In our new column, the latest addition to the Fanatic team, Wolfgang Steiner, uses some of his exhaustive historical knowledge of German football to cast the eye back and review the best and most famous Bundesliga games of bygone years. And what better way to start this new segment with a look back at the classic VfL Bochum-Bayern Munich tie from the 1976/77 season, long regarded as perhaps the greatest game the Bundesliga has ever seen.
VfL Bochum 5 Bayern Munich 6
Place: Bochum, Ruhrstadion
Time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Date: 18 September 1976
Referee: Horstmann (Niederstemmen)
The 18th of September 1976 was a hot Saturday afternoon in every aspect. The temperature was sidling up to a sweltering 30 degrees Celsius and in Bochum’s old Ruhr stadium, the locals were eagerly anticipating their side VfL welcoming the seemingly overpowering FC Bayern Munich, a side which had just been crowned European Cup winners for the third time in succession.
Naturally, the demand for tickets was overpowering. Unfortunately, due to modernization measures, the Ruhr stadium’s capacity had been temporarily reduced to only 18,000 leaving many struggling to get into the game.
But the lucky 18,000 who made their way into the stadium were fully enthusiastic about the game, as always when the guests from the capital of Bavaria were in the city. Despite the enthusiasm, there was little expectation. That was because when the all-conquering Bayern walked into the stadium in those years, just enjoying the game would be the level-headed fan’s best bet.
….and enjoy it they did, although there was nothing level-headed about the events that transpired on that pressure-cooker of a Saturday afternoon. For those lucky enough to witness it, the events of that date are possibly still fresh in memory. Bochum, little VfL Bochum were at one stage up 4-0 against a Bayern side that contained Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller & company. But if that was a dream, what followed was even more surreal. The European Cup winners justified the cliché of ‘never counting out the champions’ as they started a comeback of epic proportions; one that would go down into Bundesliga history as unique. It became a game for the ages. After the final whistle, the spectators descended the stairways inside the Ruhr stadium silently and slowly, like marionettes, an expression of helplessness in their faces. A rare spectacle had just ended, a spectacle that was outside the standard scope of a Bundesliga game, and it was hard to soberly allocate the final score to reality.
Yet nobody at half time would have bet any money on the guests from Munich.
The hosts had started like pumas off the blocks. The youthful home side had nothing to lose and consequently put the favorites under pressure right from the start.
The first taste of what was to come came after Bochum’s center forward, the (on this day) unstoppable Jupp Kaczor, nutmegged Franz Beckenbauer, making the Kaiser look like a mere commoner. To understand the gravity of that statement would be to consider the standing of the Kaiser in world football at that moment. Beckenbauer was at the peak of his powers then, one of the, if not the best, player in the world and a legend in the making. Here he was being made a fool off by a young Bochum forward. But in this first half reputations mattered little.
Bochum’s pacey forwards (none older than 24) kindled a furious storm that fully muddled their experienced guests. After having nutmegged Beckenbauer, Kaczor rushed towards the Bayern goal, but Katsche Schwarzenbeck managed to stop Kaczor’s solo run at the last moment with a desperate tackle.
But just then, panic on the Bochum bench!
Manager Heinz Höher had to take their all-important sweeper Klaus Franke out of the game due to a thigh injury. Coming into the game Bochum already had to do without their playmaker Jürgen Köper and this blow to Franke made everyone dread the rest of the game. Not too many in the stadium believed that a VfL victory could now be possible. But all pessimists were thoroughly misled!
The young Bochum side controlled the slightly eerie scenery in the construction site stadium. Surprisingly, Höher had brought on a forward for the injured sweeper Franke; Harry Ellbracht. It was a very uncommon measure after only 15 minutes of play but remarkably, Höher’s gamble did pay off.
Höher risked everything, Höher gained everything.
Legendary Bayern coach Dettmar Cramer would later comment on that move. “Before we had adjusted to that,” he said, “Bochum had already scored two goals.”
The first of those two however, was quite unlucky.
After a cross by Harry Ellbracht created uncertainty in the box, Bayern’s Swede Conny Torstensson towered the ball past Sepp Maier into his own goal with a header: 1-0!
But if that dazed Bayern, the absolute stunner came just 15 minutes later.
Jupp Kaczor, who on this day looked like a world-beater, started another irresistible solo run from the middle of the pitch, beating off three Bavarians, then again Beckenbauer. His ensuing, very hard shot left Sepp Maier no chance to parry: 2-0!
