Friday 17 December 2021

The Year the Bundesliga Dominated the UEFA Cup

The winning goal in the 1980 UEFA Cup final came late on in the second-leg and saw the trophy handed to a West German club for a third time. It was always going to be a West German winner, at least right from the moment the quarter-final stage came to a close with all four ties having seen a West German side triumph.

For the 1979-80 UEFA Cup campaign there were actually five West German entrants in total with the lone side who did not make the semi-final stage only exiting one round earlier. All of the East German contingent may have exited before the third round, but it was a season in which West Germany well and truly made the competition their own and for West German football lovers it would certainly be a fascinating watch especially come the business end of the tournament.

Of the five, Borussia Mönchengladbach were actually the current UEFA Cup holders having defeated FK Crvena zvezda 2-1 on aggregate in the previous year’s final. They had also won the tournament in 1975 and finished runners up in 1973. After winning three consecutive Bundesliga titles between 1975 and 1977, and finishing European Cup runners up in the final of those three campaigns, Gladbach finished in second the following season before a disappointing tenth-placed finish last time out.

In the three years immediately before Gladbach's trio of championships, it was fellow participants FC Bayern München who had also won three Bundesliga titles in a row. Between 1974 and 1976 they also won a hat-trick of European Cup titles, succeeding where Gladbach had not. Now under the guise of Hungarian manager Pál Csernai, Bayern would also be crowned Bundesliga champions again come the end of the season and their side included Karl-Heinz Rummenigge who would both that year and the next win the prestigious Ballon d'Or award given to the best player in Europe (and since 1995 the world).

Also joining West Germany's two most successful clubs of recent times in that season's UEFA Cup were 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Eintracht Frankfurt, and VfB Stuttgart. In the previous season, Stuttgart and Kaiserslautern had finished their league campaigns second and third respectively behind champions Hamburger SV. Stuttgart had reached the UEFA Cup semi-finals six years earlier but otherwise had very little European experience whilst Kaiserslautern's best European performance to date was a quarter-final UEFA Cup exit in 1973. Eintracht Frankfurt, meanwhile, had finished fifth last time around and although they had never been real title contenders in recent times, they had won the DFB-Pokal two seasons running in 1974 and 1975. Also, having finished European Cup runners up in 1960 they reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1976 but their European record in the intervening years was rather mixed.

Kaiserslautern were the one West German side not to make the semi-finals, losing to Bayern in an all German quarter-final tie. Kaiserslautern’s progression to the quarter-final stage had been fairly uneventful but as for Bayern, however, they had been involved in a two-legged 4-3 thriller in the third round. A 2-0 first-leg home win over Crvena zvezda might have had the hosts thinking they were all but through to the next round, but their Yugoslav opponents had other ideas. 3-0 down after 49 minutes of the second-leg in Belgrade having been totally outclassed up to that point, Bayern looked like they could be crashing out of the competition having failed to regain their composure after a disastrous opening 45 minutes. 20 minutes into that second-half, however, Bayern grabbed a priceless away goal through Dieter Hoeneß, brother of the more famous Uli who had recently left the club, to put them back in the driving seat. Three minutes later Hoeneß claimed a second meaning the Yugoslavs now needed to score twice, something they would fail to do. Hoeneß's first came from close range with his second from the edge of the box - both more than enough to send Bayern through to the next round and that Kaiserslautern tie.

A strong second-half to the season would see Kaiserslautern lose only three times after the winter break. This was enough to see the club end the season in fourth place but obviously not enough to stop Bayern from winning the title. In the first-half of their campaign, Kaiserslautern had lost 2-0 to Bayern but in the second part of their season, they managed all three outcomes of win, lose, and draw against their Bundesliga counterparts. A league draw fell between two UEFA Cup legs that saw Kaiserslautern defeat Bayern at home before losing to them away in Bavaria. Kaiserslautern won 1-0 at the Fritz-Walter-Stadion and were 1-0 up within 13 minutes of the second-leg at the Olympiastadion in Munich. But in the end, Bayern's attacking prowess shone through and four goals, three of which came in the second-half, including two from Hoeneß, saw Bayern into the semis. However, 2-1 up and still losing on away goals it wasn't until a Paul Breitner penalty on 70 minutes to put them two goals ahead that they finally found themselves in the driving seat. As for star man Hoeneß, twice on the scoresheet again, his seven goals across that season's competition would make him joint top goalscorer alongside Gladbach's Harold Nickel.

