Monday 20 April 2020

Crossword Puzzle #6

I am back with yet another football related crossword puzzle. Click here to have a go - The theme this time is football grounds.

Sunday 19 April 2020

The Two Teams that have Shaped the History of Belarusian Football - The Only Country Still Playing Through COVID-19

Everyone is aware that there is no football in the world right now due to coronavirus, or COVID-19 as they now seem to call it, and everyone also knows that this is not really true because there is still lots of football taking place in a Belarus where their president apparently thinks it will all blow over if we all just drink vodka and go to the sauna and that no lockdown is needed.

If you made it through that exceptionally long sentence above you will now probably nod your head in agreement as I tell you that Belarussian football isn't very good. Let's be honest, Belarussian football is all but irrelevant on the world stage. Having said that, there are two teams, however, who both have notable stories. Dinamo Minsk and BATE Borisov, here are their stories, they are actually worth telling.

When the Soviet Union collapsed and Dinamo Minsk won the first five editions of the new top flight Vysshaya Liga in Belarus it hardly came as a surprise. Dinamo were, after all, the only team in the country to have played top flight football in the USSR (more on that later). Having played in what was known as the Soviet Top League and having done so on a regular basis Dinamo were, therefore, a very large fish that suddenly found itself thrown out of the ocean and into a rather small pond - Belarus has a population smaller than that of Moscow.

Dinamo's five year reign as champions was suddenly broken when a team called MPKC Mozyr pipped them to the title having just been promoted the previous season and Dinamo have only won the title twice since, the last of those coming in 2004. Dinamo's decline gave several other teams the chance to win the title, most notably BATE Borisov. Promoted to the top flight in 1997, the club finished runners up in their first season in the top tier and won their first Vysshaya Liga title a year later before winning the league again in 2002, then came pretty much total dominance. In 2006 BATE won what would be the first of THIRTEEN league titles in a row. Yes 13, a run that finally came to an end last season when Dinamo Brest were crowned champions. Of those 13 titles, worth mentioning is the one in 2017 as it was one they almost didn't win. Only an equaliser from BATE in the fifth minute of injury time stopped Dinamo Minsk from pipping them to the crown on what was the final day of the campaign as BATE won the league on goal difference.

BATE's success can be put down to two men. Nikolai Busel, CEO of a tractor company, reformed the club in the 1990s having created the original club that was dissolved in 1979 whilst Anatoli Kapsky who had also been involved in the original club was also heavily involved. Kapsy sponsored the club through his company and along with Busel invested heavily wanting to bring footballing success to Borisov - a town of about 145,000 inhabitants approximately 50 miles northeast of Minsk. The pair did just that. Their 13 year reign as champions has only been beaten by Lincoln Red Imps of Gibraltar and Skonto Riga of Latvia who have both managed the feat of 14 in a row. 

As well as their near total dominance of the domestic scene in recent years they have also reached the group stages of the Champions League five times, no other team from the country has ever reached the group stages. The club has never made it past the group stages but have had some memorable moments along the way. Their first foray into the group stages saw a memorable 2-2 draw at home to Italian giants Juventus whilst two years later they drew 1-1 at home to another Italian side in AC Milan. In 2012-13 they won 3-1 away at French side Lille OSC whilst in 2014-15 they drew at home with Athletic Bilbao and a year later defeated AS Roma, also at home. But BATE's most famous moment came 2 October 2012 when German giants FC Bayern München came to town.

The Bayern defence seemed to stand still when Alyaksandr Valadzko put BATE 1-0 up from close range after his side had seemingly walked through the box to give him the ball on 23 minutes. Bayen were one of Europe's top sides, however, and things would not stay that easy for the hosts as the visitors soon began to dominate. The equaliser people expected never came, however, and on 78 minutes BATE were given too much space as some excellent build up play saw Vitali Rodionov fire home from close range - 2-0. It looked to be a nervy finish, mind, when BATE were caught out in the 91st minute as a Bayen break saw Franck Ribéry find the net for the Germans. BATE held on though and even managed to score a third for themselves on 94 minutes. With everyone forward, Bayen were caught on the counter attack and no one could get back in time as Renan Bressan had ample time and space to fire home when the ball was passed to him in the box. 3-1 was the full-time score and BATE had won in what is to date surely their most triumphant moment on the European stage. 

Ultimately, though, BATE would finish third in that 2012-13 group some seven points behind Bayern in first. Bayen would go on to defeat Borussia Dortmund in the final at Wembley. Third place in the group did, of course, give BATE entry in the last 32 of the Europa League but they lost 1-0 on aggregate to Fenerbahçe. Two years earlier they'd lost on away goals to Paris Saint-Germain at the same stage.

