Leeds United's first attempt to win the European
Cup Winners Cup, in 1972/73, had not been the easy stroll to glory
that many critics had predicted.
Given the scintillating
football the team displayed in the spring of 1972 and the
club's outstanding level of experience in Europe, it was easy
to understand the expectation that United would go a long way
in the competition.
On paper that seemed a safe prediction; on grass,
the matter was less clear cut.
A first round pairing against MKE Ankaragucu of
Turkey seemed a formality, despite the long trip for the first
leg in the Turkish capital; it was the furthest United had needed
to travel in eight seasons of European competition. The game represented
the Turks' European debut, whereas it was United's 65th match
in such tournaments.
Despite receiving a warm welcome from generous hosts,
United had to be content with a 1-1 draw from the first leg before
scraping through by virtue of Mick Jones' goal at Elland Road.
The pattern was repeated in the second round, against
the East Germans, Carl Zeiss Jena. A goalless draw in the first
leg in the Ernst Abbe stadium was a reasonable opening gambit,
but it was the second half of the second leg before Trevor Cherry's
powerful strike broke the deadlock at Elland Road. A second came
a Mick Jones header as he followed up when a Peter Lorimer strike
came back off the goalkeeper in the 64th minute; that provided
some degree of comfort and Don
Revie pronounced himself "delighted" with the 2-0 victory
against a side he clearly rated.
Nevertheless, this was a series of tepid performances
for a side of United's standing and experience.
The win at the beginning of November against Jena
put United through to the last eight, with the quarter finals
to be staged four months later. Their opponents were the Rumanians,
Rapid Bucharest, and Revie was a little uneasy at not being able
to consult the normal in depth dossier on his opponents.
Assistant manager Maurice Lindley and chief coach
Syd Owen had been unable to watch Rapid play and Revie was therefore
denied their customary detailed briefing. The mid-winter break
in Rumania coupled with an air strike had frustrated intentions
in that direction and Revie had to rely instead on a discussion
with Bill Nicholson, manager of Spurs, who had beaten Rapid in
the previous season's UEFA Cup.
Tottenham beat Rapid 5-0 on aggregate, but Nicholson
described them as one of the toughest teams his side had faced.
The Spurs boss passed Revie his own file, claiming that if all
European teams were as rough as the Rumanians, he would prefer
Tottenham to remain out of continental competition.
Revie commented: "We must respect them, because
they have reached the quarter finals… Our plan is to attack right
from the start and gain a two-goal advantage for the return leg.
We don't know much about the Rumanians, except that they are supposed
to be a very physical side."
Another feature emphasised in press previews of
the game was the colourful nature of Rapid's towering goalkeeper,
Necula Raducanu. In the Evening Post, Don Warters said of him
"flashy… loves to entertain crowds with his tricks… thinks
nothing of leaving his goal to go up for corner kicks and frequently
dribbles the ball in his own penalty area." The Spurs dossier
described him as "acrobatic and a crowd player, very flashy and
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Raducanu won 61 caps for Rumania and appeared at
the 1970 World Cup finals, where he became the first keeper to
come on as substitute in a World Cup match, replacing Stere Adamache
against Brazil. He is also the first Rumanian keeper to score
in an official match and the first to be caught offside. He was
to score seven times for Rapid over the following two seasons.
The papers gleefully played up the story of a juggling
giant jester who would doubtless swing from his crossbar if asked
Before the match Rapid announced they would be playing
in an all-white strip, prompting a colour clash. It was a similar
situation to October 1966 when Standard Liege insisted on wearing
white when they played at Elland Road in the Fairs Cup.
On this occasion, United general manager Keith Archer
managed to settle the matter amicably over a pint of beer, saying
later: "Apparently the confusion arose because in the Rumanian
League the home side has to change should there be a clash of
colours. But when we pointed out that the UEFA ruling stated visiting
teams should change, they immediately agreed to switch to a red
strip. There were no harsh words, and everything was done amicably.
We shall change to our yellow strip for the second leg match."
United's only change from their weekend victory
against Derby was Joe Jordan in for Mick Jones. Young Gordon McQueen
swapped numbers with Paul Madeley, the latter taking the No 11
shirt rather than the 5 he had worn at the Baseball Ground, though
McQueen played at the back in both games.