Of the other three, Stuttgart’s drama came in round one against Torino whilst for Eintracht and Gladbach they were both involved in second round extra-time thrillers.

A 1-0 home win gave Stuttgart the initiative going into their second-leg but defeat by the same scoreline at the Stadio Comunale in Turin forced extra-time. Things got worse for the visitors when Torino grabbed a second goal a minute before the end of the first additional period and it looked as if Stuttgart were set to be knocked out. Right at the death in the 120th minute, however, a diving header from Hermann Ohlicher gave Stuttgart the vital goal that would level the tie at 3-3 and see them progress to the next round via the away goals rule. Torinio had tried to clear the ball but it landed straight at the feet of a Stuttgart man who found Ohlicher in the box and the midfielder who would spend his whole career at the club did his thing. Stuttgart also needed the away goals rule to get through round two. But although over the years there were some cracking East v West German ties in European competition their progression past Dynamo Dresden was not really one of them with a 0-0 second-leg at home coming after a 1-1 draw away in the East.

It was a case of two 1-1 draws for Gladbach against Internazionale of Milan as 180 minutes of action could not separate the pair. The two sides had famously met eight years earlier in the European Cup when a 7-1 first-leg win for Gladbach was later annulled because one of the visiting Inter players had been hit by a Coca-Cola bottle. The match was replayed and Inter advanced after winning the tie 4-2. This time it was the West Germans who came out on top, however.

Gladbach were managed by ex-player Jupp Heynckes who had recently replaced the great Udo Lattek and, desperate to prove himself, he would have been disappointed when his Gladbach side only managed a 1-1 draw at home in what had been a fairly open first-leg in which both teams had created plenty of chances.

Things then started badly in the second-leg at the San Siro when a gifted free header saw Inter take the lead on 24 minutes. But the scoreline was 1-1 at the interval after an equaliser from Harald Nickel, one of Heynckes new summer recruits, just nine minutes after his side had fallen behind. Nickel smashed the ball into the net off the underside of the crossbar, having beautifully brought it down on his chest. A goalless second-half forced extra-time but within four minutes of the restart Alessandro Altobelli, scorer of both of Inter's two goals in the tie so far, put the Italians back in front. Gladbach did not give up, however, and ten minutes later, having already had a goal disallowed, they were back level in the tie and ahead on the away goals rule. Substitute Norbert Ringels was the unlikely saviour, firing the ball into the top corner. Unsure whether to stick or twist, Gladbach opted to play defensive but were nearly caught out only for a goal that would have put Inter back in front to be ruled offside. The Gladbach defence then held firm, however, and catching Inter on the break they won a penalty during the second period of extra-time which saw Ringels slot the ball home to see off their opponents for good.

Eintracht's extra-time antics came after both games ended 2-0, the second of which had late drama in normal time to force those two extra periods. Defeat away at Dinamo București, a side who would reach the semi-finals of the European Cup four years later before losing to eventual winners Liverpool, came despite Eintracht having created plenty of chances themselves but was followed by victory in the second-leg. In that second match, it took until a minute into injury time for Eintracht to grab their second through Hölzenbein which was helped by a fumble from the opposition goalkeeper. Four minutes into the first of the extra periods Bernd Nickel, namesake of Gladbach star Harold, was on hand to slot home a third for the hosts from an acute angle and put them ahead in the tie. Knowing a goal for the visitors would see them ahead via the away goals rule, Eintracht opted for a defensive approach and held on with no further goals for a 3-2 aggregate victory. There would be less drama for Eintracht in the next round when a stunning display saw the tie all but over after 60 minutes of the first -eg with the Frankfurters 4-0 up through four separate goalscorers. A 1-0 second-leg defeat away in Rotterdam saw Eintracht defeat Feyenoord 4-2 on aggregate.

