths and weaknesses, saying, "We shall play it by ear,
adapting our tactics to the situation."
The match was staged on the evening of Wednesday,
26 May, in Turin's magnificent Stadio Communale. The heavy downpour
that started in the afternoon was still in full sway and it was
clear that conditions would make play a lottery. Geoffrey Green
claimed that "It was really only something of a formal concession
to the crowd huddled high up on the steep terraces of the stadium
that this match was attempted at all. But the crowd took it all
stoically, their banked umbrellas for all the world resembling
black mushrooms, sprouting in the rain. Even at the start, wide
tracks of water dotted the pitch."
Barry Foster in the Yorkshire Post: "Many had been
standing in the heavy downpour for more than an hour before the
match had started. The rain which was falling when Leeds arrived
in Turin, restarted this afternoon and developed into a fierce
thunderstorm as kick off time approached.
"The ditch separating spectators from the pitch
was filled with water. An hour before the kick off, the terraces
were a sea of umbrellas and plastic macs. Their owners saw the
referee inspect the sodden pitch, on which pools of water were
lying, twice before the kick off. At first it was thought unlikely
the match would go on. But about 50,000 of the 70,000 capacity
were already in the ground.
"Firecrackers exploded on the terraces while groundsmen
fought the pitch and eventually the players appeared. It looked
impossible to play but postponement promised even more difficult
"The match started on time with Leeds kicking off
against the tide and wind. It was soon obvious that the match
should never have started. Ground passing was impossible. The
ball just stuck as soon as it hit the mud. And it was a bath for
the players each time they fell and that was often."
Despite the dreadful conditions, the two teams did
what they could to play good football. The hosts had most of the
possession and forced two corners in the first three minutes,
with Charlton having to
concede the first with a headed block to Causio's shot. Then the
centre-half was hampered by the pools of water as Anastasi burst
through Madeley's attempted tackle, but the striker's resulting
shot lacked power.
Lorimer responded for Leeds by letting fly from
35 yards; it was obvious that even the most speculative of efforts
had a chance with the conditions making it a nightmare for the
two keepers. Clean handling was
a distinct challenge, but Gary Sprake quietened growing mutterings
regarding his form with a succession of fine saves, first at Capello's
feet and then fielding safely after diving to Causio's deflected
After 20 minutes it became clear that Eddie Gray
could not continue. A shoulder injury that kept him out of the
previous week's Scotland game had been aggravated. He was forced
to leave the field with his arm in a sling. Terry Yorath came
on to slot into the midfield role he had filled for Wales in that
same series of home internationals.
Juventus knew attack was obligatory for them and
they continued to do much of the pressing. From one of their assaults,
after 22 minutes, they nearly opened the scoring when Anastasi's
shot struck Madeley and was nearly deflected into the net. Sprake
parried it and when Anastasi got to the loose ball he could only
crash it against a post with the goal gaping.
Back came Leeds for Giles to manufacture enough
room to fire in an effort from fully 30 yards. The crossbar denied
what would have been a tremendous goal in the final dangerous
movement of the first period.
The players came out for the second half in fresh
new strips, ready to resume battle, but it was clear that playing
on would lead to farcical scenes. Within six minutes Dutch referee
Laurens van Ravens held an impromptu conference with his linesman
and declared the match abandoned, to the relief of most reasonable
It was clearly the correct decision, and Juve danced
with glee, but Bremner protested angrily. United were halfway
to the draw that they sought and understandably disappointed at
having to start again.
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With heavy rain continuing over the next couple
of days, there were rumours that both legs might be staged at
Elland Road. Don Revie accepted the unfairness of such an approach:
"We don't want any more rain. If we are going to win the cup,
let's win it right. If the two legs are in Leeds everyone will
say we should be the winners and after what we have gone through
it's fair to say we don't do things the easy way, do we? We have
worked all season to get there so it was not fair for the final
to be contested in such conditions, irrespective of who might
win the trophy."
