Hamburg remain the only club in Bundesliga history to never have been relegated but their poor performances in the last year threatens them with an unprecedented reality. Borussia Dortmund meanwhile have been the team to beat in the last two years and remain one of the favorites to lift the title at the end of the season. Ahead of their upcoming match this weekend we take a trip back in time when Hamburg ruled Germany and Dortmund, recently promoted, were still trying to find their place in the top flight. Along the way we run into one of the great individual performances in league history and the breaking point in one of the team’s seasons.
Borussia Dortmund 6
Hamburg SV 2
Place: Dortmund, Westfalenstadion
Time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Date: 28 March 1981
Referee: Engel (Reimsbach)
Preamble and Lineups
Before this game took place, Hamburg were sitting atop the Bundesliga table quite comfortably, ahead of Bayern by three points. Hamburg and Bayern had just met the previous Saturday with the game ending in a draw. Being placed eighth, Dortmund were fighting for a place in the UEFA-Cup. The most interesting part in this game was the duel between Hamburg’s archetype center forward Horst Hrubesch and Dortmund’s archetype center back, Rolf Rüssmann, two very physically imposing players. Horst Hrubesch was also indirectly duelling with Dortmund’s slick and sly Manfred Burgsmüller, a cross between a forward and a midfielder, Burgsmüller was leading the goal scoring chart with 22 goals from 24 games, while Hrubesch was listed at number two with 17 from 24. Hrubesch lost both duels.
The Match and the performance of a lifetime
Rolf Rüssmann did not only become ‘man of the match’, he also displayed one of the finest performances by a center back in Bundesliga history up to that date. Rüssmann was arguably the finest center back of the 1970s, but his involvement in the 1971 Bundesliga scandal meant that he would not get called up by Germany. By 1977, the DFB finally allowed Schalke players to play for the national team (them being Rüssmann and Klaus Fischer). Rüssmann was in extraordinary shape at that time and he was one of the best center backs at the 1978 World Cup, but soon after that disappointing World Cup was over, new manager Jupp Derwall abandoned Rüssmann for unknown reasons, making space for the young but equally talented Karlheinz Förster. Rüssmann was transferred from Schalke to Ruhrpott rivals Borussia Dortmund in December 1980, as Schalke desperately needed the money, the same had happened with Rüdiger Abramczik, another former Schalke player now plying his trade for BVB.
Rüssmann did not only manage to fully control the powerhouse that was Hrubesch, he completely owned him in fierce aerial battles, which was a remarkable achievement, as Hrubesch at that time was arguably the most feared aerial striker in the world. And, in best centerback tradition, Rüssmann was also a threat for Dortmund in attack, especially in the second half, wrecking havoc in Hamburg’s penalty box whenever he moved forward. Rüssmann’s performance was even more outstanding considering that he didn’t have the standard sweeper Hans-Joachim Wagner partnering him in central defense but unexperienced Norbert Dörmann (coincidentally also a former Schalke player). Dörmann proved to be the weak link in Dortmund’s defense, being partly responsible for both of Ivan Buljan’s goals. After Mirko Votava had scored the first goal with a wonderful header, Dörmann’s bad positioning allowed Hamburg’s center back Buljan to equalize and after 31 minutes Dörmann had fouled Felix Magath right in front of the box, which should have earned him a red card, but luckily the ref only showed the yellow card. But the resulting freekick resulted in Buljan’s second goal.
Fortunately for BVB, on the right wing Rüdiger Abramczik had a massive game and right back Lothar Huber also kept Hamburg’s Jürgen Groh and Felix Magath extremely busy. Abramczik’s very vital equalizer seconds before the half time break gave Dortmund a new boost for the second half, in which they bulldozed over Hamburg in impressive style. Rüssmann himself scored with a tremendous header, minutes later Hamburg goalie Jupp Koitka parried a shot by Abramczik, but BVB’s midfield ace Burgsmüller had snuck up from behind putting the ball past Koitka. Needless to say, the Dortmund crowd was in ecstasy, and incredibly, five minutes later Dortmund scored another goal, it was again Abramczik that assisted it (though from an off-side position), having crossed the ball superbly directly onto Atli Edvaldsson’s right foot, who struck with an immense dropkick.
Hamburg were now subject to a humiliating beating, the last time they had suffered such a defeat was back in April 1978 when Borussia Mönchengladbach inflicted a 6-2 on them in Hamburg (but back then HSV was only a midtable team, unlike at the time of this bashing at the hands of Dortmund). The sixth goal was scored by Burgsmüller six minutes before time, and again it was Abramczik that had crossed precisely, allowing Burgsmüller to score his 23rd league goal with an easy header. Hamburg was lucky in only having conceded six goals, as their manager Aleksandar Ristic later commented, “it could have been a couple more”. Hamburg were undoubtedly handicapped by Franz Beckenbauer being unable to play, standard center back Ditmar Jakobs being of course not able to replace the Kaiser 100%.
What came next?
For Hamburg, this bashing signalled a dramatic turnaround to their (up to then successful) Bundesliga campaign. Two weeks later they were to lose 1-2 at Schalke (who were later relegated) and their comfortable three-points lead over Bayern soon melted away. By May Bayern and Hamburg both had accumulated the same amount of points when Hamburg lost a crunch home game 1-3 vs. Stuttgart. That was the final nail in their coffin. Dortmund could not repeat their performance vs. Hamburg in the remaining games, but they still came pretty close to UEFA Cup qualification. On the last matchday, it was between them and Borussia Mönchengladbach and as fate wanted it, both teams were pitted against each other on the final day…more on that later.
Immel – Huber, Dörmann, Rüssmann, Hein – Votava, Burgsmüller, Wagner – Geyer, Abramczik, Edvaldsson
Trainer: Udo Lattek
Koitka – Kaltz, Jakobs, Buljan, Groh – Hartwig, Memering, Magath – Reimann, Hrubesch, Wehmeyer
Trainer: Aleksandar Ristic
1-0 Votava 10
1-1 Buljan 11
1-2 Buljan 31
2-2 Abramczik 45
3-2 Rüssmann 56
4-2 Burgsmüller 58
5-2 Edvaldsson 63
6-2 Burgsmüller 84
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