The quarter-final draw brought us not only that all German affair between Kaiserslautern and Bayern but also gave us what on the face of it seemed a mouth-watering tie when Gladbach were drawn against AS Saint-Étienne. Having won three French Ligue Un titles in a row between 1974 and 1976 and finished European Cup runners up in the last of those three seasons, Saint-Étienne had not fared quite so well in the years since. But hoping to improve their fortunes they had recently signed two big name stars in French international Michel Platini and Dutch star, and twice World Cup runner up, Johnny Rep. A year away from another league title they were, however, more than a little underwhelming against their West German opposition.

Losing the first-leg 4-1 at home, Saint-Étienne ended up losing the tie 6-1 on aggregate having been on the back foot for much of 180 minutes. An incredible display of counter attacking football in the first-leg, something Gladbach were very adept at, saw Nickel and Carsten Nielsen both score twice with all four goals for the visitors coming within a 16 minute period in the first-half and just seven minutes separating the first three. For his second which made it 3-0, Nielsen picked up the ball on the edge of the centre circle and beat several men before slotting home. For the fourth, Gladbach 'keeper Wolfgang Kneib threw the ball forward and Nickel latched onto it inside his own half, he then knocked it forward before beating a sliding challenge to get hold of the ball once more and from there running into the box and turning past two defenders before smashing the ball home. From one end to the other in seconds and the French side unable to stop them.

In the second-leg, Gladbach were 2-0 up within 15 minutes before letting their foot off the gas a little with the tie all but over. Although Saint-Étienne had played well in brief spells, Gladbach were ruthless at times and no one could really argue with the final outcome of the tie.

In the other quarter-final ties, Stuttgart defeated Lokomotiv Sofia 4-1 on aggregate and Eintracht defeated Zbrojovka Brno. Although two late goals saw Eintracht lose 3-2 away at the Czech side they had already, with four different scorers, comfortably won 4-1 on home soil so it did not stop them from progressing to the next stage. 

With four of the five West German sides in the quarter-finals progressing, the competition was, of course, now an all West German affair with a West German name guaranteed to be on the trophy. With the two biggest names left in the competition - Bayern and Gladbach - separated in the semi-final draw it was assumed a Bayern/Gladbach final would be on the cards – but things don’t always go as planned.

When FC Bayern beat Eintracht 2-0 at home in the first-leg of their semi-final, most German football watchers thought it was a case of tie over, after all, Bayern were heading for the Bundesliga title and Eintracht were hovering around mid table. How wrong they were! A Bayern side on the verge of the championship with several German internationals in their squad were supposed to be too much for their visitors from Frankfurt and it was big international star Breitner along with the lesser capped Hoeneß brother who between them scored Bayern’s first-leg goals that suggested they were. In the second-leg, however, a shock was in store. 

Behind thanks to a first-half goal from well capped Austrian international Bruno Pezzey which was poked home after a scramble in the box, Bayern, nonetheless, came within three minutes of securing a place in the final. Unfortunately for Bayern, however, right at the death Pezzey again found the net. This time it was a bullet header to send the home crowd wild and the game into extra-time. On a night that would be remembered by some for erratic goalkeeping from both stoppers, there was plenty more action to be had with a further four goals in the two extra 15 minute periods that followed and to the surprise of many, it was Eintracht who came out on top.

