Sporting Memories: Busby’s United make hard work of beating Benfica

First published in Sport

45 Years Ago MANCHESTER United’s hopes of a place in the last four of the European Cup were hanging in the balance after they beat Benfica 3-2 at Old Trafford in the first leg of a quarter-final that had the pulses racing.

The second leg in Lisbon would have been a formality for the Red Devils had they taken half of the chances that came their way after they came from behind and dominated Potugal’s finest, including European Footballer of the year Eusebio.

But after David Herd, Denis Law and centre-half Bill Foulkes put them 3-1 up and in complete control, a mistake by Harry Gregg gifted the giant Torres a goal that promised to make life uncomfortable for Matt Busby’s English champions when they travelled to the Stadium of Light for the second leg.

Such was the influence of Freddie Hill on the fortunes of Bolton Wanderers that manager Bill Ridding was prepared to wait until the last possible minute to test his fitness for the coming weekend’s home game against Plymouth Argyle.

The talented inside forward was under treatment after picking up a groin injury but Wanderers were desperate to maintain a momentum gained from an FA Cup win over West Brom and a win at Charlton that had improved their position in the lower reaches of the Second Division.

Bury were fighting tooth and nail to keep their talented teenager Colin Bell.

The Shakers directors deferred a decision on a transfer request from their ambitious inside forward, insisting his career prospects would not be damaged if he remained at Gigg Lane, at least until the club felt the time was right to consider letting him go.

But it was an issue that would clearly not go away and there was growing speculation that Bell would be on his way before the end of the season, with Manchester City his likely destination.

Japan’s world bantamweight boxing champion Masahiko “Fighting” Harada was shying away from a return title fight against British and Empire champion Alan Rudkin but his people were considering a non-title bout against Britain’s European featherweight champion Howard Winstone.

But promoter Harry Levene dismissed the notion. “There is only one fight the British public wants to see and that is a return between Harada and Alan Rudkin for the world bantam title. I have made an offer to stage this fight and am now awaiting a reply.”

30 Years Ago PETER Reid, who had previously suffered more than his share of misfortune with injury, received some good news for a change when fears of a setback in his recovery from knee surgery proved groundless.

The Bolton midfielder had returned to training after the operation to remove a damaged cartilage and all was going well until he complained of soreness just above his knee. But it was just a fleeting problem and after seeing a specialist Reid was given the all-clear.

Manager Stan Anderson, desperately in need of some good news as he tried to prevent Wanderers slipping into the Second Division danger zone, was confident the influential Reid could take it all in his stride.

“Peter’s had some unbelievable luck with injuries over the past three years or so,” he said.

“But he’s gone through it all before. Setbacks are nothing new to him.”

Manchester City chairman Peter Swales claimed the approval of controversial proposals to change the voting system for clubs standing for re-election to the Football League would “create the greatest injustice in the game’s history.”

The League was considering a plan to give all 92 clubs one vote, replacing the existing system that gave the two lower divisions just six votes between them. It was seen as a move that would effectively prevent any non-league club being elected to the Fourth Division.

“If it is approved,” Swales said, “it will be the perfect closed shop, far more watertight than any union could negotiate. It would mean that the non-league clubs might as well close down, because their chances of breaking into the League set-up would be nil.”

City, meanwhile, beat Wanderers on penalties at Burnden Park to reach the final of the Lancashire FA Youth Cup, but it was night of confusion.

Both teams thought they were heading for a replay as they left the field after extra-time of a scoreless semi-final. But referee Ray Chadwick was unaware that the tie had to be settled on the night and it wasn’t until 10 minutes later after Wanderers’ secretary Des McBain had intervened and the ground was empty that the players returned to the pitch for the penalty shoot-out, which City won 5-3.PETER Reid, who had previously suffered more than his share of misfortune with injury, received some good news for a change when fears of a setback in his recovery from knee surgery proved groundless.

The Bolton midfielder had returned to training after the operation to remove a damaged cartilage and all was going well until he complained of soreness just above his knee. But it was just a fleeting problem and after seeing a specialist Reid was given the all-clear.

Manager Stan Anderson, desperately in need of some good news as he tried to prevent Wanderers slipping into the Second Division danger zone, was confident the influential Reid could take it all in his stride.

“Peter’s had some unbelievable luck with injuries over the past three years or so,” he said.

“But he’s gone through it all before. Setbacks are nothing new to him.”

Manchester City chairman Peter Swales claimed the approval of controversial proposals to change the voting system for clubs standing for re-election to the Football League would “create the greatest injustice in the game’s history.”

The League was considering a plan to give all 92 clubs one vote, replacing the existing system that gave the two lower divisions just six votes between them. It was seen as a move that would effectively prevent any non-league club being elected to the Fourth Division.

“If it is approved,” Swales said, “it will be the perfect closed shop, far more watertight than any union could negotiate. It would mean that the non-league clubs might as well close down, because their chances of breaking into the League set-up would be nil.”

City, meanwhile, beat Wanderers on penalties at Burnden Park to reach the final of the Lancashire FA Youth Cup, but it was night of confusion.

Both teams thought they were heading for a replay as they left the field after extra-time of a scoreless semi-final. But referee Ray Chadwick was unaware that the tie had to be settled on the night and it wasn’t until 10 minutes later after Wanderers’ secretary Des McBain had intervened and the ground was empty that the players returned to the pitch for the penalty shoot-out, which City won 5-3.

20 Years Ago BOLTON Wanderers were riding the crest of a winning wave.

A 16-match unbeaten run had taken Phil Neal’s side to within striking distance of a top-three slot and key men – striker Tony Philliskirk and goalkeeper Dave Felgate – were bang on form.

Philliskirk scored both goals in a 2-1 win against his former club Preston at Deepdale but it was Felgate who stole the show with an outstanding performance behind a defence that endured an uncomfortable 90 minutes on North End’s plastic pitch.

“We were very relieved at the end,” Neal admitted. “I’m being realistic because we had a lot of luck and the keeper’s had a blinder. He’s really earned his dosh.”

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