The match was every bit as physical as Don Revie
had feared. Eric Todd in the Guardian: "Rightly or wrongly, most
of us have come to expect what are known euphemistically as 'physical
performances' from foreign footballing sides, and Rapid's was
no exception. Almost from the start Stelian and Codrea decided
that they did not like Bremner, and Florin obviously had been
deputed to attend to Clarke. There was a time when Bremner would
have retaliated and even last night he gave the impression that
he regretted signing the pledge of non-violence. Clarke, too,
took a lot of stick without complaint and I suspect that he allowed
himself a satisfied grin when Florin brought him down with a cruel
tackle early in the second half and was booked. Surprisingly this
was the only booking.
"Rapid's exhibition deserved little more mention
than it has received already. All that need be said in favour
is that before the end they realised that crime does not pay and
they allowed Leeds to play football, when previously they had
destroyed it. Apart
from the magnificent Raducanu, there was a steady display by Grigorias
and one or two brave runs by Dumitru, who had the distinction
of bringing Harvey to his only save. Leeds from start to finish
deserved every credit possible for their victory and the manner
of its achievement.
"Jordan, deputising for Jones, who has a stomach
complaint, led the Leeds attack with the utmost enthusiasm, but
Clarke again took the major honour. Once or twice he ventured
into enemy territory with the righteous suspicion of a man entering
a booby trapped area and it was a miracle that he survived. Only
a really great player could have escaped some of those lunging
tackles; only a great man could have kept calm.
"There were other outstanding performances, notably
by Bremner and Hunter - who did not commit one foul, but let it
be added this was a team effort. And if ever there was a case
of Virtue triumphant, then this surely was it. In addition to
McQueen, Clarke, Lorimer and Jordan will all need treatment before
the weekend, but they will carry their scars proudly."
Don Warters in the Evening Post: "After eight years
of European football, Leeds United are battle-hardened, but rarely
can they have been subjected to such crude softening up tactics
as those employed by the Rumanians of Rapid Bucharest.
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"Good, it is said, triumphs over bad, and on this
occasion, United's skill, thank goodness, was more than sufficient
to overcome ruggedness in the extreme.
"In the opening minutes it became obvious United
were in for a rough ride. Billy Bremner was felled by Codrea and
Peter Lorimer suffered a similar fate at the hands, or rather
feet, of Stelian. These were offences which the referee stamped
on but numerous other offences were committed off the ball by
defenders seemingly intent on provoking United in general and
Allan Clarke, Lorimer and Joe Jordan in particular.
"Nudges, kicks, taps - you name it, the Rumanians
were doing it - and the crowd of 25,702 were not slow to show
their dislike by bouts of slow handclapping.
a veteran of over 50 European matches for Leeds, watched it all
patiently from the stand. Afterwards he said: 'It was hard out
there. I think they were hoping to put us out of our stride with
such close marking, but their tactics failed.'
"The Rumanians had obviously heard about Clarke's
scoring prowess, and almost throughout
the match either Florin or Grigoras literally leaned on him."
Norman Fox in the Times: "For Leeds United, a journey
to Romania in a fortnight's time will bring risks to their bones
but not their reputation or future in the European Cup Winners
Cup. Last night at Elland Road, in a first leg quarter final tie,
they suffered a rare physical battering even by their standards.
Rapid came with aggressive defence in mind. Leeds ensured that
they left looking tactically foolish.
"As a spectacle of international misunderstanding,
this ranked high. Bill Nicholson, the Tottenham Hotspur manager,
had warned that Rapid were rugged. He understated the case, and
did not take into account the fact that Leeds are a far more rigorous
team than his own. The combination of Rapid's ruthless approach
and the usual severity of the Leeds tackling mixed into acid.
"Before condemning Rapid for some of the most destructive
football I have seen in England, it must be said that Leeds refused
to tone down their customary hard approach and this was bound
to provoke some bad feeling. Tackling from behind is still the
red rag to any Continental bull. Leeds waved that rag provocatively
"It was only Rapid's tactical ugliness that saved
them from an even worse defeat. Their defensive intentions were
destroyed like sandcastles before Atlantic rollers. Within ten
minutes they received a slow handclap for their lack of ambition;
within 45 they were three goals down and out of their depth."