BATE might have been the one Belarusian side making a name for themselves on the European stage in recent years but in Soviet times it was Dinamo Minsk who represented Belarus in Europe. Whilst other Soviet teams had been competing in European competition the 1960s, however, Dinamo Minsk did not make their European debut until 1983-84 but then became regulars. Dinamo's participation in that season's European Cup came after winning their first and only Soviet Top League championship in 1982.

When the Dinamo Minsk players arrived by train from Moscow after winning their final two games of the 1982 season, including a 7-0 win at Dynamo Moscow in the penultimate match, they were mobbed by the people of Minsk. Dinamo had pipped another Dynamo to the title, the city of Minsk's heroes had finished one point ahead of Dynamo Kyiv from Ukraine to win their first ever major trophy. It was an extremely joyous occasion for fans not accustomed to taking the streets in celebration like this. 

The Dinamo team at that time included several Soviet internationals including Sergei Aleinikov and Sergey Gotsmanov. Aleinikov would score against England at Euro 88 whilst Sergey Gotsmanov would later have a spell in the English leagues with Brighton and Hove Albion, and then Southampton, before a short spell with East German side Hallescher FC in their first season in a reunified Germany. However, despite only being capped once, gifted and hardworking midfielder Aleksandr Prokopenko was by many supporters considered the star of the side.

In the European Cup the following season, Dinamo Minsk lost 2-1 on aggregate to Dinamo Bucureşti in the quarter finals. The side from Bucharest would lose to the might of Liverpool in the semi finals before two seasons later watching city rivals Steaua București lift the trophy after a famous penalty shoot-out win over FC Barcelona. The following season Minsk reached the quarter finals of the UEFA Cup defeating along the way a strong Widzew Łódź side who had just two years earlier knocked Liverpool out of the European Cup and in recent years prior to that had also defeated the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, and Juventus. In the end, Minsk lost 3-1 on aggregate to Željezničar Sarajevo of Yugoslavia but three seasons later would be European quarter finalists again, this time in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, where they lost out to an unfancied Mechelen side who would shock the continent by defeating massive favourites Ajax in the final.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Dinamo Minsk were regulars in Europe but never made it past the qualifying rounds until more recently when they had two appearances in the group stages of the Europa League, as the UEFA Cup is now known. Both group stage appearances, in 2014-15 and 2015-16, saw the club finish bottom of their group with an away win against an already qualified Fiorentina in a meaningless final match in 2014 the only real highlight.

The odd group stage appearance in European competition seems to be the best that clubs from Belarus can hope for these days. Having said that, although 2019 Vysshaya Liga champions Dinamo Brest have yet to appear in the Champions League, 2018 winners BATE Borisov failed to make it past the second qualifying round of this seasons competition making even a group stage appearance look like it would be a real triumph.

Some may take notice of BATE Borisov for their sheer dominance in recent times and the 13 straight leagues titles in a row that it brought whilst Dynamo Minsk may be remembered for their one Soviet title and a few big European nights in the immediate years that followed. But that aside, football in Belarus will probably continue to go pretty much unnoticed as it usually has done. After all, if it weren't for COVID 19 making Belarus noted as the only country in Europe where football hasn't come to a complete standstill then I probably wouldn't be writing about it now!

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Monday 13 April 2020

Hampden Park: Six Classic Matches

Hampden Park in Glasgow which is home to Scottish lower league amateur side Queen's Park is also the country's national stadium. The venue plays host to the national team and also the nation's two major domestic cup finals. Hampden was once the country's largest stadium and for many years it regularly drew crowds of well over 100,000 to it. The stadium has hosted some fascinating matches over the years, from epic Scotland v England battles to thrilling domestic and European Cup finals. Here are six of the best.

England v Scotland, Home International, 1937
When 149,415 Scottish supporters turned up to Hampden for the visit of England in 1937 it was a record attendance for football in Britain, it still is. At the time it was also a world record, today only beaten by the 199,854 who turned up to see Brazil v Uruguay at the 1950 World Cup. The game was also the first ever all-ticket Scotland match. There was a big rivalry between the two British sides and fans had turned up for what would be another cracking encounter between these two old foes.

For those unable to get a ticket, following the match would prove rather problematic. The Scottish FA refused to allow live national radio commentary which in the days before the internet or television sets in every home would have realistically been the only way to follow the game. This decision was taken as in the past radio broadcasts on Scotland matches had been seen as having a negative effect on attendances at local games around the country on those days.

