BUNDESLIGA REWIND: Werder Bremen v. Hamburger SV 1982-83

This Bundesliga Rewind is a collaboration between Cris Nyari in NYC and Wolf Steiner in Germany.

Matchday 19 of the 1982/83 Bundesliga season featured one of German football’s most enduring rivalries.  The “Nordderby” pitted a Hamburg side at the peak of their powers against an up and coming Werder Bremen.  At that point it was a derby largely dominated by Hamburg with Bremen winning only 3 times in the last 10 years prior to this match.  It had been some 14 years since Bremen contended for the title while Hamburg was in the midst of a historic unbeaten run.  It was the nation’s dominant side against the perennial outsiders , the veteran striker Horst Hrubesch against the young up and coming Rudi Völler and journeyman manager Otto Rehagel against seasoned and successful former European champion Ernst Happel.

Werder Bremen 3 – 2 Hamburger SV

Place: Bremen, Weserstadion

Time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Date: 29 January 1983

Attendance: 41,000

Referee: Messmer (Mannheim)

Teams' respective line ups. Bremen in green and Hamburg in blue/white.


Erns Happel revolutionized the way Hamburg played and kick-started a historic unbeaten run.

When Ernst Happel took over Hamburg in the summer of 1981, he was the first Bundesliga coach to instill the concept of pressing. He also changed Hamburg’s system from the so-called “mixed marking” (meaning zonal marking in midfield but man-marking in defense) to a complete zonal marking system. The fruits of that risky endeavor were soon to be reaped, as Hamburg won the Bundesliga in Happel’s first season in charge (1981-82). Hamburg had been unbeaten in the league since 16 January 1982.  The last side that managed to beat them was Brunswick. On 2 October 1982 they broke the old unbeaten record, which was 22 straight unbeaten games, established by Eintracht Frankfurt between November 1976 and August 1977.

At the time Hamburg traveled to northern rivals Bremen, they had expanded their unbeaten streak to some 36 games, and people already wondered how long they could keep that amazing streak going. It was a really intimidating record for all of Hamburg’s opponents. The situation in the standings before the game was as follows: HSV was at the top with 28-8 points, Bayern followed with 25-11 and Stuttgart, Cologne and Bremen all on 24-12 points.  Of this group of teams trailing Hamburg, Werder were clearly the biggest outsiders s this was only their second season after having been promoted in 1981. But Werder’s manager Otto Rehhagel knew that his was his team’s best chance at becoming Hamburg’s biggest rival for the title. By beating the presumably invincible Hamburg side, his players could gain a priceless morale boost and at the same time gain the respect of all other contenders if not even instill their own intimidation on opposing sides.

Before the season began, Werder had bought Rudolf Völler from TSV Munich 1860 who had topped the second division’s goal scorers chart with 37 goals along with fellow 1860-player Wolfgang Sidka, a very capable defensive midfielder.  From Concordia Hamburg, a promising youngster with the name of Frank Neubarth joined the roster as well. Rudi Völler in particular was a very treasured player that could have signed with many more renowned clubs but Otto Rehhagel managed to convince him that little Werder Bremen was the right club for him but also instrumental in his signing was the fact that Werder offered his girlfriend a training place for becoming a bank clerk.

Völler’s ascendance to one of Germany’s best strikers was carried out in quick fashion. He scored his first Bundesliga goal for his new club in the second game of the season at Hamburg (1-1) and the next week he scored both goals against Borussia Mönchengladbach. Come January 1983, Völler had scored 11 goals in 15 games and was topping the Bundesliga goal scorers’ chart just like he did in the second division. In November 1982 he had already made his debut for the German national team (he was subbed in for Lothar Matthäus) and it became apparent real fast that there was a star in the making.

Hamburg's Squad 1982-83

The Game:

Before the game Völler had promised the Werder fans to score a goal against arch rivals HSV and he kept his promise in the 41st minute. Benno Möhlmann had crossed the ball but Völler almost could not reach it. He only hit the cross marginally but it was enough to change its direction. Manfred Kaltz could only stop the ball behind the goalline: 1-0! Up to that goal, the game had suffered from a lack of notable events, but things were soon to be spiced up with further goals with Frank Neubarth adding Werder’s second just seconds before the break. 20-year-old Frank Neubarth was a reserve player at that time but Otto Rehhagel had to change his forward line as Norbert Meier and Uwe Reinders, the two standard wingers, were out with injuries.  Rehhagel’s move to withdraw Völler and move Frank Neubarth up front was met with great success as Völler’s marker did not follow him and thus Völler could roam around Hamburg’s half of the pitch at will. Völler exploited this situation in great style, appearing and disappearing like a phantom.