There was another thunderstorm on the Thursday afternoon,
but Friday was blessed with bright sunshine and the restaged game
was able to kick off that evening as planned.
With Eddie Gray out of contention, Revie brought
Paul Reaney back into the side for his first start since the home
defeat to West Bromwich Albion on 17 April and switched Paul Madeley
to No 11. Juventus selected the same eleven as in the first game.
There was two minutes' silence before kick off to
commemorate the passing of Picchi.
When play finally commenced, Juventus were straight
into their stride and pressed United back. However, the pace was
more sedate than in the first game, allowing Leeds to settle into
their rhythm. After
the initial burst, according to Paul Wilcox in the Guardian, "it
was not unusual to see as many Leeds players around Piloni's goal
as there were Juventus defenders."
Revie had promised that his team would go for goals,
though most people expected United to take a defensive approach,
with Madeley there to provide his customary insurance in front
of the rearguard. However, the utility man was surprisingly ready
to reinforce his forwards.
United paid a heavy price for their sense of adventure
on this occasion. With 27 minutes of the game gone, after two
Leeds attacks, Juventus opened the scoring. Cooper was off on
one of his penetrative dribbles down the left flank when Haller
won the ball from him on the halfway line. The German found Anastasi,
who in turn flicked to Causio, who fired the ball goalwards. Bettega
got on the blind side of Reaney to fire past Sprake, high into
the net, with a shot that any goalkeeper in the world would have
struggled to get to.
Five minutes later, Clarke was booked, to the derision
of the home supporters, after kicking Morini in the Juve penalty
area. It looked like retaliation against some hard buffeting by
the Italian international.
Juve came close to taking a 2-0 lead when Anastasi
and Charlton raced side by side after a forward pass. The Italian
outpaced the defender and Charlton lunged into a desperate challenge,
which Anastasi did well to ride. However, he rushed his shot and
it flew well wide of the target.
Just before the interval Jones might have equalised
when he shot first time from close range but goalkeeper Piloni
smothered the effort.
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That was the final opportunity of the half and Leeds
went in at the break disappointed to be behind. They had shown
enough to offer hope that they could take something from the game,
and within three minutes of the restart they were back on terms.
Lorimer battled for the ball on the left and secured
to feed Madeley, 25 yards out. Morini was slow as he moved to
confront the Leeds man. It would have been all too predictable
for Madeley to be content merely to maintain possession but instead
he made his way forward to the edge of the area and chanced his
arm, letting fly at goal. It wasn't the most powerful of shots
but seemed to take a deflection off Salvadore before beating the
aghast Piloni to bring United level.
Paul Madeley: "My goal was a long range speculative
daisy cutter. I hit it quite well, but it just clipped a defender
some distance from me, which wrongfooted the keeper completely."
The goal heartened the Leeds players but they were
not level for long. After 55 minutes the Italians took a 2-1 lead
when Capello fired a wonderful drive from the edge of the box
into the top corner after Spinosi had fought fiercely for possession
on the left. Bettega could not master the bouncing ball, but Capello
made no mistake. That was the signal for Juve to show some of
their best short passing moves as they took control.
If Juventus expected Leeds to fade, they were sadly
mistaken as the Yorkshiremen rallied bravely, "like a relentless
tide," according to Geoffrey Green in the Times.
Shortly before the goal, Anastasi had made a glaring
miss, ballooning the ball over the bar from 10 yards after Marchetti
had found him unmarked. The striker had wasted a number of opportunities
and was starting to get the bird from the home supporters before
he was replaced by Novellini in the 72nd minute. At the same time
Revie took the opportunity to bring on Bates for Jones, allowing
Bremner to push forward into attack. For once, though, it was
not the Scot who got the goal, but the substitute, within four
minutes of entering the fray.
