Real Madrid CF 4-3 Stade de Reims Champagne
(Di Stéfano 14, Rial 30 79, Marquitos 67; Leblond 6, Templin 10, Hidalgo 62)
Parc des Princes, Paris
The European Champion Clubs' Cup was the brainchild of Gabriel Hanot, editor of the French sports paper L'Equipe. His call, in December 1954, for a European inter-club championship was met with enthusiasm by the newly founded European football union, UEFA, and by September 1955 the competition was up and running.
The 16 entrants included seven national champions: RSC Anderlecht, AGF Århus, Djurgårdens IF FF, AC Milan, Real Madrid CF, Stade de Reims Champagne and SC Rot-Weiss Essen. But no English representative. This was a shame for Hanot, who had been upset by Wolverhampton Wanderers FC's claim that they were the continent's best side after friendly wins over Kispest Honvéd FC and FC Spartak Moscow.
Madrid, in contrast, needed no persuading. They had tasted international success in the Latin Cup, which from 1949 pitted the Spanish champions against their French, Italian and Portuguese counterparts. In fact, Santiago Bernabéu's team did not just join the party; they brought the entertainment too, starting with a 7-0 aggregate defeat of Servette FC.
Their quarter-final opponents were FK Partizan, who had shared six goals with Sporting Clube de Portugal in the tournament curtain-raiser. The first leg took place on Christmas Day in Madrid, though there was little cheer for Partizan, recipients of a 4-0 thrashing. And while the Merengues lost the return 3-0, they went into a semi-final with Milan.
Featuring Swedish internationals Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm, the Italian giants were just that. They had recovered from the setback of a 4-3 home loss to 1. FC Saarbrücken on their European debut to put eight goals past SK Rapid Wien in the quarter-finals. Yet Milanese hopes effectively ended with a late Alfredo di Stéfano strike in Madrid's 4-2 first-leg victory at Chamartín - the Spaniards progressing 5-4 on aggregate.
Reims were the pick of the other half of the draw and beat Scotland's Hibernian FC to book their place in the final in Paris on 13 June. Home advantage seemed to tell at the Parc des Princes when the French side raced into a 2-0 lead, then restored the advantage at 3-2 through Michel Hidalgo. But with centre forward Di Stéfano, winger Paco Gento and inside forward Héctor Rial on form, Madrid hit back. Manuel Marquitos restored parity before Rial sealed victory with the seventh goal of an exhilarating game.
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