Monday, March 8, 2010

The final was played in Thessaloniki in front of 45 000, mostly Greeks. It was and remains one of the most scandalous football finals. So much so, recently there are attempts to bring the ancient match to court and let the judge decide who shall have the Cup. Part of the argument is hardly relevant: the legend that Leeds was deprived of four key players – Billy Bremner, Allan Clarke, Eddie Gray, and Johnny Giles. Don Revie did not complain at the time – after all, injured and suspended players are normal ingredient of football life. The legend convenient omits the fact that Milan also had missing players. Besides, to say that the absentees were so important simply means that Terry Yorath, Joe Jordan, Frank Gray, and Steve McQuinn were not worth a dime. Leeds had unusual for the time long and capable squad – the complainers self-servingly forgot that after the end of the match. Yet, the legend of injustice is built on fact: the Greek referee suspiciously favoured the Italians. Leeds outplayed Milan, but the referee’s decisions were more than questionable, they corrupted the final, and outraged both English players and fans.Milan scored in the 5th minute: Chiaruggi from a free kick. It was disputable free kick.
Harvey unable to stop the ball. It may have been suspicious free kick, but where is Leeds’ wall?
It was enough for Milan – they spend the rest of the match in defense, either clearing the ball or, when unable to reach the ball, kicking and provoking the English players. Pure Rocco’s view of football – he once instructed his players that it does not matter what one kicks: ball, opponents, it was all the same. Leeds attacked and attacked, and clearly Milan was not in control of the game, unlike already mentioned ¼ final with Spartak (Moscow) – the Italians were desperate. However, Leeds was unable to score – in part because of Milan’s goalkeeper Vecchi (usually a reserve!), in part because of frustratingly missed opportunities, and mostly because of the referee. The Greek referee Christos Michas became the central figure of the sick final: he was suspiciously blind to many things. Perhaps one can forgive the free kick he gave and Chiaruggi scored from, if it was his only ‘mistake’. But the man was consistently blind to Italian folly: Mick Jones was brought down in the penalty area by Anquilletti right in front of Michas – no whistle. Well, penalties were rarely given in those days… Zignoli handled the ball after a cross from Lorimer – no whistle. Immediately Zignoli fouled Jones in the penalty area – Michas saw nothing wrong in that… Near the end of the match Norman Hunter retaliated after a vicious foul committed by Gianni Rivera and both teams started fighting. Michas decided to send off Hunter and Sogliano. Rivera was obviously ‘clean’… not even yellow card. However, it is instructive to point at Rivera – so desperate the game developed for Milan, that even Rivera – normally, a gentleman player – was kicking English shins. The Greek fans were outraged, they booed their refereeing compatriot, and greeted Milan’s post-match celebration with chants ‘Shame, shame, shame!’ Norman Hunter sent off. Leeds were famous for their ‘temper’ and readiness to fight, but this time they were not the culprits. They were constantly provoked by ruthless Italians and ‘blind’ referee.
There was clear sense that Leeds were robbed. May be Michas was bribed, not blind – Italian clubs were known for bribing scandals, however, uncovered too late to change anything. The result was acknowledged by UEFA, however suspect. Nereo Rocco was smiling, but he was not that important. The real trouble was Don Revie – he promised a Treble early in March: championship, FA Cup, and Cup Winners Cup. In May Leeds ended with nothing… robbery or not, Leeds were not living up to expectations and this should be remembered: wait until 1975. Final, in Salonica, 16 May 1973, att 45000 Milan (1) 1 Leeds United (0) 05' 1-0 M: Chiarugi
Milan : Vecchi; Sabadini, Zignoli, Anquilletti, Turone; Rosato (Dolci), Rivera, Benetti; Sogliano, Bigon, Chiarugi

Leeds United : Harvey; Reaney, Cherry, Bates, Madeley; Hunter, F.Gray, Yorath (McQueen)Lorimer, Jordan, Jones
Top, left to right: Trevor Cherry, Paul Madeley, Mick Jones, Roy Ellam, Joe Jordan, Jackie Charlton
Middle: Paul Reaney, Chris Galvin, David Harvey, Gary Sprake, Norman Hunter, Allan Clarke.Bottom: Peter Lorimer, Joghnny Giles, Billy Bremner, Mick Bates, Eddie Gray, Terry Yorath

Total football? What total football, when catenacchio wins. Kind of… There will be many years of draught for AC Milan after this cup.