1960 European Cup Final – Eintracht Frankfurt’s Run to the Final and the Game of the Century

by Cristian Nyari

On May 18th 1960, Hampden Park, Glasgow witnessed one of the most memorable, if

not the most memorable, European Cup final of all time involving Spanish giants Real Madrid and European debutants Eintracht Frankfurt. Madrid were a well established European power house going into the match, having already won six league titles and 4 European Cups. With the inception of the European Cup in 1955, Real Madrid began to show the world just how dominant they were by winning the first four editions of the tournament. Madrid had disposed of French side Stade de Remis, Italian giants AC Milan and Fiorentina in the previous finals and looked to do the same with new-boys Eintracht Frankfurt.  Expectations certainly favored Madrid but few expected the match to become arguably the greatest European Cup final ever to be played.  Fanatic Contributor and Sports writer Aditya Balaram gives a run down of this unforgettable match and how Frankfurt got there.

Frankfurt came in to the European Cup as the champions of the Oberliga Süd, after

beating rivals Kickers Offenbach to the title. This was the first time that a German side

had managed to reach the finals of Europe’s elite competition.  The Germans were leagues behind Los Merengues on paper, but were more than willing to give it their all. Playing in front of the largest ever audience for a European Cup final, the Eintracht Frankfurt side were involved in the highest scoring European Cup final ever and will remember that day for eternity.  Eintracht Frankfurt’s run to the final was also a precursor for the continual progress of German football which would make its mark on Europe in the decade to come.

JOURNEY TO THE FINAL

Eintracht Frankfurt were drawn against Finnish side KuPS in the preliminary round of the tournament and received a walkover from the Finns after they withdrew from the competition. The first round pitted Eintracht against Swiss champions Young Boys. The first leg, played in Bern, saw Eintracht pick up an easy 4-1 win. The Germans played out the second leg to a 1-1 draw to qualify for the quarter finals.

Eintracht Frankfurt’s glorious 1960 European Cup finalists.

Luckily, Eintracht managed to avoid big names like Nice, Real Madrid and Barcelona, and ended up facing Austria’s Wiener Sportclub. The Austrians proved to be a good defensive unit, but Eintracht sneaked through with a 3-2 aggregate win.  So far so good but beyond this point not many, not even Frankfurt, expected more out of the competition. The semi final was the pinnacle of Eintracht Frankfurt’s European campaign. Facing Scottish champions, Rangers, Eintracht went all out attack right from the
whistle. A thumping 6-1 win in Germany was topped off by a 6-3 demolition at the Ibrox. Following this dominant showing in the semi final, fans and players of Eintracht had their hopes soaring high as they faced off against Real Madrid in the final.  Suffice to say, they turned heads all around Europe with their semi final performances.  Few were familiar with the German debutantes prior to the tournament and now they put on one of the most dominant displays in the European Cup.

What good is a tournament without controversy though? This final was spiced up further as the German FA had banned any German team from playing against a squad that included Ferenc Puskás. The FA had been angered by the Hungarian’s allegation that the West German national team had used drugs in their title winning World Cup campaign in 1954 in which Puskas was on the receiving end of a loss in the final. Eventually, the Hungarian was forced to write a formal letter of apology to the German FA to ensure that the European Cup final went on unhindered.  The show was to go on.

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

Official match program of the 1960 European Cup final

Madrid took to the field with an array of superstars, while Eintracht had a relatively

unknown squad outside of Germany. The likes of Alfredo Di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskás and Francisco Gento were set to tantalize the 120,000 odd fans, which included an 18-year- old Alex Ferguson, at Hampden Park. It was fairly clear from Madrid’s earlier matches that their game was heavily reliant on their star studded attack and defending was not a part of coach Miguel Muñoz’s, dictionary. Eintracht on the other hand, appeared a lot more defense minded throughout the tournament despite their high scoring semi final.

With both teams unsure of each other’s style of play, the first ten minutes proved to be the only period in the game where a fair deal of caution was displayed. Frankfurt sat back and absorbed all that Madrid’s attack had to offer, and broke on the counter. Richard Kreß and Alfred Pfaff toiled hard on Frankfurt’s right wing but lacked the quality to test Real Madrid goalkeeper Rogelio Dominguez.

