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  • On Foreign Fields (4)

    Season 1967/68 saw Hibs back in the Fairs Cup where the first round draw pitched them against Portuguese cracks Oporto with the first leg played at Easter Road on 20 September in front of around 14,000 fans. Making his Hibs debut that night was former Rangers and Everton winger Alex Scott whose younger brother Jim had left Easter Road just a few short weeks before to join Newcastle.

    Scott the elder had a fantastic hour before being replaced and had contributed greatly to Hibs scoring three times without reply. Peter Cormack notched two and Eric Stevenson the other to give the Easter Road men a good lead to take with them to Portugal for the second leg. Interestingly on the same night Rangers drew 1-1 away to Dinamo Dresden in their own Fairs Cup tie with their goal coming from a their centre forward Alex Ferguson!
    An energy sapping nine hour journey looked as though it might cost Hibs dear in the return leg and matters were not helped after the Spanish referee sent Peter Cormack off after the Scot had reacted angrily to a punch aimed at him by Oporto defender Rolando. It seemed no time at all before the hosts had reduced the aggregate score to 3-2 but then all hell let loose when Senor Rigo whistled for a penalty to Hibs. The Oporto players went crazy and it took a few minutes before the spot kick could be taken. Unfazed by the commotion Joe Davis calmly slotted the ball home despite Oporto keeper Americo rushing out towards him the minute the ref blew his whistle! All the histrionics seemed to upset the Portuguese more than it did Hibs and despite a late goal by Pinto the men from Easter Road went through on a 4-3 aggregate.

    It could be reasonably argued that over the years to date Hibs had not enjoyed a great deal of luck in terms of the draw in European competitions. Up until this point they’d had to face the might of Barcelona, AS Roma and a very good Red Star Belgrade for example and in this latest quest for glory their names came out of the hat along with another giant of Italian football, Napoli. Almost before the draw was completed the sporting press in both Scotland and Italy were writing off the men from Leith and when the Hibees fell 4-1 in the first leg in Naples the newspapers printed ‘we told you so’ kind of match reports. In fact Hibs had played pretty well and might have had more than just Colin Stein’s goal to carry into the second leg but their luck in front of goal deserted them whilst at the other end a hat trick from Cane and a wonderful solo strike by Altafini ensured what looked like a healthy cushion for the Italians.

    Ahead of the second leg Hibs manager Bob Shankly was telling anyone who would listen that his players could win the tie and progress into round three. Few believed it possible but on a magical night under the floodlights in late November 1967 the men in green and white proved their manager right. It all started with a wonder goal from right back Bobby Duncan whose left footed shot from distance flew over the head of Napoli keeper Dino Zoff and into the net. In the years that followed, Duncan’s goal seemed to have been scored from 30, 40, 50 or even 60 yards depending on who was telling the story but I can tell you now, I was at that game and I distinctly recall that Bobby got possession of the ball just inside his own half, strode forward several paces and let fly so I reckon 40 yards would not be too far off the mark! As the game unfolded the Italians were overrun and further goals arrived courtesy of Pat Stanton, Pat Quinn, Colin Stein and Peter Cormack to ensure a 5-0 win on the night and a 6-4 win on aggregate. The quality of the Hibs performance must not be underestimated. This was a top quality Italian side and was well versed in the ‘cattanacio’ ultra defensive style of play.

    For the first time in history an Italian side had lost to a Scottish one over the two legs of a European tie. What price that happening nowadays I wonder? The reward for progression was to be drawn in round three against the previous seasons’ Inter Cities Fairs Cup finalists, Leeds United.

    Five days before Christmas 1967 Hibs travelled to Elland Road to face a star studded Leeds United who were of course managed by Don Revie. Around 32,000 watched on as Leeds took a 4th minute lead through Scotsman Eddie Gray but thereafter they were more than matched by the men from Leith. Indeed Colin Stein scored what looked like a good equaliser but it was ruled out for offside which many felt was not only a harsh decision by the Northern Irish officials but a wrong one. Stein would leave the game soon after when Norman ‘bite yer legs’ Hunter scythed him down but did so without any word of warning from the official in charge. In fact Hunter was living a charmed life because he also got away with a brutal tackle on man of the match Peter Cormack. Try as they might Hibs could not get level but the final score of 1-0 certainly meant they were still in the hunt.

    The calendar had moved forwards into January 1968 when the second leg took place at Easter Road in front of an expectant crowd of around 40,000. Sadly the visitors lived up to their name in terms of being ‘dirty’ Leeds and the game was peppered with fouls which meant that Hibs never really got going but this would be a game best remembered for a very controversial refereeing decision by Clive Thomas of Wales.

    One of the new directives for the 1967/68 season was that goalkeepers be restricted to taking just four steps before being required to part with the ball. It was a rule intended to speed up the game but in truth most referees showed leniency until goalkeepers got used to the change. In the game against Leeds the United keeper Gary Sprake seemed on more than one occasion to take five or even six steps without being penalised by Mr. Thomas but with five minutes of the game left and Hibs leading through a Colin Stein goal the crowd was preparing itself for extra time. Then somewhat bewilderingly Mr Thomas decided to penalise Hibs keeper Willie Wilson for taking five steps when all the home goalie was trying to do was get clear of Peter Lorimer who was shadowing his run. In reality the referee should have given Hibs a free kick for Lorimer’s obstruction of Wilson but instead he penalised Willie and from the resultant free kick Jack Charlton scored an equalising goal and sent Hibs tumbling out of the tournament. Needless to say when the final whistle went, Mr Thomas left the field to a crescendo of booing from 40,000 extremely disgruntled Hibs fans. As a matter of interest, Leeds went on to lift the trophy after beating Ferencvaros of Hungary 1-0 at Elland Road and then holding them to a 0-0 draw in the second leg in Budapest.

    **Image courtesy of hibsprogrammes.co.uk**
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. ronaldo7's Avatar
      ronaldo7 -
      Nice piece John, I attended most of those games at home too, but it must have been at least 45yards for Bobby's strike
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