CQN continue our EXCLUSIVE extracts from Alex Gordon’s tribute book, ‘The Lisbon Lions: The 40th Anniversary’, to honour Jock Stein’s legendary team that conquered Europe.
Today, Alex turns the spotlight on the second round encounters against French champions Nantes who barred the way to making progress in the quest to reach the European Cup Final in the Portuguese capital on May 25.
In the first game away from home, Jimmy Johnstone completely won over the home supporters who christened him ‘La Puce Volante’ – ‘The Flying Flea’!
Here is the latest thrilling episode as the Hoops overcame quality opposition – home and away.
Second Road (first leg) Nov 30, 1966
NANTES 1 CELTIC 3
THE French had made some persuasive boasts – to their fans, anyway – about what they would do with Celtic in the encounter at the Malakoff Stadium on St.Andrew’s Day.
They had every intention of making certain the Scots would not be celebrating that night. They were wrong.
However, they did give Celtic a fright when they took the lead inside 20 minutes through the outstanding Francis Magny. Jock Stein had always preached to his side to keep it tight within this period, especially away from home.
HERE OUI GO…Billy McNeill and Nantes skipper Robert Budzinski exchange pennants before the kick-off.
Magny, though, pierced their barrier to turn the ball wide of Ronnie Simpson and suddenly Celtic were confronted with a mountain to climb. Their response was instant.
Joe McBride, so lethal and so full of energy, provided the leveller in the 24th minute when he latched onto a pass from Bobby Lennox and sent a piledriver flying past keeper Andre Castel.
Nantes, laced with World Cup stars who had played in the England Finals in the summer and far and away the best French team for years, weren’t quite in the mood, though, to wave the white flag of surrender. They came back in fine style and Simpson had to make two superb saves before the interval to make sure it remained all-square.
WING AND A SLAYER…Jimmy Johnstone puts the pressure on a Nantes defender.
Jimmy Johnstone – aka ‘La Puce Volante’ – had already made an impression on the French support with his wing wizardry and left-back Gabriel de Michele was to be commended for not trying to boot the little winger out of the park. He stuck to his task, but everyone knew he would be the happiest man on the pitch when the referee got round to blowing the full-time whistle, irrespective of the scoreline.
Stein had ordered Johnstone to take the ball for runs down the wing to stretch the French defence throughout the first-half. With superior stamina and fitness, Celtic were told to kill off their dangerous opponents in the second-half. They followed their gaffer’s orders.
IN COMMAND…Bobby Murdoch slips a tackle from a French opponent.
Bobby Murdoch found some space to hit a telling through ball into the path of Bobby Lennox whose speed carried him away from two startled defenders. The danger signals flashed for the French, but it was too late as Lennox took aim and let fly. Once more Castel was picking the ball from the back of his net.
Nantes must have known it was all over late in the match when Robert Budzinski, otherwise an impressive performer, dallied on the ball and it was worked onto Stevie Chalmers who whacked it into the inviting net. Job done!
Team: Simpson; Gemmell and O’Neill; Murdoch, McNeill and Clark; Johnstone, Chalmers, McBride, Lennox and Auld.
Second leg, December 7
CELTIC 3 NANTES 1
JOCK STEIN went on record before this game promising the Celtic fans that his team would attack. He promised: “We may be 3-1 ahead from the away leg, but we are committed to attacking, entertaining football and we will show that again on this occasion.”
He and his team were as good as their word. Top scorer Joe McBride sat this one out through injury and Stein shuffled the pack with Charlie Gallagher coming in to bolster the midfield. Was Stein being cagey, after all?
THREE AND EASY…Bobby Lennox fires in the third from close range.
Jimmy Johnstone provided the answer as he cantered into the penalty area and put Celtic 4-1 ahead on aggregate in the 13th minute. Gerard Georgin equalised with a fine effort that left Ronnie Simpson helpless. Astonishingly, the same player almost snatched another a few minutes later.
His effort looked like looping over the head of Simpson, but the veteran keeper scrambled back to grab the ball just as it was about to cross the line. Celtic players and fans alike breathed a sigh of relief. It remained 1-1 at the interval.
But Jinky was having one of his special evenings and he skipped through the French rearguard on the right touchline to pick out Stevie Chalmers with a perfect pass and he nodded in from close range.
It was all over a few minutes later when Johnstone treated the French to some deja vu with an identical run down the touchline and a fine low pass across the box that was swept in by Bobby Lennox. Now for the quarter-finals!
Team: Simpson; Gemmell and O’Neill; Murdoch, McNeill and Clark; Johnstone, Gallagher, Chalmers, Auld and Lennox.
TOMORROW: The Spirit of 67: The Road to Lisbon: Vojvodina