Lisbon Lion Willie Wallace looks back on this day in 1967…
We were drawn against Dukla Prague, of Czechoslovakia, in one semi; Inter Milan, of Italy, would meet CSKA Sofia, of Bulgaria, in the other. My worry now was whether I would be selected in the team that would meet the Czechs.
As things turned out, I was chosen to play against Dukla in the first leg at Parkhead on Wednesday, 12 April, 1967 – a day that held extra significance as it was our daughter Lynn’s first birthday.
I was particularly nervous before the game and couldn’t wait to get out of the changing rooms and on to the field. I knew I would settle down once I was out there in front of a full house of Celtic supporters.
It was quite an even first half, in which Jimmy Johnstone gave us the lead before their outside-right equalised just before the break. Instead of being level, we should have been leading 2–1 at half-time as we had a perfectly good goal disallowed by the referee. The goal was disallowed for a high foot – in this case, the referee chose to apply a European rule that was not used in Scotland as long as both players had their feet up, as had been the case here. Anyway, I thought the goal should have stood.
In the second half, it felt like the forward runners such as myself were being given more space by the Dukla defenders. I thought maybe they were content with a 1–1 result to take back to Prague for the return match – but that little bit of extra space was just what I wanted.
My first goal came when I chased a long ball from the back and managed to go past my marking defender. As I raced towards the ball, I noticed I was outside the Dukla keeper’s right-hand post and realised I would have to take the chance quickly, before the angle narrowed even further. So I chose to strike the ball with the outside of my right foot – it wasn’t an easy chance but I managed to make sweet contact with the ball and, much to my delight, it fairly flew into the roof of the net.
My second goal came from a direct free kick outside the penalty box, to the right of centre. Bertie Auld or Bobby Murdoch usually took those free kicks around the box and – for some unknown reason – I was standing next to Bertie, who was placing the ball, when he said: “Can you see the hole they’ve left at the far post?”
“Aye,” I said. Bertie went on: “OK, I’ll square it to you and you just find the hole”.
Bertie then shimmied over the ball and slipped it to me. Again, I struck it sweetly but not with a great deal of pace – just enough to send it smoothly into the corner of the net.
Those two second-half goals – made all the more special by it being my European debut for Celtic and my daughter’s birthday – gave us a 3–1 win. It was just a fantastic feeling. My first goals in the European Cup had also helped to make it a great night for the Celtic fans. Later, when we left the stadium making for the car park, thousands of them were still milling around and cheering.
12th April 1967, Celtic beat Dukla Prague 3:1 in the first leg of the European Cup semi-final.
Jinky and Willie Wallace(2) with the goals. pic.twitter.com/YwYLQGmo30
— Li’l Ze (@LilZe_7) April 11, 2023
On the drive home, my wife Olive asked if we were in the final. “Not yet,” I said. We still had to play Dukla in Prague but we had a good lead to take there and, as long as something didn’t go badly wrong, we would be in the final. I was surprised she should have asked a question like that and even more so when her next comment was simply “good”. She was normally more inquisitive than that.
Maybe I should have encouraged Olive to come to more Celtic games – but that would have interfered with her own Saturday sport as a hockey player with Lenzie Academy FP (Former Pupils).
— Li'l Ze (@LilZe_7) April 12, 2023
Extract from Willie Wallace – Heart of a Lion which I published for Willie around a decade ago.