On the stroke of half-time in extra-time, Bayern scored what many thought was the vital away goal to send them through having fallen further behind on the night thanks to a Harold Karger strike just two minutes earlier. That Bayern goal was a long range effort from Wolfgang Dremmler that Eintracht goalkeeper Jürgen Pahl, who had fled East Germany four years earlier, should have probably stopped. The home crowd had suddenly been silenced. But the problem for the visitors was that Eintracht went on to score twice more without reply in the second period. Firstly, Karger, signed for 25,000 Deutschmarks the previous summer from Hessenliga side FC Burgsolms aged 23, was on the scoresheet again with a header of his own, one of several that would gain him the nickname "Schädel-Harry" (Skull-Harry). That came before, secondly, Werner Lorant finished the scoring from the penalty spot and the upset was complete. 

In the other semi-final, Gladbach would have to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit to reach the final. That first match of the tie in Stuttgart remained goalless until the 73rd minute in what was a cagey affair. The visitors took the lead and held onto it until the final five minutes when two Stuttgart goals sealed victory for the hosts with the second coming from the penalty spot. The second-leg was more of a fiery encounter but one that saw Gladbach turn the tie back in their favour with a goal in each half. The first of these was a diving header scored by a young Lothar Matthäus with the future World Cup winner at the time aged just 19. The second came from Winfried Schäfer who turned beautifully before finding the far corner of the net from the left hand side of the box. Those goals secured Gladbach a 3-2 aggregate victory and, of course, a place in the final against Eintracht. As for scorer of the second goal Schäfer, some may remember him as head coach of Cameroon at the 2002 World Cup. But never capped by Germany, that was the closest he ever came to playing international football himself.

Of course, it was not until 1998 that the UEFA Cup final was changed to a standalone match and so the 1979-80 final, as had been the case with previous years, would be a two-legged affair with the first-leg taking place at Gladbach's Bökelbergstadion.

Gladbach, as we know, despite not having had the European Cup successes of FC Bayern, still had a European pedigree greater than that of Eintracht. Eintracht had, however, beaten Gladbach 5-2 in mid-March and would finish only four points behind them in the final league standings. Despite this, and perhaps because of their greater European experience, it was Gladbach who went into the final as favourites. Also, If FC Bayern had been West Germany’s most successful side over the previous decade then Gladbach had clearly been second in command, albeit now not quite the force they had been just a few years earlier. But as we’d seen with Bayern in the previous round, however, stature mattered for nothing, and it was the underdogs who opened the scoring in the first-leg against the more favoured home side.

Gladbach went into the final in a confident mood but it wasn’t quite so simple for Eintracht. In the weeks leading up to the final, Eintracht were distracted by the uncertain futures of several key players who had either been linked with moves elsewhere or had stalled on contract negotiations. Meanwhile, on the pitch, Eintracht would for the final be without star player Jürgen Grabowski. Injured in that league win over Gladbach thanks to a bad challenge from Gladbach’s young starlet Matthäus, it was an injury that would sadly end his career. Talk of him potentially being fit enough for a second-leg start was very much misguided. Grabowski had featured for West Germany in the 1970 and 1974 World Cup and having made 536 appearances for Eintracht, it made him the second highest all-time appearance holder for the club just ahead of teammate Bernd Nickel in third.

The missing Grabowski and fellow stalwart Nickel aside, the club did not have any big names in their squad although they did, unusually for the time, have a South Korean amongst their ranks in Cha Bum-Kun. At the time linked with a move to Bayern but ultimately staying at Eintracht, Cha's 136 international caps are still today a joint South Korean record.

In contrast to the above, Karger, who actually scored that opening goal of the final, would make just 41 appearances for Eintracht. Schädel-Harry left the field with a torn cruciate ligament later in the game and the semi-final hero would only make a few more appearances for the club before being forced to retire early in part because of that earlier injury. 

Before taking the lead, Eintracht had already created several chances but having started much the better side their goal came as Gladbach were finding their way back into the game and was scored somewhat against the run of play. Scorer Karger beat Kneib to get on the end of a Nickel corner with his head. At 1-0 down Gladbach began to wobble again but on the stroke of half-time, it was they who grabbed the equaliser. Despite the visitors playing with growing confidence, an excellent save from Pahl saw the ball fall towards Polish born midfielder Christian Kulik who duly scored. Club captain Kulik, in his ninth season with Gladbach, controlled the ball beautifully before finding the top corner with Pahl left helpless.

