Hampden Park, Glasgow
May 18, 1960
Real Madrid – 7 (di Stéfano-3, Puskás-4)
Eintracht Frankfurt – 3 (Stein-2, Kreß)
The Brazilian Didi is often considered to be one of the greatest midfielders of all time – with a passing range second to none. He was selected as the best player of the 1958 World Cup despite Pele and Garrincha excelling in Sweden and there were few more accomplished footballers than him in the late 1950s. But even the great Brazilian couldn’t find a regular place in the first team during his only stint in Europe. While there were reports about him having fallen out with that club’s biggest star it is also true that that club team had enough talent in their starting XI to bench a player like Didi. Real Madrid’s Galacticos are often considered the greatest football team to have played the beautiful game. For the 134,000 strong crowd (including Alex Ferguson) gathered in Hampden Park on 18th May 1960 there would possibly never be another team which played football like Real Madrid did that day.
Real Madrid had already lifted the European Cup four times in four previous seasons. Boasting of the greatest team on the planet Los Blancos had a point to prove in Glasgow, as strange as it may sound. They had lost the league to Barcelona on goal average, despite finishing level on points while cross town rivals Atletico Madrid had dispatched them 3-1 in the Cup final. A trophy-less season with such a star studded team was almost unthinkable for Real Madrid.
Qualifying as defending champions, Real had made short work of Luxembourg champions Jeunesse Esch in first round. They lost the first leg of second round to Nice but progressed after a 4-0 win in Madrid in second leg. A crunch tie against Spanish champions Barcelona awaited in semi-final but Real’s Galacticos rose to the occasion – dishing out two near perfect performances to triumph with 3-1 scorelines in both legs.
Paul Oßwald won the Southern German Championship with Eintracht thrice and had coached them for a total of eight years in two separate stints between 1928 and 1938. But in his third era would Oßwald achieve his greatest success by leading the German club to their first national league title. Participating in European Cup for the first time, Eintracht qualified when their Finnish opponents Kuopion Palloseura withdrew from the competition. They defeated Swiss champions Young Boys with ease in second round before squeezing past Wiener Sports Club in a tightly contested quarter-final.
It was in the semi-final that Eintracht would play their greatest games in Europe. They were up against Scottish giants Rangers FC, who had won their domestic title three times in previous five occasions. Favorites to win the tie, manager Scot Symon landed in Frankfurt for the first leg and quipped – “Eintracht? Who are they?” The scoreline read 1-1 at half time. In second half Eintracht started a blitz of attacking football, scoring five times without reply. Faint hopes of a Rangers comeback in Glasgow were squashed by the half hour mark as Eintracht raced to a 3-1 lead. It eventually finished 6-3 to the visitors and Eintracht’s 12-4 aggregate victory remains the biggest margin of win in a European Cup semi-final till date.
Ferenc Puskás had to issue a written apology to the German federation to make sure that the final took place. The German FA had banned German teams from playing a team containing Puskás after his comments following the 1954 World Cup final insinuating that West German players had doped. An international friendly had taken place in Hampden Park days before the final and teams had complained about the quality of the playing turf as well as the wind speed inside the stadium.
Real Madrid: Rogelio Domínguez; Marquitos, Pachín, José Santamaría; José María Vidal, José María Zárraga; Canário, Luis del Sol, Alfredo di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskás, Paco Gento
Eintracht Frankfurt: Egon Loy; Hans-Walter Eigenbrodt, Hermann Höfer, Friedel Lutz ; Dieter Stinka, Hans Weilbächer ; Richard Kreß, Dieter Lindner, Alfred Pfaff, Erich Meier, Erwin Stein
Eager to catch their stronger opponents off-guard, Eintracht made a quick start and within seconds of the kick-off saw a cross from left-out Erich Meier clip Dominguez’s cross-piece. Eight minutes later a long ball from Wellbacher found Kreß on the right-wing, who drifted past Pachin before rolling the ball across the goal below a diving Dominguez. Marquitos came to the rescue, putting the ball out of play as two Eintracht strikers were closing in with an open goal gaping. On the 11th minute Kreß once again got past Pachin but his little chip to set up a heading chance for Stein was blocked by Santamaria. The Germans’ early adventure paid dividends three minutes after the quarter-hour mark as a clever exchange of positions saw inside-forward Linder set-up the opening goal for an unmarked Kreß.
This was precisely the wake-up call Real Madrid needed as the Galacticos took just nine minutes to find their rhythm and draw level. After a series of intricate passes Zárraga found Canário inside the box. The Brazilian dribbled past two defenders before putting in a perfect low cross between two more defenders as Di Stéfano scored a simple tap-in. Minutes later Puskás made his first productive run of the match but saw his shot being punted off the line. Unsurprisingly, Real doubled their lead on the half hour mark. A no look pass from Gento opened up a chance for Canário whose shot was weakly saved by Loy before Di Stéfano score a perfect poacher’s goal.
Eintracht was getting pushed further back with Real Madrid playing their usual game but had a half chance when a cross from Kreß eluded three heads before falling for Pfaff, whose poor shot went well wide (“You can’t afford to miss chances like that and still win the European Cup”, quipped the BBC commentator). Six minutes before half time a sumptuous piece of play saw a half turned Del Sol release an inch perfect 40 yard long pass for Canário but the Brazilian’s luck of scoring a goal certainly wasn’t favouring him as his shot went wide by inches. Vidal struck the post once but Real effectively ended the game in first half itself as Puskás latched on to a loose ball inside the box before scoring with a powerful shot from a narrow angle.