This was rapidly becoming a red letter day in Bochum, the fans in the stands were radiating with unprecedented joy at an absolutely superb effort by Bochum’s center forward.
Just three minutes later the atmosphere inside the Ruhr stadium finally boiled over. Schwarzenbeck inexplicably lost the ball to Ellbracht, who rushed towards Maier’s goal all alone, accompanied by deafening roars from the crowd. Despite the obvious excitement, he made no mistake to put the ball past the Bayern keeper: 3-0! Understandably, the VfL fans completely freaked out.
But Bayern were angered and protested, as the linesman had waved his flag before the goal, signalling an off-side position by Ellbracht, but referee Horstmann had ignored it. This was Horstmann’s 100th game as a Bundesliga referee and he was probably not in the mood of letting anyone interfere with his job.
Bayern felt very offended and in his anger, Gerd Müller kicked the ball massively without aim from the kick-off spot. Unluckily for him, the ball found its way to the feet of a Bochum player. Now picture this.
Sepp Maier himself was still arguing with the referee in the middle of the pitch! The Bayern goal was totally empty and the Bochum forward eagerly kicked the ball straight towards the abandoned Bayern goal, but! But!! But!!! He missed it!!!!
An unbelievable scene; a scene of sheer madness and turmoil. The stadium boiled over and was close to exploding, it seemed!
But on their tightrope walk between ultimate peaks and plunge into the depths of football hell, Bayern almost imperceptibly were on the move up again. Enraged by the third goal, the Bayern players seemed to swear a pact that they would not go down like that.
But shortly after the break, Bochum scored the ‘ultimately decisive’ fourth goal, as was the belief among the Bochum supporters. Nothing could take away their victory now, this was a surefire affair – Pochstein had scored: 4-0! In the following minutes, every Bochum player wanted to write down his name in the history books, everyone moved forward trying to score ‘his’ goal. Jupp Tenhagen, the young replacement sweeper, moved up forward instead of dedicating his attention to Gerd Müller, who visibly had intensified his efforts after a very poor performance in the first half. This of course played into the hands of the guests.
Bayern had to fear a high and humiliating defeat, but then Rummenigge found a lot of space for a deep thrust into the Bochum half, and he left goalkeeper Werner Scholz no chance: 4-1! To the Bochum supporters, this was only the honorary goal for the guests. Nobody took it seriously. Nobody begrudged them their goal. The festivities continued.
But what was that?
Schwarzenbeck, unlucky in defense, had taken the bull by the horns. Out of seemingly nowhere, he had moved forward and his hopeful long range shot unexpectedly found the back of the Bochum net: 4-2!
Coming only two minutes after Bayern’s first goal the mood inside the Ruhr stadium suddenly changed from a joyous carnival-like celebration to a more worried one. Not quite anxiety, but a feeling of uneasiness spread around the terraces.
The scenery on the pitch had changed completely. Bayern had tasted blood. Their rage was now canalized, their aim now visible in all clarity: The Bochum goal.
What followed in the next 20 minutes was without precedent and will arguably never be repeated by any side anywhere in the world.
Gerd Müller was now playing in the center forward position, where he belonged, and exploiting the general confusion and fear among the hosts, he scored Bayern’s third goal: 4-3! The faces in the Bochum crowd now showed expressions of horror and disbelief. What the hell is happening here, their expressions said?
Bayern’s manager Dettmar Cramer was seen standing at the sidelines, driving his players forward in an almost excessive manner. Bochum was totally exhausted. After one hour of play, they were left with no reserves, they sorely need a short break, but Bayern had just started their powerplay.
Without mercy, the Bavarians sent wave after wave of attack towards the Bochum goal. The legs and bones of the Bochum players, in the first half seemingly light like a feather, now seemed to weigh a ton.
Ten minutes after Müller’s goal, the inevitable happened.
After a foul on Dürnberger by Bochum keeper Scholz, referee Horstmann pointed towards the penalty spot! Scholz later claimed that he didn’t even touch Dürnberger, claiming that “the weakling simply fell over”. But the fact was that he ran into Dürnberger, who admittedly embellished the situation.
Müller stood at the spot and for a striker who made his name scoring goals the penalty was a formality: 4-4!
Bochum was shocked and paralyzed.
A dream had become a nightmare.
