1961 UEFA Champions League Final

Sl Benfica (Portugal) vs. CF Barcelona (Spain)

Venue: Wankdorf Stadium, Berne

Road to the Final

The 1961 UEFA Champions League final marked the end of five years of dominance of the tournament by Spanish giants Real Madrid. Ironically, it was Spanish rivals Barcelona who ensured that Real Madrid would relinquish the trophy. The Catalans knocked Real Madrid out of the UEFA Champions League in the first round, winning the tie 4-3 on aggregate.

Having disposed of the UEFA Champions, Barcelona faced Czech champions Spartak Hradec Králové in their quarterfinal. The Catalans put away the Czech side with ease, showing ominous form in their 5-1 aggregate annihilation of their opponents. In the semi-finals Barcelona found themselves pitted against German champions Hamburger SV.

Hamburger SV provided Barcelona with their toughest test in the run to the final, forcing a play-off when the tie was drawn. Barcelona won the playoff 1-0 to earn their spot in the 1961 UEFA Champions League final.

By contrast, Benfica had a fairly routine journey to the final, knocking out the champions of Hungary and Denmark on their way to the semi-finals and averaging over three goals a game. Benfica played against Austrian Champions SK Rapid Wien in the semi-final and destroyed the Austrians 4-0 in the first leg before the Viennese team salvaged a draw in the second leg in a game that was eventually called off due to crowd violence.

The Final

The 1961 UEFA Champions League final was a classic. Despite the fact that Barcelona had played one more game than Benfica on the way to the final, the Catalans were widely tipped to clinch the title and keep the Champions League trophy in Spain. Benfica, having beaten Barcelona the previous season, had other plans.

The first half saw Barcelona score first through Hungarian Sandor Kocsis. The Barcelona goal spurred Benfica into action and the Portuguese club scored two goals in two minutes to ensure they headed into half-time holding the lead.

Mario Coluna scored Benfica’s third goal 10 minutes into the second half. Barcelona fought back bravely, bringing the deficit down to one goal with 15 minutes left to play. Despite controlling the game for much of the half, Barcelona were unable to score again during the 1961 UEFA Champions League final and the Benfica Eagles made history as they became the second club to win the title.