The 1982/83 Bremen squad

In the 26th minute Völler got booked because he had pushed the ball with his hands into Hamburg’s goal and was already celebrating his “goal”. The ref had no tolerance for unfair play like that and thus Völler was rightly booked. Werder’s second goal was set up by Völler in more appealing fashion, having whirled through Hamburg’s troubled defense. With being 2-0 up at the break, it really looked as if Werder could pull of the unimaginable, defeating the yet to be beaten champions from Hamburg. Ernst Happel reacted and brought on a third forward in Lars Bastrup instead of sweeper Holger Hieronymus.

This immediately paid off as Bastrup managed to score Hamburg’s first goal only four minutes into the second half. Werder’s attacking motor started to stutter and spectator Erich Ribbeck remarked that he did not believe that Werder could keep Hamburg at bay during the remaining 40 minutes. Werder’s defense, especially Japanese Yasuhiko Okudera and Johnny Otten did not have their best day but then goalkeeper Dieter Burdenski had a spectacular performance. Werder needed their keeper as HSV was now overwhelming them with wave of attacks that demanded Burdenski to show the whole range of his goalkeeping skills. Hamburg’s pressure was immense but then Werder were relieved as Hamburg made a crucial mistake in defense: Jürgen Groh had hindered his own keeper Uli Stein, who failed to grab a cross by Werder’s Uwe Bracht, Benno Möhlmann was there and his low shot was unstoppable: 3-1!

But Hamburg were not ready to give up. Things became incredibly tense in the dying minutes after Ditmar Jakobs struck back in the 87th minute, but HSV could not manage the equalizer and thus had to face the cold reality of a defeat for the first time in over 12 months! This beating of the reigning champs Hamburg had to be ranked as a first class event in the hosts’ history. Werder had finally ‘arrived’ and proven their verve as a force to be reckoned with in the future.

Hrubesch celebrates his goal against Schalke, the goal that also clinched them the title despite their earlier loss to Bremen.

But Hamburg’s strong performance in the second half reinforced many people’s opinions that they had seen the old and new champion.  Regardless, it was Bremen’s day after some remarkable performance by their two veterans Klaus Fichtel (38!) as sweeper and Uwe Kamp (36!) as well as midfielder Uwe Bracht who, after being plagued by injuries, proved that he still was one of the Bundesliga’s best midfielders. Ernst Happel said after the game: “Well it had to happen someday. Our first defeat was simply due at one time. But this loss will not get over dramatized by us. Bremen’s victory was deserved.”  With this victory, Werder had shaken off the ‘grey mouse’ image. The other top teams were encouraged by seeing that HSV was not infallible. On the same hand, Hamburg was glad that they were finally released from the psychological pressure of having been unbeaten for one year.


Werder Bremen

Burdenski – Okudera, Fichtel, Siegmann, Otten – Möhlmann, Sidka, Bracht (72. Schaaf), Kamp – Neubarth, Völler

Hamburger SV

Stein – Kaltz, Hieronymus (46. Bastrup), D.Jakobs, Wehmeyer – Hartwig, Rolff, Magath, Groh – Hrubesch, Milewski

Goal Scorers:

1-0 Völler 41

2-0 Neubarth 45

2-1 Bastrup 49

3-1 Möhlmann 65

3-2 Jakobs 87

What Came Next?

Hrubesch with a trademark header against Juventus in the European Cup Final.

Despite the setback after a year long unbeaten streak, Hamburg still went on to lift the title for a second consecutive year.  Hamburg lost their second game of the season weeks later at Arminia Bielefeld but kept an overall impressive record over the remainder of the season, winning 10 of their 15 matches.  It was the culmination of all of Ernst Happel’s hard work and Hamburg also made history by winning the European Cup, beating famed Italian champions Juventus Turin in the final.  It was to be the high point of Hamburg’s football history and their “Golden Period.”  Hamburg have since not been able to win another Bundesliga title.

Bremen meanwhile ended the season as the league runners up, a truly impressive accomplishment for a still relatively new Bundesliga side. That run included wins over title contending teams like Bayern Munich and VfB Stuttgart as well as formidable opponents like Borussia Dortmund and Köln.  Völler finished as the league’s top scorer and would go on to become one of his generations most formidable strikers.   In the next three seasons Bremen would finish runners up another two times before finally winning the title in 1987-88.  By then they had already established themselves as a permanent fixture in the Bundesliga.

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari


  1. Kahn; Lahm, Friedrich, Beckenbauer, Breitner; Klinnsman, Frings, Matthaus; Völler, Gerd Muller, Uli Honeß
    Coach Otto Rehagel (or Ottmar Hitzfeld)
    Assistant coaches Rudi Völler, Joachim Löw, and Jurgen Klinnsman.
    That would be a great team.

  2. Of course HSV lost. That was the year that Der Kaiser left Hamburg and returned to the Cosmos for one final year. HSV were the Meisters the year prior.

  3. I was born in Germany in 86, and started to support Bremen shortly after Rudi had left… I loved Rehagel to bits and pieces when I was a 5 year old, and I still kinda do. What he did with Greece in the Euros was one of the greatest achievements ever… My respect and admiration for Rehagel is boundless!

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