 

GOALS, GOALS, GOALS, AND MORE GOALS

Madrid had seemed the more dominant team in the first fifteen minutes. Completely against the run of play, Eintracht Frankfurt took the lead through a Kreß header in the 18th minute. Eintracht’s only threat, Pfaff, broke down the right and whipped in a good cross which was met by Kreß to give the Germans a surprise lead.

This is how the teams lined up including key movements.

Madrid were not willing to sit back and wait for their goal, as they kept prodding at Eintracht’s defense and were rewarded for their efforts in the 22nd minute. Erich Meier misjudged a cross from the left to allow Canario to play a low cross into the box for Alfredo Di Stéfano to tap in. Three minutes later, Canario tested Eintracht keeper, Egon Loy, with a low shot which was parried straight into the path of Di Stéfano, who tapped the ball in for his second goal of the night. Madrid’s dominance in this tie started to show as Canario fizzed a shot just wide of goal and Luis del Sol saw his long range shot rattle the post. Del Sol and Di Stéfano had a bit of fun themselves showcasing their superior talent through some trickery, thereby reiterating the fact that they were the best team in the world. To top things off, Madrid got their third goal on the brink of half time through the controversial Ferenc Puskás.

The second half was a mere continuation of the same story. Eintracht were dominated and saw less and less of the ball with every passing minute. Ten minutes into the second half Madrid went 4-1 up. Gento was brought down inside the penalty are and Puskás made no mistake from the spot. Five minutes later, Madrid got their fifth as Puskás headed the ball into the back of the net of a Gento cross. Eintracht finally had something to cheer about when Loy pulled of a sensational save to deny Di Stéfano his hat-trick. Minutes 70 to 75 will probably go down as the most entertaining period in the history of European Cup final football as both Madrid and Eintracht grabbed two goals each. Puskás continued the rout with a left footed bullet from outside the penalty area to give Madrid a five goal cushion. A minute later, Eintracht’s top goal scorer, Erwin Stein, pulled one back for The Eagles with some great individual skill. Di Stéfano finally managed to get his hat-trick with a scintillating display of pace and control, as he slotted past the valiant Egon Loy. Eintracht then managed to sneak a third goal through a Stein tap in.

The final fifteen minutes saw Real Madrid’s superstar attack entertain this mammoth crowd with some truly elegant football. Exotic backheels, graceful stopovers and a lot more trickery had the Glasgow crowd completely awestruck. The Daily Mail very aptly said, “It’s just a pity that the thousands of people at the game, and those who have to return to watching Scottish football, must have thought that they were dreaming.”

The final whistle brought Real Madrid their fifth consecutive European Cup success. Although Madrid walked away with the coveted trophy, this was the most significant moment in the history of Eintracht Frankfurt. The Germans did manage to win the UEFA Cup in 1980, but nothing shall ever match this remarkable journey through Europe’s finest competition.

Watch the highlights of this incredible match below:

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER…

Alfredo di Stéfano went on to be considered as one of the greatest footballers of all time, Ferenc Puskás remains the only player to have ever scored four goals in a European Cup final and Francisco Gento captained Real Madrid to their sixth Eurpean Cup triumph in 1966. Although Real Madrid’s individual stars were rightfully awarded for their remarkable feats, the club itself went through a rough patch as Los Merengues managed to win just one European Cup over the next 35 years.

Eintracht Frankfurt never matched this valiant European performance again. They did manage to make occasional appearances in Europe, but never maintained any stability. A victory over fellow German club Borussia Mönchengladbach in the UEFA Cup in 1980 and a UEFA Intertoto Cup victory remain their only European triumphs. Thankfully, Eintracht have managed to remain in top flight football for 42years (out of a total of 48 years), following this memorable final.

Hampden Park continued to attract German clubs as Glasgow hosted two more European Cup finals, both of which involved German sides. The 1976 European Cup Final, held in Glasgow, saw Franz Beckenbauer lift the trophy as Bayern Munich triumphed over Saint- Étienne. Bayer Leverkusen reached their first ever UEFA Champions League final in 2002, again held at Hampden Park, only to lose to, yes that’s right, Real Madrid.

Follow Aditya on twitter @adi_balaram

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Author:Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari
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