Snapshot – AS Roma on a tight schedule

Carl Zeiss Jena were happy to send the Italians home after 90 minutes.

East German coaching legend Hans Meyer has certainly had an illustrious and long career. The German press, and the Bild Zeitung in particular, have loved Meyer ever since he arrived in the Bundesliga because of his grumpy yet witty retorts to journalists . Few coaches are as blunt and as honest as Meyer. The 70-year-old even went as far as calling some of his own players stupid back in his days as a Bundesliga coach:

Every squad has five players who are really mind numbingly dumb, and at least one of them would live under a bridge if he wasn’t a footballer.

The humble East German has been appreciated for his honest and decent style, but it never took him to the career heights other,  more conventional, coaches have experienced. Meyer was once even fired from his job at FC Twente, simply because his approach was too defensive for the liking of the Dutch.

Dismissing Meyer as a coach who always put defense above attack isn’t right either. Carl Zeiss Jena’s home match against AS Roma in the first round of the 1980/81 European cup winners cup serves as proof of Meyer being able to step out of his comfort zone.

”Please, Mr Schmidt…”

The first tie between the sides ended in a resounding 3-0 for i Giallorossi at the Stadio Olimpico. Roma’s stars Roberto Pruzzo, Carlo Ancelotti and Falcão had done the business for the team from the Italian capital on the night. Their good performances in the first tie allowed Roma to leave Carl Zeiss Jena in charge of the game according to captain Agostino Di Bartolomei, who told the press before the kick off in East Germany:

Defending our lead is our primary goal.

Roma’s president Dino Viola was in fact rather convinced about his team walking out as the winners from East Germany. Viola chartered a plane in Frankfurt that should take the Roma players back to Italy on the night of the match. Upon learning about this development Jena president Ernst Schmidt inquired if Roma could keep to their schedule if the game went to extra time. With a wry smile on his face, and Viola replied in his fluent German:

Please, Mr. Schmidt, this game won’t go to extra time.

Mr. Viola might have had some regrets about his smugness after the final whistle was blown. Hans Meyer had thrown all caution to the wind, and dropped the Libero (sweeper) position from his tactical line up, ordering his men to charge forward.

Journalist Günter Simon wrote after the match in Die Neuer Fussballwoche:

Italian defenses, who are schooled in the frowned upon art of Catenaccio, are difficult to penetrate since they close like an oyster. Getting past them isn’t done with two, three or four one-twos, a sprint and run down the wing. Applying permanent pressure is required.

All 16,000 tickets to the match were sold, despite Carl Zeiss Jena’s facing a massive uphill battle.

The 16,000 spectators at the sold out Ernst-Abbe-Sportfeld were still hoping for a surprise. This Carl Zeiss Jena side had beaten West German giants Bayern München by a 6-0 scoreline in an international friendly in the recent past.

Roma were happy to allow Jena most of the possession, and thus the East Germans started to create chances left, right and centre. Andre Krause and Lutz Lindemann managed to get on the score sheet before half time.

Despite Jena’s complete domination of the match, AS Roma had in fact only managed to create one measly shot, whilst Carl Zeiss were kept out by the bar twice, Hans Meyer didn’t feel all that confident going into the dressing at half time. He wrote in 11 Freunde in 2011:

I didn’t have the feeling that something was about to happen even after we had taken a 2-0 lead at half time.

Fringe player Andreas Bielau turned hero

Meyer’s assumption was spot on for the first 25 minutes of the second half. Carl Zeiss continued to run down AS with one attack after the other, but the team failed to get that all important third goal which would see them reach extra time. Gerhardt Hoppe had gotten close in the 49th minute, but his excellent volley was kept out by the post.

On Carl Zeiss’s bench Meyer saw himself forced to do something. He chose to bring on two strikers with Martin Trocha and Andreas Bielau. The latter was according to Meyer was ”a fringe player who most of the time only played a minor part”.

Bielau might have found his place in football history amongst all those players who are now forgotten, but this night turned him into a legend. The striker managed to score his first goal after having been 1 minute on the pitch. Three minutes from time Bielau even managed to get Jena their fourth goal of the match, completing an incredible turnaround.


Take a look at the goals and the MDR’s interview with Andreas Bielau.

Jena continue their run

Emotions ran high after Carl Zeiss’s incredible win. The boys from the G.D.R. weren’t stars of the game, but their collective effort had defeated the Italian star ensemble. President Schmidt somewhat rudely reminded his counter part about his pre match comments:

Mr. Viola, you were absolutely right, there was no need for extra time!

Hans Meyer and Jena continued their excellent run in the European Cup Winners Cup until the final, eliminating such European football greats as Valencia and Benfica. The team lost a highly dramatic final against Dinamo Tbilisi after a late winner in the 87th minute scored by Vitaly Kukhinovich Daraselia. Hans Meyer said later on:

We were leading 1-0, but in the end we lost 2-1. I’ve been carrying this burden around with me ever since. This was my biggest accomplishment as a coach, however.

Hans Meyer didn’t win a single title after this defeat until his 2007 cup win with Nürnberg.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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