Barça return recalls 1961 pitch battle

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THE return of Barcelona to Edinburgh to face Hibernian in a friendly on 24 July will stir memories of a remarkable meeting between the pair in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in February 1961. Back then, it seemed as though those players representing the famous Catalan club would need fully 47 years to let their tempers cool after frenzied scenes marred the end of one of Hibs' most famous European scalps.

Hibs were awarded a walkover by Swiss club Lausanne in the first round of the 1960/61 Fairs Cup and so met Barcelona, the holders, at the quarter-final stage.

The first leg was due to be staged in Edinburgh but fog forced its postponement and instead the two clubs met first in Spain in December 1960.

Given the contrasting fortunes of each present-day side, it is incredible to think that Hibs led twice in the Nou Camp, 2-0 and 4-2, thanks to a Joe Baker double and goals from Tommy Preston and John McLeod. Only two goals in the last six minutes for Bara, the reigning Spanish champions, rescued a 4-4 draw.

The rearranged tie in Edinburgh finally took place on 22 February 1961, with a crowd of 50,000 crammed onto Easter Road's sweeping terraces. Within 11 minutes Baker had headed Hibs back in front in the tie from McLeod's free kick, only for Martinez to hook the ball home on the half-hour mark from the corner of the six-yard box.

Martinez then turned provider for Barcelona as they took the lead for the first time in the tie two minutes before half time. His low cross was met by Hungarian Sandor Kocsis who controlled the ball and spun to slide it between a defender and a sprawling Ronnie Simpson, the Hibs goalkeeper.

It seemed then that Barcelona had put Hibs' genie back in the bottle, but out it popped again in the second half in the form of Baker. His teasing and tormenting helped Hibs lay siege to their opponents' goal, with the Spanish side resorting to frequent physical attacks on the forward. Twice this could have resulted in a penalty but Johannes Malka, the German referee, decided each time that an indirect free kick was sufficient punishment.

Finally, in the 74th minute, Hibs forced an equaliser. Willie Ormond's inswinging corner was flicked on by captain Sammy Baird and nodded into the net by Preston, canceling out Barcelona's lead and any remaining feeling of superiority the Spanish side may have convinced themselves of.

Their luck also ran out. One more foul in the penalty area, this time after Baker had set McLeod through on goal, finally saw Malka point to the penalty spot. Bobby Kinloch converted the kick and inadvertently set off violent scenes rarely seen in Scotland, even to this day.

Four Spanish players, led by Luis Suarez, then the European footballer of the Year no less, raced furiously towards Malka in fury at his decision that now looked like sending Barcelona out of the competition. They knocked the official to the ground and were poised to continue their attack when dozens of policemen poured onto the field to save the referee.

Undeterred, the Barcelona players set about the policemen instead who eventually managed to usher them away from Malka. Even some of the Hibs players had by now taken it upon themselves to try and save the beleaguered German. When play finally restarted after a seven-minute delay, Malka was so terrified by his ordeal that any decision was given in Barcelona's favour and an unfathomable amount of time was added onto the end of the game. Still, Hibs held on to triumph 7-6 on aggregate.

When Malka finally decided to blow the full-time whistle, he did so while standing next to the sideline and some policemen in order to make a quick escape. One of his linesmen was less fortunate, kicked to the ground from behind by one of Barcelona's number as he tried to leave the field. Malka also claimed Bara players kicked in the door of his dressing-room.

Their coach, Enrique Onzaola, offered an apology of sorts. "We cannot blame Hibs. The game was clean and sporting until the penalty incident. We will not be taking action against any of our players.

"When an obvious injustice has been done, it is part of our Spanish temperament to show feeling.

"Our players went too far, I admit. We have made our apologies to Hibs and to the referee."

The thoughts of Foncho, the Barcelona full-back, were indicative of the mayhem. "That referee will not be welcome in Spain," he said afterwards. "Neither will a heavy Scottish policeman who put his elbow in my eye and left it a beautiful black colour."