Mike Casey in the Evening Post: "I don't know what
Mr W J Drennan, secretary of the Irish FA, the official observer
at the match, thought of the visitors' tactics, which made a mockery
of soccer, but I have seen dozens of European teams and none match
Rapid in their blatant disregard for the rules. Kicking, elbowing,
shirt tugging, hacking, even bear hugs … all were used by a team
vastly inferior to their opponents in skill.
"Unfortunately the tolerant Czech referee, Mr B
Smejkal, restricted punishment to occasional free kicks and a
caution - Rapid defender Florin eventually being cautioned after
his umpteenth foul on Clarke. The Czech linesman also appeared
to ignore the niggling off the ball fouls which must have encouraged
Rapid to continue with the rough stuff.
"Happily for United, the match officials will be
changed, as is the practice for the second leg. I
hope the Swedish replacements are more efficient. If not, I fear
for United's players."
Rapid's skulduggery failed to unsettle United and
the fillip of a 15-minute goal ensured that any Elland Road anxieties
did not have time to build up.
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Johnny Giles had already blasted one shot over from
22 yards before he opened the scoring with another long range
effort. Goalkeeper Raducanu came out to punch away a long free
kick from Norman Hunter and seemed content with his efforts, for
he made only token attempts to regain either footing or position.
The ball fell out to Giles 25 yards from goal and the Irishman,
"tired of the attempts at prising Rapid from their shell" (according
to Norman Fox), coolly chipped the ball back over the keeper's
head. Raducanu got his fingers to the effort but could not keep
It was more than ten minutes before United could
pierce the visitors again, and just as the crowd were getting
a little edgy, it was master goalscorer Allan Clarke who put any
fears to bed after a magnificent move.
It began with Norman Hunter, deep in his own half,
feeding Giles. The Irishman flighted the ball forward to Joe Jordan,
who deftly headed on, allowing Clarke space to gather. For once
there wasn't a Rumanian tight enough to get in a challenge and
Clarke ran on to leave the keeper helpless with a beautiful drive.
In the 35th minute, it was 3-0; Clarke deceived
the defence with a beautifully directed header, Lorimer raced
onto it and hammered an unstoppable shot past Raducanu and into
the far corner of the net from ten yards out. As Terry Brindle
wrote in the Yorkshire Post, "Standing so close in the flight
path of so much power, Raducanu's life must have flashed before
To all intents, the goal killed off the game as
a contest. Don Revie had more than the two-goal lead he had sought,
but United were not yet content and continued their good work
after the resumption.
In the fifty-sixth minute United made it 4-0. Lorimer
was 25 yards out and saw Raducanu again failing to cover his goal.
His tremendous shot into the far corner left the keeper prostrate
on the turf, wondering where it had all gone wrong. We never had
a chance to witness one of his characteristic attacking forays.
After 65 minutes Jordan was rewarded for an evening
of effort when he banged in United's fifth. Madeley sent Clarke
away and he teased and tantalised the weary Rapid defence over
a 25 yard run with some skilful control and footwork before tapping
on to Jordan, who joyfully lashed the ball home.
McQueen, who had enjoyed a fine home debut, was
led off with an ankle injury seven minutes from the end. Eric
Todd: "He was given an ovation and well he deserved it. He shirked
nothing, he feared
nobody and his determined run stamped him as a player of really
great potential. I feared at Derby he might be a little over zealous
in his tackling, but on this occasion he gave an all-round performance
with which no fault could be found."
The Rumanians' trainer, Basil Marian, said: "Leeds
were too strong for us. They practice modern football at its best.
They were really in superlative form, and I fear the return in
Bucharest is merely a formality."
Basil Gravu, head of the Rapid party, added: "We
have played all over the world, and even against Brazilian teams,
but we have never met a team as good as Leeds, and as professional."
Don Revie refused to comment on Rapid's tactics,
except to say that he believed his team's vast experience in Europe
had helped them through and to appeal for strong officials to
be put in charge of the second leg on March 21.
"I just hope we get a strong referee in Bucharest,"
he said. "I thought our players kept their heads very well under
provocation, but they could do this only through the experience
they have gained in 69 matches in Europe… This must rank as one
of our best performances in Europe."
United completed the job a fortnight later in the
second leg with an easy 3-1 victory.
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