As for the match itself, England took the lead on 40 minutes thanks to a ten-yard shot from Fred Steele following a perfect pass from Ronald Starling. England had played well up to that point and their goal according to the match report in The Times the following Monday was 'one worthy of the football they had played'. England's lead did not last too long, however, as two minutes into the second-half  Scotland drew level. The goal was an easy finish from Frank O'Donnell which came after a Thomas Walker cross. The scores remained level until the 80th minute when Scotland took the lead. Bob McPhail knocked home a loose ball following a Douglas Duncan shot which was blocked. Duncan's shot had come after the keeper failed to hold on to the ball from a James Delaney cross. Scotland lead 2-1 and eight minutes later that became 3-1, again thanks to a goal from Bob McPhail. McPhail's second was a header and came from an Andrew Anderson free-kick. McPhail would in total score seven times in 17 appearances for this country but these two came on the biggest occasion of all, a Scotland/England clash. The match ended 3-1, Scotland had beaten the 'auld enemy' and England had lost four away matches in a row which was an unwelcome feat they had last achieved between 1874 and 1880.

The Scotland fans could go home happy having seen their team victorious and as for record crowd, well many of the spectators would actually be back again the following week with 147,365 in attendance as Celtic beat Aberdeen 2-1 in the Scottish Cup final. This is seemingly claimed to be the highest ever attendance for a club match in Europe and I would have thought the world. Certainly, if there has ever been a bigger club attendance outside the continent I am unaware of it!

Glasgow Celtic v Leeds United, European Cup semi final, 1970
The two well above 100,000 attendances mentioned so far in this piece are not the only six figure crowds Hampden Park has witnessed, there have actually been many more. One such other occasion where there was a six figure attendance came in the second leg of a European Cup tie that became known as the 'Battle of Britain'. This saw Scottish side Glasgow Celtic face Leeds United of England in the semi finals of the 1969-70 competition.

Knowing how important the home crowd could be for his side, Celtic manager Jock Stien decided to move the match from the clubs Celtic Park home to the national stadium across town and some 136,505 turned up, to this day a European Cup record. Whilst a ticket price increase saw a slightly lower than expected attendance at Elland Road for the first leg, Hampden Park would be nearly three times as full.

Celtic had won the first leg at Elland Road by one goal to nil with many in the media suggesting Leeds had been outthought and outplayed. Leeds manager Don Revie had rested key players for prior league games to prioritise this European Cup tie but in that first match it clearly hadn't paid off. 

Before the second leg, there was the matter of two cup finals. 108,434 saw favourites Celtic lose 3-1 to Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup final at Hampden whilst at Wembley Leeds drew 2-2 with Chelsea in the FA Cup final. Leeds would have to partake in a replay, one which they ultimately lose but that came after their visit to Hampden, however. Having already lost out to Everton for the First Division championship, Leeds did not yet know it, but their season rested solely on the European Cup - this despite Don Revie's men having been at one point seemingly heading for the treble.

Maybe the pressure had been too much for Leeds captain Billy Bremner in the first leg, after all, he was a Scotsman and a lifelong Celtic fan. That did not seem to matter in the second leg, however, as he put his side in front after just 14 minutes. A right-footed screamer from 30 yards went in off the post and Leeds were back level in the tie as Hampden Park was silenced. Leeds dominated most of the first-half but were unable to score a second and the visitors had to settle for a 1-0 lead at the break.

Celtic came out a different side in the second period and roared on by the massive wall of home support seemed on fire right from off. The visitors, meanwhile, were beginning to tire. It was only a matter of time before the hosts found an equaliser, two minutes to be exact. The Leeds defence failed to deal with a short corner, David Hay played a smart pass to Bertie Auld and Yogi Hughes was there to head home from Auld's cross having outmuscled Jack Charlton to the ball.

A collision saw Leeds goalkeeper Gary Sprake leave the field injured and it wasn't long before his replacement David Harvey conceded. Four minutes after Celtic drew level they were in front. Jimmy Johnstone dummied the ball past Norman Hunter and played the ball to Bobby Murdoch whose low drive slipped through the 'keeper's hands. 2-1 on the night, Celtic 3-1 up on aggregate. Leeds had chances for an equaliser, most notably when Johnny Giles fired wide from six yards out on 72 minutes, but Celtic held firm and it was they who ended up victorious with a 2-1 win sending them through to a second European Cup final in three years. 