Real continued to dictate proceedings in second half and created a number of chances. Puskás saw his shot saved by Loy before converting a highly contentious penalty kick on the 56th minute. Eintracht’s best player in this match Kreß had a chance to cut down the lead but his shot was saved comfortably. On the 57th minute Puskás had his left-footed shot bounce off the frame-work after a lovely one-two with Di Stéfano. Wellbacher’s shot met the same fate seconds later after it looped over the Real Madrid ‘keeper thanks to a deflection.
Puskás doubled his tally on the hour mark by pushing in Gento’s cross from the left wing after a typically powerful sprint from the winger.
The five minute spell between the 70th and 75th minutes was one of the greatest in club football history. Puskás rounded off his tally by scoring one of the best goals ever seen in a European Cup final. The Hungarian received Del Sol’s pass with his back turned towards the goal, turned 180 degrees before bulging the net with his second touch. Seconds later Stein received the ball on edge of Real Madrid box, leapt and dribbled past three diving defenders before calmly looping the ball over Dominguez. 6-2.
Di Stéfano almost looked incensed by Eintracht’s goal as he scored Real’s seventh straight after the kick-off. Receiving the ball in midfield he began a run, swerving past a number of markers before scoring with a powerful shot from just outside the box. A minute and half later complete miscommunication between Vidal and Dominguez saw Stein score the final goal of the now legendary score-line. 7-3.
The Galacticos above all, were great showmen. As if scoring seven times was not enough, the Blancos then proceeded to show a variety of skills to entertain the capacity crowd. There was a crescendo of “ooh”s and gasps as Real came close to scoring a couple of goals more.
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On paper, Real Madrid played a 2-3-5 formation but in reality it was a much more fluid deployment. The key to Real Madrid’s dynamics was how markedly different the style of each player was and how good each were in their individual tasks. On the left wing Ferenc Puskás was a sharp contrast to Paco Gento. Puskás was in his 30s by that time and he was never the fittest player in the team. Instead he relied on his skill and had the ability to control the pace of attacks at his will. This was completely different from Gento who was as fast as any wingers/outside forwards of his era. Puskás would often drop back in an unmarked zone between Eintracht’s right-back and the center-half and he would hold to possession for a split second before connecting with Gento’s runs along the touchline and Di Stéfano’s runs through the middle. Whenever Puskás dropped a little deeper Gento cut back from the wings and took the Hungarian’s vacant position and tried to score long rangers. Puskás also moved into more centralized position at times with Di Stéfano playing the role of a withdrawn center forward. Two of his four goals came in because of these switches.
The movement was different on other side where Brazilian Canário was a hard working winger who rarely cut back like Gento. A much more conventional winger, Canário focused on looping in crosses from the touchline for Real Madrid center forwards. Luis del Sol who would later find extensive success with Juventus, played as right inside forward and spent much more time playing in deeper midfield than Puskás did on the other side. Del Sol’s greatest strength was his long range passing and he turned Real Madrid’s system to an almost 3-3-4 formation while dropping deeper.
And then, there was Alfredo di Stéfano in one of his greatest performances for Real Madrid. Di Stéfano was as complete a footballer as could have been. A consummate goal-scorer he had always believed that strikers needed to help out defence and midfield when needed. And in this particular game he was everywhere, literally. Starting out as a center-forward Di Stéfano hardly stayed in his position. Instead, he hovered around the center-circle and swerved and dummied his way into Eintracht defense after receiving the ball from his defenders. He even swapped positions with Gento at times and incredibly, made a last ditch interception around the half hour mark to deny the Germans a goal from a counter attack. Eintracht managed to keep each of the other four strikers quiet at some point of time during the match but di Stéfano’s movement was far too clever to be controlled.
As ironic as it may sound, Eintracht’s chance in this final ended as soon as they scored the first goal. Real Madrid had never faced a German side in the tournament till that point and initially they were struggling to cope with the fit and fast Eintracht players who had started the match by exploiting the wings. German outside forwards especially Kreß, caused Real Madrid full-backs lot of trouble in first 20 minutes. Their movement was further aided by playing with the wind, which made their crosses even more difficult to anticipate. Indeed, Eintracht’s opening goal also came after a foray down Real’s left-wing. Once they scored Eintracht became more defensive, in the process they allowed Real Madrid defence and midfield to relax more and once they had settled down, it was impossible to stop the Galacticos.
Man of the Match
Alfredo di Stéfano
Puskás may have scored more goals but it was di Stéfano who was the architect behind Real’s dominance in this game. He covered every blade of the grass, kept his team motivated by shouting, whenever they relaxed slightly. As part of River Plate’s famous La Maquina team, di Stéfano had learnt the concept of a withdrawn center-forward even before Nandor Hidegkuti made it famous in 1953 and in this final he used that tactic to maximum brilliance. Di Stéfano’s third goal was an exquisite strike as well and showcased his greatest talents in a single move.
This proved to be the final bright spark of Real Madrid’s most successful era, almost. A few months later Real Madrid would outclass a very strong Penarol side 5-0 to lift the first ever Intercontinental Cup. In the 1960/61 edition of European Cup Barcelona would become the first team to knock Real Madrid out after one of the most controversial European knock-out games ever. A year later they were back in the final but in a symbolic passing of baton, a young Portuguese striker named Eusebio would outshine Puskás and Di Stéfano as Real Madrid ended up losing 5-3. They would win one more European Cup in 1960s albeit with a completely different team and Gento as captain but neither them nor any other club would ever manage to show the same level of dominance in European Cup. Real Madrid’s performance in Glasgow influenced a whole generation of coaches and players.
For Eintracht Frankfurt, their debut season in European Cup remained one of the highest points in their history. They would never really achieve anything on a similar scale and are yet to win the league title since 1959. They have won four German Cups and also achieved European success when they won the UEFA Cup Winners Cup in 1980 after beating Borussia Monchengladbach in the two legged final.