CQN continue our extended tribute to the legendary Lisbon Lions who took their place in the annals of fame 52 years ago when they won the European Cup.
We are featuring EXCLUSIVE edited extracts from Alex Gordon’s book in honour of Celtic’s greatest-ever team, ‘THE LISBON LIONS: The 40th Anniversary’, which was published 12 years ago.
Today, we are putting the Road to Lisbon in the spotlight with the Second Road games against French champions Nantes.
NANTES 1 CELTIC 3
Second Road, first leg, Nov 30, 1966
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 Magny. Jock Stein had always preached to his side to keep it tight within this period, especially away from home.
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 Castel.
Nantes, 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.
Jimmy Johnstone had already won over the French with his right wing antics and left-back 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.
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 Budzinski, otherwise an impressive performer, dallied on the ball and it was worked onto Steve Chalmers who whacked it into the inviting net. Job done!
Team: Simpson; Gemmell and O’Neil; Murdoch, McNeill and Clark; Johnstone, Chalmers, McBride, Lennox and Auld.
* Second leg (Dec 7)
CELTIC 3 NANTES 1 (Agg: 6-2)
Second leg, December 7
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?
Jimmy Johnstone provided the answer as he cantered into the penalty area and put Celtic 4-1 ahead on aggregate in the 13th minute. 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 Steve 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’Neil; Murdoch, McNeill and Clark; Johnstone, Gallagher, Chalmers, Auld and Lennox.
*TOMORROW: The Spirit of 67: The spotlight is put on quarter-finals opponents Vojvodina, the Yugoslav champions.