Celtic would lose to Feyenoord in the final but the supporters at Hampden that night were not to know that. At the end, a jubilant crowd stayed behind for 20 minutes demanding a lap of honour from their heroes who duly obliged. Celtic had, as The Glasgow Herald put it, 'crowned themselves Champions of Britain at Hampden Park'.

Hibernian v Glasgow Rangers, Scottish Cup final, 2016
Heading to more recent times, the next match brought to you took place just four years ago. Hibernian are traditionally one of the bigger names in Scottish football, but even so, Glasgow Rangers are definitely a much bigger one. Both sides, however, had been playing in the second tier when they met at Hampden for the 2016 Scottish Cup final. 

Rangers, having gone bankrupt had reformed as a new company four years earlier and had to start their new life in the fourth tier. Having initially secured two straight promotions they entered the cup final having just been promoted back to the top flight after two seasons in the second tier Scottish Championship. Hibernian went into the final having lost in the promotion play-offs in what was also their second season in the Championship having been relegated from the top flight a couple of years earlier. 

Rangers had won the Scottish Cup 33 times but Hibs had surprisingly won it only twice and the last of those two victories had come some 114 years earlier. Since then they had been runners up 10 times most recently a distressing 5-1 defeat to Edinburgh rivals Heart of Midlothian just three years earlier. It was an itch they were the desperate to rid themselves of.

The match itself was an absolute cracker. Hibernian were in front after just three minutes when Anthony Stokes ran into the Rangers penalty area before adeptly placing the ball beyond Rangers 'keeper Wes Foderingham. Rangers, meanwhile, looked nervous and were making too many mistakes with passes going astray and possession easily lost. Ultimately Hibs were unable to capitalise on this, however, and it actually took only 24 minutes after that Hibs goal for Rangers to get their act together and score themselves. A James Tavernier cross saw Kenny Miller leap above Hibs defender Darren McGregor to head home the equaliser. There were chances aplenty with poor defending giving the attackers lots of opportunities but the score remained level at the break.

When the second-half was 19 minutes old Rangers took the lead. Andy Halliday was allowed time manoeuvre before shooting from 25yds out with his shot flying past Conrad Logan in the Hibs goal. Rangers might have thought they'd won the match until Stokes grabbed his second on 80 minutes to draw his side level. Liam Henderson, on as a sub, saw Stokes head home at the near post from one of his free-kicks. 2-2 and the game was seemingly heading for extra-time but there was one more twist in the tale and it came in the second minute of stoppage time. Henderson was involved again, this time he took a corner and David Gray was the hero as he headed home from said corner. Hibernian went 3-2 up and the scenes were wild. Their fans could not believe it, after 114 years they were on the verge of finally winning the cup again. 

Scoring so late in the day Hibs did not have to hold on for long and at full-time, their fans fled onto the pitch in jubilation. The Rangers fans joined them but the police were quick to react and stop any potential trouble leaving the fans from Edinburgh to celebrate peacefully what was a momentous occasion. With that injury time winner there had been a dramatic finale to what had been an action packed game and a true cup final classic as Hibs ended their mammoth wait for another a Scottish Cup trophy.

Glasgow Celtic v Glasgow Rangers, Scottish Cup final (replay), 1909

The 1909 Scottish Cup final between Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers is perhaps remembered more for the violence that occurred after the replay than any of the action on the pitch. Both matches were held at Hampden Park with the first match ending in a 2-2 draw before the replay the following week.

Goals from Jimmy Quinn for Celtic and Jimmy Gordon for Rangers saw the replay level at 1-1 and with little in the way major action on the field during the second-half the match drifted towards a draw. The fans in attendance, some 60,000 spectators, were hoping for extra-time and did not fancy the prospect of forking out another shilling for a third match. 

At full-time, the players were not sure what was happening but eventually left the field when they realised extra-time was not scheduled. The fans not realising there would be no extra play hung around in the stadium but some perhaps getting a little bored eventually decided to run onto the pitch. It was all good humoured at first but eventually, things turned sour. According to some reports, a half intoxicated dancing man was assaulted by a police officer and things escalated from there. 

The Scottish Football Association (SFA) announced a second replay would take place the following Wednesday and then things got out of hand. Bottles and stones were thrown and fans tried to invade the dressing rooms but that was foiled and some fans then started dismantling the goalposts. Baton charges by the police proved ineffective and fans set alight barricades torn from the terraces. A battle between fans and police lasted till about 7pm before the last of the fans finally dispersed with injuries on both sides estimated at around 100 in total. Damage from the riot was estimated at £8,000, nearly a million pounds in today's money. Despite all this, one newspaper reported that 'only one man was arrested in the course of the outbreak'. Others claimed that there were more arrests but regardless, in reality, the numbers were, all things considered, probably rather small. The police struggled to keep order and arrests seemingly proved difficult.

