Monday, 7 May 2012

The day a team died

HOW seismic were events in Lisbon on May 25, 1967?

For Celtic FC, It remains their crowning glory, an achievement that has echoed through the generations. But what were the implications of the defeat for the mighty Inter Milan? Did it bring the catennacio system crashing down, as has so often been claimed?

Well, if Herrera’s Inter were the embodiment of the defensive system that had begun to take hold throughout Europe then, yes, the impact of Celtic’s victory was colossal. Helenio Herrera’s legendary Inter were never the same again.Within a week of defeat in Lisbon, Inter had surrendered their Serie A title – claimed in three of the four preceding seasons – after a last-day defeat to minnows Mantova meant the title headed west to Turin and Juventus.

In little over 12 months, Herrera had departed the Nerazzurri, humbled by his failure to breathe life into an ageing team and helpless at halting their slide to fifth place in the championship.
Sandro Mazzola, Inter’s iconic striker, reflected plaintively on that afternoon in Lisbon in later years.

"It all finished there. That week signalled the end of that great team, and was the worst time of my career. We lost everything: the European Cup, the Championship, the Italian Cup.

“Up to the match against Celtic, we thought we were unbeatable. As soon as that complex was destroyed, we were suddenly in the nightmare of not being up to winning, and the fear from Lisbon went with us to Mantova. Celtic ended up costing us two trophies, really, and it all went downhill from there." 

In 1972, Inter achieved a revenge of sorts when they denied Celtic a third European Cup final appearance by winning a penalty shoot-out in Glasgow after two 0-0 draw. “Even then I spent the whole night battering my scalp off Billy McNeill’s chin, with him winning every single header,” added Mazzola. “And nobody except me wanted to take a penalty.”

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