The second-half would see first Eintracht retake the lead but Gladbach ultimately win the game. Gladbach were on the back foot for much of that second period and it was 20 minutes from time that Eintracht went back in front. Frankfurter native Ronny Borchers found himself with the ball in plenty of space on the right hand side and his cross into the box was met by the head of captain Bernd Hölzenbein. Hölzenbein's header was a spectacular one of the diving variety it only kept the visitors back in front for five minutes as Matthäus soon drilled the ball home for the equaliser. The winning goal that followed did not come until the 88th minute when Eintracht, seemingly holding on for a draw were undone by a diving header from Kulik that more than matched Hölzenbein's similar earlier effort for quality. 

Gladbach hadn’t had it all their own way in the first-leg and a trip to Frankfurt for the second instalment of the final didn't look like it would be as straightforward as they would have hoped. Meanwhile, with two away goals to their name Eintracht entered the field for that second-leg in a confident frame of mind in front of a capacity crowd of almost 60,000 at their Waldstadion home. Norbert Nachtweih replaced Karger but otherwise, it was an unchanged line-up for the home side whilst Gladbach made two changes in midfield and reverted from 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 formation perhaps thinking an extra man in midfield might help them control play.

As it happened the match was a cagey affair and although Eintracht were the better side in the opening 45 minutes, they were largely restricted to long range efforts and, behind in the tie, head coach Friedel Rausch demanded more from his players in the second-half. Eintracht spent much of that second period probing the Gladbach defence but as the half wore on Gladbach had chances of their own including a powerfully struck free-kick from Matthäus that forced Pahl into an important save. Then as the end of the game drew closer and the Gladbach players started to feel as if they might get their hands on the trophy for a second season running it all went pear shaped for them. Rausch brought on a substitute who would win Eintracht the game and hand his side the UEFA Cup trophy. Fred Schaub was that man, and his winning goal came after some intricate play when Eintracht broke forward on 81 minutes. Eventually, Schaub got hold of the ball and ran halfway through the box before driving the ball past Kneib in the Gladbach goal and then racing off in delight. 

1-0 down, Gladbach swept forward in desperation but time ran out and, thanks to the away goals rule, it was Eintracht Frankfurt who won the UEFA Cup after, in the words of Kulik, Borussia Mönchengladbach had "screwed it up in the second-leg." Wild celebrations followed from the Eintracht squad as those in red hugged each other in scenes of unbridled joy whilst the masses of home support in the stadium raised the roof. Shortly afterwards there were emotional scenes, however, as just before Hölzenbein lifted the UEFA Cup trophy the fans were chanting the name of their injured hero Grabowski who would have almost certainly featured in the final had he been fit enough.

It was a case of sheer dejection from the visiting Gladbach contingent, however. In many ways the end of an era, it was what had ended up being a missed opportunity for them, one final shot at glory, what would have been one last hurrah shall we say. Having won the Bundesliga just three seasons earlier they would not win it again although they did remain competitive at times. However, regularly featuring in the UEFA Cup throughout much of the 1980s the closest they came to reaching the final again was a semi-final defeat to Dundee United in 1987. 

As for Eintracht, whilst the 1980 final essentially failed to be one last hurrah for Gladbach, it wasn’t exactly the start of anything spectacular for themselves. Invited to the City Hall for an audience with the mayor, once the festivities died down there was little in the way of progression other than a lone DFB-Pokal triumph the following year.

Despite having only taken charge in the January of the previous year, manager Rausch was immediately out the door for pastures new having decided to leave for Istanbul and Fenerbahçe SK with club captain Hölzenbein heading for America and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers a year later. With this upheaval, Bundesliga success continued to elude Eintracht. Meanwhile, failing to defend their UEFA Cup crown with an away goals defeat to FC Sochaux-Montbéliard of France in the third round for much of the following decade they failed to even qualify for Europe.