The third match did not take place. The SFA wanted to play the match outside of Glasgow but both clubs refused and the SFA decided to cancel the match and withhold the medals and the trophy. No one would win the cup that year.

Violence, when the Glasgwegian rivals known as the 'Old Firm' faced each other, would occur on numerous occasions over the years, most famously after the 1980 cup final that became known as the 'riot cup final'. Wild west battles between rival supporters when they invaded the pitch saw some of the worst football violence Britain has ever seen.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Real Madrid, European Cup final, 1960
As far as European Cup finals go, the 1960 edition was an all-time classic. The final saw a thumping display from Spanish side Real Madrid as they won Europe's premier competition for the fifth straight season having won all of the first four editions of the recently introduced tournament. 

Some 127,621 people turned up at Hampden Park to see Europe's number one side and they were in for a treat although the match didn't start as predicted with Real Madrid's German opponents Eintracht Frankfurt taking the lead 18 minutes in. Real Madrid found themselves 3-1 up at the interval, however, responding with two goals from Argentinian-cum-naturalised Spaniard Alfredo Di Stefano on 27 and 30 minutes and a third coming from Hungarian international Ferenc Puskás on the stroke of half-time. Two of football's all-time greats proving too good for Eintracht. First, Brazillian Canário weaved past several players before a low drive across the box allowed Di Stefano to draw the sides level. Di Stefano's second three minutes later was another close range effort coming after an initial shot from Canário was blocked by the 'keeper whilst for the third Puskás smashed the ball into the net from just outside the six-yard box having picked up the ball on the edge of the area when Eintracht's defence failed to clear the ball.

Eleven minutes into the second-half Real Madrid went 4-1 up with Puskás scoring from the spot to grab his second. 4-1 was 5-1 just four minutes later and it was that man Puskás scoring again to complete his hat-trick. Real Madrid broke after picking up the ball all too easily from an Eintracht corner and eventually a handsome through ball from Luis del Sol perfectly found Francisco Gento who fired the ball across the box for Puskás to knock home. Eleven minutes after their fifth Europe's finest side grabbed a sixth as Puskás nabbed his fourth. Di Stefano drove the ball into the box where Puskás, in plenty of space, turned and powered the ball home. The Spaniards really were ruthless. A minute after Puskás made it 6-1 it was 6-2, however. Erwin Stein did well to keep hold of the ball before firing it into the net. Stein would grab another consolation four minutes later after Real Madrid failed to clear the ball, a rare mistake from the Spaniards, but inbetween his two goals Real Madrid grabbed a seventh. Di Stefano became the second player to grab a hat-trick for Real Madrid that night as a thunderbolt shot rattled the net with the goalkeeper almost looking keen to get out of the way. 7-3 was the final score.

This pulsating European Cup final is to date the highest scoring final the competition has ever seen and, along with a 4-0 FC Bayern München victory in a 1974 replay, it is also the joint highest winning margin in a final. Real Madrid's era of dominance abruptly came to an end the following season, however. Having lost out to arch rivals FC Barcelona in the league title race, Barça then beat them 4-3 on aggregate in the first round of the 1960-61 European Cup. Barça lost to SL Benfica in the final and Benfica would win the competition two seasons running defeating Real Madrid themselves in the final a season later. A further final defeat for Real Madrid followed in 1964 before winning the competition again in 1966 but it would be then another 15 years before they reached the final again and a further ten before they won it. 

That memorable night at Hampden was a fitting end to an era, one that had seen Real Madrid truly dominate European club football.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Real Madrid, Champions League final, 2002
Our final match, the 2002 UEFA Champions League final, is mostly remembered for one moment - Zinadine Zidane's goal. But What a goal it was!

Real Madrid had won the European Cup/Champions League a record eight times whilst opponents Bayer 04 Leverkusen had one sole UEFA Cup title to the name, the one major highlight of a mostly unglamorous history in UEFA competitions. The pair were due to meet in the final of the 2001-02 Champions League at Hampden Park and unsurprisingly Real Madrid were favourites.

