Associated Press

Remembering the 1962 European Cup Semi-Final Tottenham Hotspur vs. Benfica

Sam Pilger

On Thursday, Tottenham will meet Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie at White Hart Lane. 

The last time Tottenham met the Portuguese giants was 52 years ago when they were the reigning English champions.

The previous season, Tottenham had become the first English side in the 20th century to win the League and FA Cup double under the stewardship of Bill Nicholson.

To this day, this remains Tottenham’s greatest-ever side, boasting such immense talents as Danny Blanchflower, Dave MacKay, Cliff Jones, John White and Bobby Smith.

Making their first foray in to the European Cup, Tottenham strode through the early rounds, winning their first tie 10-5 on aggregate against Gornik Zabrze. After losing the first leg 4-2 they stormed back to win the return 8-1 in North London.

“Maybe we learnt more in that 90 minutes than we had learnt in 90 years before…Europe was certainly a different place,” said Nicholson after the game, as quoted in The Official Tottenham Hotspur Opus.

Tottenham proved to be quick learners and overcame the Dutch champions Feyenoord and then Dukla Prague in the next two rounds to set up their semi-final clash with Benfica.

At the end of 1961, Tottenham’s European Cup campaign had been further bolstered by the signing of the prolific Jimmy Greaves from AC Milan for the exact sum of £99,999.

In the first leg at the Stadium of Light Tottenham were overwhelmed by the brilliance of Benfica, who were seeking to defend their European title.

Tottenham fell behind after only five minutes to a goal from Simoes, before the Portuguese side doubled their lead in the 19th minute with a strike from Augusto. 

In the second half the North Londoners pulled a goal back through Bobby Smith, but Augusto soon restored their two-goal lead as the game finished 3-1 to Benfica.

“We’ll do them at Tottenham, just wait and see,” said a bullish Dave MacKay, as quoted in The Official Tottenham Hotspur Opus.

Associated Press

Two weeks later, White Hart Lane was crammed with over 64,000 fans confident they could still reach the final. One banner even proclaimed, "LISBON GREAVES TONIGHT."

But Benfica silenced the crowd after just 15 minutes when Aguas gave the Portuguese champions a 4-1 aggregate lead.

Tottenham kept coming at Benfica, and they were rewarded with an equaliser on the night when Smith converted a cross from John White.

Soon after the interval, Coluna brought down White in the penalty area and Danny Blanchflower converted the penalty to give Tottenham a 2-1 lead on the night.

Just one more goal for Tottenham would have taken the tie to a deciding replay in neutral Brussels, but they couldn't find it and bowed out of the competition.

Tottenham have had to wait over half a century to meet Benfica again, but they will be hoping to finally gain some form of revenge this week.


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