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The 3rd June 1971 saw Leeds United lift the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup following victory on away goals against Juventus over two legs. Torrential rain washed out the first attempt to play the first leg of the final in Turin on Wednesday, 26th May 1971. Referee Lauren Van Ravens had little option but to abandon the game after fifty-three minutes as huge pools of water made play impossible. Don Revie was understandably disappointed, when more than holding your own with more than half the game gone, especially on foreign soil, you don’t want to have to start again. Unfortunately, United lost the services of Eddie Gray with a reoccurrence of a shoulder injury picked up playing for Scotland.
The game was rescheduled for Friday, just two days later and Juventus lined up bristling with International performers and many outstanding players. Helmut Haller, the seasoned German World Cup player, lined up amongst the Italian internationals Luciano Spinosi, Roberto Bettega, Pietro Anastasi, Francesco Morini, Franco Causio, Sandro Salvadore, Giuseppe Farino and Fabio Capella. As always Juventus provided the backbone for the Italian national team and United were under no illusions as to the battle ahead. Eddie Gray’s replacement was the experienced Paul Reaney at right back with Paul Madeley moving to left midfield for the mercurial Scotsman.
The Italians looked a good bet early on when their multi-million lire forward line swept into action with a swift breakaway move from their own half. West German international Helmut Haller won possession from Terry Cooper, who had been attacking down the left flank for the umpteenth time in the match, and the ball was moved on by Pietro Anastasi and Franco Causio for Roberto Bettega to finish clinically, to give Juventus a 1-0 lead after twenty-seven minutes. Leeds could make nothing of this swift counter punch, and Juventus had the ball in the Leeds net so quickly that it was all over before the United defenders could get to grips with the situation.
Terry Cooper was causing Juventus massive problems with his left-wing sorties and Jack Charlton was also giving them problems with his upfield activities. United responded with a lengthy spell of pressure and twice Jack Charlton went close. He climbed well to a Peter Lorimer cross but Massimo Polini saved his header at the second attempt. Then, after a Johnny Giles free-kick, he managed to get in a volley that whistled just wide. It showed that United were not content to just contain their Italian opponents and there was always the danger that a Leeds thrust would strike home. United showed the crowd that they could turn on the fluent football just as well as Juventus, but half time came with Juventus still holding the single goal advantage.
United had kept pegging away at their task of wiping out the Juventus single goal lead and their efforts paid off with an equalizer three minutes after the break. Peter Lorimer found Paul Madeley, the Leeds lynch-pin simply strode forward in his own inimitable fashion through the Juventus midfield and with the Italians allowing him the space and time for him to take a sighting on goal and hammer in a twenty-five yard shot. It did brush defender Sandro Salvadore before entering the net, and there was nothing Massimo Piloni could do about it. It was United’s first goal in Italy, but within twelve minutes they were behind again to a superb twenty yard shot from Fabio Capello, and once again United were facing an uphill battle.
An unlikely hero emerged to snatch a second equalizer. Substitute Mick Bates, was thrown into the action after an injury to Mick Jones. Lining up in midfield with Billy Bremner he pushed forward into the striking role. Four minutes later, Terry Cooper overlapped on the left and his cross was miss-punched by Massimo Piloni to the feet of Bates, who calmly beat defender Gianpietro Marchetti and drove the ball into the roof of the net from close range for a priceless second goal. The balance of power switched to Leeds with Johnny Giles masterminding several dangerous counter attacks but it was a fair result, even the Juventus coach conceded neither team deserved to lose, but with two away goals in the bag it was United who justifiably returned home in high spirits.
For the second leg just under a week later the two teams were almost at full-strength, with United missing Eddie Gray and Juventus welcomed back their first choice keeper in Roberto Tancredi in place of Massimo Piloni. With both sides playing out an action-packed ninety minutes, the outcome of the second leg of the 1971 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Final was in doubt right up to the final whistle. Leeds United fans believed their side could end their luckless run and win the trophy for the second time. The optimism seemed justified after only twelve minutes when Billy Bremner took a free-kick and the ball fell to Peter Lorimer, who couldn’t get in a shot. The ball ran loose and it was snapped up eagerly by the razor sharp Allan Clarke, who whipped around and cracked the loose ball low past Roberto Tancredi into the corner of the net for a brilliant goal.
The celebrations lasted only seven minutes. Pietro Anastasi exploded into action with an excellent piece of opportunism. A miss-timed pass from Paul Madeley was picked up in midfield by Francesco Morini and he quickly fed it to the quicksilver Anastasi, who was unmarked in the Leeds box, drawing Gary Sprake off his line he calmly slipping the ball past him for the equaliser. The match finely balanced, Leeds carried the extra threats of Johnny Giles and the overlapping full-back Terry Cooper. The action continued to bubble and boil. Sandro Salvadore was booked for yet another foul on Terry Cooper, Paul Madeley left the field with a cut above an eye resulting from a clash of heads, he did not return after having stitches inserted and was replaced by Mick Bates, his fellow goal-scoring hero in Turin.
The action continued as Roberto Tancredi, made an athletic stop to keep out a Mick Jones header, while at the other end Gary Sprake had to be alert to deny Roberto Bettega. Although Leeds did the majority of the attacking, there was always the fear that Juventus might strike with one of their lightning counter-punches. Tension mounted as the minutes ticked away but United were always in the driving seat with the away goals counting double ruling in their favour. Defenders Jack Charlton and Norman Hunter kept Juventus at arms length, while another good save from Roberto Tancredi denied Mick Jones’ header from giving United a 2-1 advantage. United lasted the pace in the heat and when the East German referee blew for full-time they were able to celebrate in style.
“I’m very, very proud,” beamed Don Revie, whose side had edged out Italian opposition for the third time in four matches. “Although we had to rely upon the rule which says away goals count double, let no one mistake the fact that Leeds took the trophy on merit,” added Revie whose side would defend the trophy the following season after finishing second in the League.
For more player profiles and greatest Leeds United games check out Oz White's Leeds United F.C. History.