When the match got underway it didn't take long for a couple of goals to be scored. The first goal came for Real Madrid and it took just 9 minutes for them to take the lead. A low shot from Raúl found the net after Hans-Joerg Butt went to ground early and messed up what should have been an easy save. Leverkusen were level just five minutes later, however, when a Lúcio header from six yards out found the net after a cross from the left. A shock equaliser.

It was almost 1-1 at the break but in first-half stoppage time, Frenchman Zinedine Zidane had other ideas. The Real Madrid star and World Cup winner scored one of the all-time classic Champions League/European Cup final goals. The right footed £47m man hit a left footed volley from 17 yards out smashing it into the back of the net after a high ball into the box from Roberto Carlos dipped. A truly sensational goal from, at the time, the world's most expensive footballer. Wow factor 8 or 9 as Zidane single handedly put his side back in front.

Leverkusen looked the better team for large parts of the second-half but never really threatened the Real Madrid goal too much, their only real chance coming when Dimitar Berbatov headed over from 10 yards out. Real Madrid had chances of their own through Fernando Morientes and Míchel Salgado but ultimately there were no goals in that second period. 

Zinedine Zidane had produced what would end up being one of the iconic moments of European football in the Champions League era. He had won Real Madrid the Champions League by scoring an absolutely stunning goal to earn them yet another European title.

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Saturday 4 April 2020

Crossword Puzzle #5

It's been a few weeks but I am back with another crossword puzzle. 

Click here to have a go - The theme is the Premier League in the 1990s.

Wednesday 1 April 2020

1986 and the Miracle of The Grotenburg

At half-time in the second leg, it was 5-1 on aggregate and the result seemed a foregone conclusion. Football is a funny old game, however, and as the second-half would show the impossible is not always as impossible as it seems. Footballing miracles do happen and on this chilly March evening we would see a second-half of the like no one could ever have imagined, and that was just the half of it! This is the story of the Miracle of The Grotenburg.

When clubs from the GDR (German Democratic Republic ie East Germany) faced off against their German counterparts in the west it was nearly always the West German teams who came out on top. This meant when West German side Bayer 05 Uerdingen were paired against SG Dynamo Dresden from the East in the quarter finals of 1985-86 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup it was obvious they would be favourites. Of the thirteen previous East v West ties in European competition 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig's 2-1 aggregate victory over SV Werder Bremen two seasons earlier was the only time a side from the GDR had triumphed over any of their West German counterparts. 

Nowadays known as KFC Uerdingen 05 and playing in the third tier of German football, Bayer Uerdingen have never been one of the countries biggest names. The club have not featured in the top flight Bundesliga for almost 25 years and were playing sixth tier football as little as nine years ago only just reaching the 3. Liga last season after two straight promotions. Between 1983 and 1991, however, the club spent eight consecutive seasons in the Bundesliga and during that period the club saw their greatest ever moment when they won the DFB-Pokal (cup) in 1985. The club lifted the trophy after a 2-1 win over the might of FC Bayern München who with two league games still left to play had all but won what would be their seventh Bundesliga title and the first of what would become five in six seasons.

That DFB-Pokal triumph guaranteed Bayer Uerdingen a place in the following season's Cup Winners' Cup which of course brought them that quarter final tie with East German rivals, Dynamo Dresden. Now in the third tier of football in a unified Germany, Dresden were a big name in GDR football and at that point had six Oberliga titles to their name making them country's second most successful club after BFC Dynamo the team of the Stasi (secret police). Dresden had won the previous two editions of the FDGB-Pokal and finished runners up to BFC Dynamo in the Oberliga during both of those cup winning campaigns. The previous season they had fell victim to SK Rapid Wien of Austria in the quarter final stage of the Cup Winners' Cup and were this time around hoping to progress even further. 

Dynamo Dresden were managed by ex East German international Klaus Sammer and part of their squad at the time was his son. A young Matthias Sammer made his debut for the club at the beginning of the 1985/86 season and would go on to play 23 times for the GDR national team before making a further 51 appearances for a unified Germany in which he was a key member of the side that won the European Championships in 1996. The Dynamo side at that time also included several experienced GDR internationals such as Ulf Kirsten, Jörg Stübner, and Reinhard Haefner, as opposed to Bayer Uerdingen who were largely devoid of any star names. Having said that, although some of Dynamo's players were big stars back home they were not so well known outside their homeland.