Less than 180 seconds later, the ball again wriggled in the back of the Bochum net. Uli Hoeness had beat off the slow Erich Miss and suddenly the score was: 4-5! Who would have liked to be a Bochum fan in that situation? Was it even conceivable what had happened? Only 20 minutes ago they were up 4-0 looking like the sure winner!
But it seemed as if Bochum had woken up again after this goal. They had been paralyzed long enough, it was now time to react.
Bayern decreased their pressure, being exhausted themselves and this was just the cue for Bochum who drove forward with a belief that they too simply could not let this happen. You simply cannot lose a game that you already had in the bag with a four goal lead. They would become the laughing stock of the whole country. Their honor was at stake.
And amazingly, Bochum managed to fight back, Horst Trimhold scored four minutes after Bayern’s last goal: 5-5! A sigh of relief on the Bochum bench, who had watched the game in shock and apathy previously. Taking one point off Bayern, before the game everyone would have been satisfied with that. At least sanity had been restored.
But this was no ordinary day. It was a day that had already transcended into one of folklore and who else but Uli Hoeness would put Bayern’s final denouement on a game that would go on to be recognized by many as perhaps the greatest Bundesliga match of all time.
Where from Hoeness derived his energy, no one will know, but with a solo run that eerily resembled that of Bochum’s Kaczor in the first half, Hoeness shattered all of Bochum’s dreams. There it was, the game decider, a fitting end to a game without parallels: 5-6! They way this match had been going, it was not too optimistic to presume that Bochum might have pulled a goal back again. But Hoeness’ blow was all the more devastating as it was delivered at the absolute death with less than a minute left on the clock. The timing, for want of a better word, was perfect. For Bayern, this was joy unabated.
For Bochum, their second-half Waterloo was complete.
In the Bochum dressing room the players of the home side sat on their seats, beat and knocked-out, some incapable to comprehend what had happened. Some were also crying. According to Bochum defender Michael ‘Ata’ Lameck, they felt gladness and disappointment at the same time.
They realized they had just been part of the most amazing game ever seen between two Bundesliga sides. That was something.
The outstanding player of the first half, Jupp Kaczor after the game said: “But we already had Bayern so surely beaten and then this! This is unbelievable. I didn’t even know what happened to me.”
Goalkeeper Werner Scholz said simply: “I can’t believe it.”
Holger Trimhold had still not let it sink in: “This simply has not happened,” he said. Bochum’s president Ottokar Wüst however, concentrated on the positives.
“You played fantastic football for 50 minutes,” he told his players. “If Franke and Köper had been able to play, this debacle would not have happened. I don’t only see our break-down in the second 45 minutes, I see our fantastic performance before the break. We’re on the right track.”
All possible superlatives were bestowed upon Bayern for they had staged the most incredibly amazing comeback ever seen in a Bundesliga game. But since this was not a championship-deciding crunch game but only a standard Bundesliga encounter early in the season, this classic game somewhat failed to rank somewhere close to the top in Bayern Munich’s club history, contrary to VfL Bochum, where it still occupies a prominent spot in the club’s lore and myths. Rumour has it that the famous fan friendship between Bayern and Bochum came about after this game.
Scholz – Gerland, Herget, Franke (12. Ellbracht), Lameck – Eggert, Tenhagen, Miss – Trimhold, Kaczor, Pochstein
Maier – Andersson, Beckenbauer, Schwarzenbeck, Hormann – Dürnberger, U.Hoeness, Torstensson (85. Künkel), Kapellmann – G.Müller, K.H.Rummenigge
1-0 Torstensson 24. own goal
2-0 Kaczor 39.
3-0 Ellbracht 43.
4-0 Pochstein 53.
4-1 Rummenigge 54.
4-2 Schwarzenbeck 56.
4-3 Müller 64.
4-4 Müller 73. pen
4-5 Hoeness 76.
5-5 Trimhold 80.
5-6 Hoeness 89.
What happened next:
Juup Kaczor, whose piercing run and dummy had heralded the start of this magical day, would go on to play for Bochum for five more years. He made a total of 142 appearances for the side, scoring a total of 51 goals. He later appeared for Feynoord.
Despite his late heroics, rain clouds were gathering for Uli Hoeness‘ career as a footballer. An injury picked up during the 1975 European Cup win over Leeds hampered him throughout his final years as a footballer. He had to hang up his boots in 1979 aged just 27. He immediately took over as general manager for the Bavarians and after 30 years at the post was last year made into an honorary president.
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