Juventus appealed in vain for a penalty when Bettega
was brought down in the area, and Leeds took the opportunity for
a swift counter attack. Giles centred from the left and the cross
was pushed away rather than being collected by the outrushing
Piloni. Bates came out of nowhere to collect the ball and connect
beautifully almost in the same movement to hammer it home. It
only Bates' second touch of the game and Furino, standing on the
line, could only help the ball on into the roof of the net.
It was the finest moment of Bates' career, and no
one was more surprised than the midfielder: "It was only my second
goal for the club. When I got the ball I just hit it and hoped
for the best. It was a tremendous feeling when I saw it go in."
Minutes later, things might have got even better
for Leeds. There were concerted appeals from the entire United
party when it looked like Spinosi had handled the ball in his
area under pressure from Lorimer, but the referee waved play on.
However, there were no further goals and at the
end Leeds were more than satisfied with the 2-2 scoreline. With
away goals counting double in the event of a draw and the second
leg to come at Elland Road a week later, they had put themselves
in pole position to regain a trophy they had won three years before.
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It was a magnificent display by United, a classic
away performance in Europe. It was also the first time they had
managed a goal in any of their trips to Italy.
Paul Wilcox in the Guardian: "Leeds continued their
run of scoring in all nine of their away European ties over the
past two years. The disappointed partisan crowd of 45,000 was
nevertheless appreciative of Leeds' skill, giving them a round
of applause as they lined up to wave farewell. There can be no
doubt that Leeds deserved their ovation. Their performance was
one of courage, resourcefulness, and determination in a display
of athletic maturity which was at times up to world standards.
They were twice behind but their grim and relentless dedication
to the task of containing Juventus' lively forwards gave them
a springboard from which to launch impressive counter attacks.
"Leeds had a magnificent commander in Bremner, who
urged his colleagues to shrug off the cares of being in arrears,
and engineered Leeds' survival by his command in midfield. Giles,
too, played a prominent part in Leeds' fight, but it would be
unfair to single out any player for mention above others. The
display was one of cool and cultured teamwork, with Cooper joining
Lorimer in attacks down the flanks, Charlton, Reaney and Hunter
dominating the area in front of Sprake and Clarke and Jones bearing
the tremendous weight of trying to find a pass through the strong
Italian defensive wall.
"For all Juventus' skill, they must now consider
that their chance of winning on aggregate is a slim one. They
have brilliance in midfield with Causio and Capello capable of
finding space and time in which to work to send precise through
passes to the speedy Bettega and Anastasi. Tonight, however, Anastasi
was controlled by the attentions of Charlton and Hunter, and was
substituted by Novellini after his greed had spoiled chances for
better placed team mates. Haller, in fact, was Juventus' main
inspiration of their attacks, belying his years with agility and
Geoffrey Green in the Times: "It was a praiseworthy
effort by Leeds. They finished the stronger and tactically the
wiser, while their machine like teamwork and discipline, plus
their economy of effort, clearly matched the flashes of refined
skill of the Italians. There was the long game against the subtle
close work of Juventus, all of it a refreshing contrast between
the British and Latin styles. Most of it was stimulating as both
sides played each other with a stout heart. Perhaps at times Juventus
held some advantages in secrecy of footwork and speed, but none
of it could dislodge Leeds, who refused to be hurried, knowing
that haste goes only with folly. The man above all who kept his
men's nose to the grindstone was Giles, the complete midfield
general, as he surveyed the whole canvas, choosing the right colours
to use at the right moments for the right situation. And close
to his elbow as an ally in midfield was Bremner to support and
inspire the whole effort. Between them they got a fine response
from their colleagues, until finally they stamped all the skill
out of emotional artists like Causio, Anastasi, Haller and the
hard working Furino, in midfield."
Don Revie: "I am very proud of the lads. They controlled
the game and gave a world class display, twice coming back from
a goal down."
Juventus coach Vycpalek acknowledged the result
as a fair one - "Neither side deserved to lose, but we shall go
to Leeds hoping for the best."
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