To reach the quarter finals Bayer Uerdingen had defeated Maltese minnows Żurrieq 12-0 on aggregate and then Galatasaray 3-1 over two legs with that 12-0 scoreline amazingly eclipsed by AIK Solna who defeated Red Boys Differdange of Luxembourg 13-0 in the same round. Dynamo Dresden, meanwhile, had defeated Cercle Brugge on the away goals rule and HJK Helsinki 7-3 on aggregate. For the quarter finals, Dynamo Dresden were drawn out first and would play Bayer Uerdingen at home in the first leg which would take place in March of the following year.

The East German government, as usual on these occasions, wanted to showcase their states superiority over their West German neighbours and were desperate for a Dynamo Dresden victory. Of course, if political point scoring was the name of the game then in the first leg Dynamo certainly did their bit. For a country paranoid about outside influences, security was in overdrive with every move of the visitors monitored. Whatever effect these conditions would have had on the visitors it certainly looked as if they didn't help as Dynamo managed a 2-0 victory thanks to goals from Frank Lippmann, more on him later, and Hans-Uwe Pilz. 2-0 by no means guaranteed progression to the semi finals but it certainly gave Dynamo the advantage going into the second leg.

If visitors to the GDR were strictly monitored well so too were citizens of the GDR when they travelled to the west. In normal circumstances, GDR citizens were unable to travel abroad outside the Soviet bloc but in professional football, these opportunities were more common. It was possible for a player with a dubious background to be denied the opportunity to join his teammates abroad in the west but for anyone allowed to travel they were under strict surveillance. Fratenisation with their western counterparts was heavily controlled and western influences kept to a minimum. There had also been in the past several occasions when East German sportsmen participating in competitions in the west had decided to escape from their party and defect to West Germany. This was known as Republikflucht and was something which angered officials back home. All of this meant the players of Dynamo Dresden really would have been watched like a hawk by the various officials travelling across to the west with them. Players working for the Stasi and spying on their own teammates was also not uncommon.

The second leg was to be shown live on West German television taking preference over the FC Bayern München/Anderlecht European Cup tie taking place that same night. Being an all-German affair Bayer/Dynamo was deemed by public broadcaster ZDF to be a better fit than the game in Munich even though that was technically a bigger match in footballing terms. Some viewers were not happy with this decision.

There had been a sell-out crowd of over 35000 in Dresden for the first leg whilst the second leg was also a sell-out as over 22000 turned up at Bayer Uerdingen's Grotenburg-Kampfbahn home and boy would those on the packed terraces be in for a cracker. At half-time, however, the tie seemed to be all but over. Dynamo Dresden had taken the lead after just 55 seconds thanks to a thumping header from Ralf Minge and although 12 minutes later another header, this time from Wolfgang Funkel, drew the hosts level Dresden ended up 3-1 in front at the break. Frank Lippmann poked the ball home at the near post after excellent build up play on 36 minutes whilst an own goal from Rudi Bommer six minutes later gave the visitors a seemingly unassailable 5-1 aggregate lead - cue even more complaints that ZDF had picked the wrong game.

A collision that injured Dynamo's keeper at 2-1 saw an inexperienced substitute in Jens Ramme end up between the posts for the visitors and he would certainly find himself busy in the second period. For those that thought it was game over there was a surprise in store! For the first 13 minutes of the second period, however, Dynamo held firm and no one suspected the goal glut that would follow. When Bayer Uerdingen were awarded a penalty on 58 minutes and Funkel grabbed his second by scoring from the spot it was seen as no more than a consolation yet events over the next 21 minutes meant it turned out to be anything but.

Bayer Uerdingen drew level on the night at 3-3 just four minutes after that penalty and although Icelander Lárus Guðmundsson will claim the goal it did take a heavy deflection off Minge. At this point, the home side were still two goals behind on aggregate and the away goals rule meant they actually needed three more without reply to win the tie and make it through to the semi finals at Dynamo's expense. Two minutes later, however, Wolfgang Schäfer scored on the half volley at an acute angle and some did begin to wonder if the truly impossible could happen? On 78 minutes Bayer substitute Dietmar Klinger ran past several players before unleashing a low drive into the bottom right corner of the net from just outside the box and the home side suddenly lead 5-3 on the night with only one goal needed to complete the most remarkable of comebacks. Yes, maybe the impossible could happen!

When a handball in the box saw Bayer Uerdingen awarded a penalty just a minute after they'd grabbed their fifth Funkel was given his chance to not only complete his hat-trick but also give his side the lead on aggregate. Ramme dived the right way but Funkel sent the ball through his arms and the impossible had happened, Bayer Uerdingen had scored five without reply in the second-half to somehow put themselves 6-3 up on the night, 6-5 up on aggregate, and more importantly firmly in the driving seat having pretty much been stuck in the boot at half-time. The scenes were wild, the players went crazy, and the fans were going berserk. Something so utterly ridiculous that not even the most ardent of home supporters would have contemplated had actually happened. Yes, at half-time Bayer had needed five without reply to win the tie and yes that is exactly what they had managed!

