De Mistwedstrijd (Template:IPA-nl) (English: "The Fog Match") was the Association football match that was contested in dense fog on 7 December 1966, between the likes of AFC Ajax and Liverpool F.C. at the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. This match marked the rise of Ajax in International football, as they defeated footballing giant Liverpool with a score of 5–1 at home. Goals from Cees de Wolf, Johan Cruijff, Klaas Nuninga (2x) and Henk Groot helped secure the win for Ajax, while Chris Lawler managed to score one goal for Liverpool in front of a large sold out crowd. The spectators could not really see much of the match due to the fog's density and at times could only tell by the celebration of the team when a goal was scored. But the audience cheered their team on nonetheless, celebrating on this historic night.
In 2006 the match was commemorated in a broadcast of the television program Andere Tijden.
In the 1960s Liverpool was considered a European top club, who at the time were reigning English champions, but had also won their league cup. With manager Bill Shankly and big name footballers, a number of whom were part of the 1966 FIFA World Cup winning England squad, having just won it only a few months ahead of this match. Liverpool were big time favorites to win the series against Ajax. The club from Amsterdam were coming out of a struggling period at the time, having finished in 13th place by the end of the 1964–65 season, and the Netherlands national team had yet to convince on the international stage. The board of Ajax decided to hire Rinus Michels as the new coach of Ajax, after which the team started to show improvement. Both teams were competing for the European Cup I during the 1966–67 season. While Ajax defeated Turkish powerhouse Be?ikta? J.K. in the first round of the tournament (2–0 and 2–1), Liverpool had beaten Petrolul Ploie?ti from Romania (2–0, 1–3 and 2–0), and both teams advanced to the second round of the tournament where they would face each other.
The first match of the second round was played on 7 December 1966, when a thich fog covered the pitch and with mist covering most of Amsterdam, the match was played at the Olympic Stadium which served as a replacement for the clubs De Meer Stadion for matches that draw larger crowds. The stadium is very close to a large lake in De Oeverlanden park. This unique geography made the stadium highly susceptible to the foggy conditions that are frequent in the marshy Dutch capital. Many people questioned whether the match should even be held. Leo Horn and the refree during this match Antonio Sbardella held a discussion and decided not to cancel the event. Sbardella felt that both goals were visible enough, from the midfield line on which he stood, in order to carry out the game, with added pressure coming from Liverpool's manager to not postpone the match. Shankly felt as though the match was a formality and that Liverpool were going to win anyway. A few days later Liverpool were scheduled to face arch-rivals Manchester United F.C. in Engiand for which Shankly did not want to further delay this game. "Just because I wanted to win the European Cup didn't mean I was willing to let go of the English national title" Shankly later said recalling the event. Ajax also wanted to play the match, and did not want to disappoint the large turnout of loyal fans in attendance.
Finally the match went very differently then what Liverpool expected. After only three minutes of the game Cees de Wolf headed in the 1–0 off of an assist from Henk Groot. Then the game was made hard by the frustrated English. Wim Suurbier was injured during the game, and Henk Groot as well, but since substitute players were not yet allowed the two had to keep playing in the game. Medical Salo Muller frequented the pitch for the duration of the match to take care of the injured players. Without the referees knowledge, Sjaak Swart walked off the pitch after roughly 15 minutes of play, heading into the players tunnel towards the locker room as he thought he had heard the refree blow the whistle for half time. Board member Henk Hordijk stopped him, who made him realize that it was not half time yet. Swart ran back out on to the pitch, received the ball and immediately assisted the 4–0 off a header from Klaas Nuninga before half time. Liverpool started the second half well but were unable to score. Ajax scored their final goal of the match from injured Henk Groot, right after Liverpool managed to pull one back off of their defender Chris Lawler.
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The football World was shocked by this result. A club from the small country of the Netherlands defeated the mighty Liverpool, reigning champions of England, the inventors of the game and the reigning World champions of the time. Manager Bill Shankly was still not impressed. He reported said that Ajax had not played well, and that Liverpool would defeat the Amsterdammers 7-0 at home and that Ajax would need to be carried off the pitch on stretchers. He went on to express how Ajax first choice Goalkeeper Gerrit Bals was not even good enough to play for his thirteenth squad. On the second leg of the series things came very differently then expected once more. Bals played in goal in the second match as Ajax played Liverpool to a 2-2 draw, winning the series 7-3 on aggregate. Ajax were later eliminated from the tournament in the quarter-finals by Dukla Prague (1-1 and 1-2) as Celtic F.C. went on to win their first European Cup, but the match that no one forgot about, and no one could stop talking about was the Mistwedstrijd between Ajax and Liverpool.
De Mistwedstrid is largely considered as a catalyst of sorts for the European and World success which followed in the late 1960s and early 1970s for Ajax Amsterdam. Johan Cruijff's confidence soared after the match against Liverpool, leading his club to a second straight Eredivisie title, scoring a league high 33 goals. Two seasons after the Fog Match, Ajax had reached the European Cup final, and only two years later lifted their first of three consecutive European Cups, completing a meteoric rise that is unrivaled in the history of the competition. Johan Cruijff himself declared the match to have been pivotal to the clubs success, and even declared the Mistwedstrijd the greatest match in which he ever took part.
In conclusion de Mistwedstrijd is a fascinating and important milestone in the development and history of the sport. Ajax rising as a European superpower would prove critical to the widespread adoption of their tactical theory Total Football. Although Cruijff and the Netherlands national team were celebrated in the 1970s for popularizing the technique, it was Ajax who were the true flag bearers of the movement, similar to the way FC Barcelona would master the style of Tiki-taka years later.
- 1966–67 European Cup
- De Mistwedstrijd on Andere Tijden
- Ajax - Liverpool: De Mistwedstrijd on Ajax TV
- Liverpool v Ajax - 1966 revisited on Liverpoolfc.com
- 1966: De Mistwedstrijd on olympischstadion.nl
- Europa Cup wedstrijd 07-12-1966 Ajax - Liverpool 5 - 1 at Voetbalstat.nl