Many of these successes were achieved with Eusébio – the only player to win the Ballon d’Or for a Portuguese club - Coluna, José Águas, José Augusto, Simões, Torres, Domiciano Cavém and others, who formed the 1963–64 team that set a club record of 103 goals in 26 league matches. But it was the European Cup campaign of 1965 that will be remembered for a variety of reasons.
The fifteen preliminary round two-leg ties resulted in a total of 117 goals whilst The Eagles bagged 27 goals in their four ties on the way to the final including a 6-3 aggregate victory over Real Madrid in the quarter-finals. But it was another quarter-final game that attracted much attention.
It is often said that being beaten on penalties is the cruellest way to lose a football game; but as Cologne found out the hard way when they played Liverpool in March 1965, there are far, far worse ways as they were eliminated from the European Cup on the toss of a coin. Having won the league title the previous season this was Liverpool’s first foray into Europe’s elite competition with Bill Shankly, the man who had taken the club from second-tier obscurity to top-flight table toppers, at the helm. After two goalless draws in both legs of the tie a replay was arranged at a neutral venue in Rotterdam on the 24 March 1965.
In the days before penalty shoot-outs, even a third game could not separate the two teams. Liverpool took an early two-goal lead in the third match in Holland and looked to be sailing through to the next round thanks to goals from Ian St John and Roger Hunt but the German side hit back through Karl-Heinz Thielen and Johanns Löhr as the two sides found themselves level once more.
Penalties were still some five years away from being introduced so, after five hours of football, it was left to Belgian referee Robert Schaut to settle matters by flipping a coin to decide who would progress to the semi-finals to face holders Inter Milan. He took Liverpool captain Ron Yeats and the Cologne skipper Wolfgang Overath to the centre circle followed by a couple of cameramen with the rest of the two sides looking on, but to add to the drama, the heavy playing surface in the Netherlands that day would play havoc even with something as simple as a toss of a coin.
“I got there first and said to the referee ‘I’ll have tails,” recalls Ron Yeats. “Lucky for me he said okay.” But as the coin came down onto the playing surface it landed at an angle which was impossible for anyone to see whether it had landed head or tails side up. “Ref, you’re going to have to re-toss the coin,” Yeats shouted at Mr Schaut and to his amazement, the Belgian official agreed. “I thought the German captain was going to hit him. He was going berserk because it was falling over on to the heads side,” remembers Yeats. “He picked it up, it went up again, and this time came down tails.” So it would be Liverpool who advanced to play the holders Inter Milan.
In a thrilling two-legged semi-final Liverpool had their 3-1 advantage from the home leg overturned in spectacular style losing 3-0 in Milan which finally knocked them out of the competition.
So it was that Benfica faced Inter Milan in the final at the San Siro, Milan on 27 May 1965. Eusébio, having scored eight goals on Benfica’s way to the final, was unable to inspire his colleagues and it was the Italians who lifted the trophy thanks to the only goal of the game by Jair just before the interval.
The Benfica team comprised solely of Portuguese players including Algarve born Domiciano Cavém who would be one of the players involved in a fatal accident in the hydro-massage bath at Benfica, some eighteen months later, that resulted in the death of former Olhanense star Luciano. On the 5th December 1966, the new hydro massage bath short-circuited with seven players inside, Luciano being nearest the machine. Eusébio, Jaime Graça and Santana escaped with burns, whilst José Carmo Pais, Domiciano Cavém and Amândio Malta da Silva were knocked unconscious until Graça managed to climb out the pool and cut off the power supply. Luciano died immediately at the age of 26, and the team played the rest of the campaign in black, winning the league. Domiciano Cavém’s family hail from VRSA and his niece is currently a dentist in Tavira.