One goal for Dynamo Dresden and they would be back in pole position, however, and evidently their hosts were feeling a little nervy. Werner Vollack in the Bayer Uerdingen goal was soon forced to make a vital save and now it almost felt as if his side were clinging on for dear life. Bayer needn't have worried, however, as when on 86 minutes they were able quickly clear the ball forward from a Dynamo corner Schäfer was able to score from the resulting counter attack by firing home from the rebound after Ramme came out to block his initial effort when he was given the ball. The result was well and truly secure now! Bayer Uerdingen had done it!

By the end of the match over 16 million people were watching the events on West German television, over a quarter of the country's population at that time, and when the final whistle blew viewers in the two nations were no doubt left stunned. Remarkable, unbelievable, stunning, crazy, sensational, impossible, you could use all of these words and more to describe what happened in the second-half that night, but whatever words you use it was a comeback of the like you rarely ever see. The events on the pitch were so unlikely and improbable that they would be remembered for years to come.

If the match was incredible, however, events afterwards were possibly even more so. A first-half goal from close range aside, Frank Lippmann had not really made an impression on the pitch in the second leg but he certainly caused a stir afterwards. The morning after the game Lippmann escaped from the team's hotel through an underground car park and committed Republikflucht. Lippmann would later claim his daring escape was more of a spur of the moment thing as opposed to something he'd meticulously planned in advance. He'd always wanted to play in the Bundesliga and without really thinking too much about it took his chance. Lippmann would eventually join 1. FC Nürnberg but made only six appearances for them before joining SV Waldhof Mannheim and later moving to Austria in a largely unsuccessful and at times injury plagued post GDR career. 

Lippmann by all accounts had been an enigma as far as the East German state was concerned. For years the Stasi had reportedly been trying to recruit him as an informant but every time he was approached he steadfastly refused to co-operate. Now all the authorities could do was watch on helplessly as made a new life for himself in the west, albeit whilst taking some comfort out the fact his career in the west was far from successful. 

With such a humiliating result and a case of Republikflucht following it, there was bound to be repercussions. Klaus Sammer, for example, did not last long at Dynamo after the game. A state security report on the match and in particular the incidents that followed it stated in reference to the head coach that 'the working methods of the above mentioned comrade no longer meet the requirements'. Sammer was not the only casualty at the club either with captain Hans-Jürgen Dörner suddenly considered surplus to requirements and forced into early retirement. Another player forced into early retirement was Bernd Jakubowski who had started in goal for Dynamo before being substituted due to injury in the first half. It turned out Jakubowski had broken his shoulder and he would sadly never play again. 

Dynamo eventually recovered to win the Oberliga in 1989 and 1990, completing the double in the latter of those two seasons. In 1989 they also reached the semi finals of the UEFA Cup but lost to West German side VfB Stuttgart, this was one of three East v West ties after the Grotenburg affair and the western sides won all three. Despite some successes in the short term, long term Dynamo's future would be one of struggle. Post reunification, the club lasted only four seasons in the Bundesliga before relegation in 1995 and have spent most of the years since in the third and fourth tiers.

Over in Uerdingen, after defeating Dynamo Dresden, there was a Cup Winners' Cup semi final to look forward to. Bayer Uerdingen faced Club Atlético de Madrid for a place in the final and a 1-0 defeat away in Madrid in the first leg was far from terrible, but going 2-0 down at home in the second leg meant another miracle was needed. Bayer were unable to conjure up more heroics, however, and lost the game 3-2 to bow out of the competition 4-2 on aggregate. Despite the victory, things did not end well for Atlético though as they lost 3-0 to Dynamo Kyiv in the final.

The following season Bayer Uerdingen lost 4-0 on aggregate to FC Barcelona in the third round of the UEFA Cup but have never been anywhere near European competition since. In 1991 the club were relegated from the Bundesliga and so began their slow decline and the lower tier struggles described earlier. 

That magical night at the Grotenburg-Kampfbahn, the 'miracle of the Grotenburg' as they now call it, was in some ways the beginning of the end for Bayer Uerdingen. It is a night, however, that will certainly live long in the memory and a comeback that is up there with some of the greatest footballing turnarounds of all-time. 

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