VIDEO – Werder Bremen vs. Fortuna Düsseldorf – 1996/97 – Fortuna’s last stand

It was Fortuna’s last away match of the 1996/97 season and while many did not know it before the match it was to also become their last in Germany’s top flight for over 15 years.  Ahead of their encounter this weekend, we take a look at their last meeting, a game of historic significance and one that defined Fortuna’s fate as a club for nearly two decades after.

Fortuna came into the game needing the three points after languishing in the relegation zone for much of the season.  With two games to go Düsseldorf needed six points and the fortune of sides above them dropping points.  Their opponents?  A very good Werder side who were unlucky to lose their previous game against Dortmund and had beaten Bayern 3-0 earlier in the season and had only lost one of their last seven matches at home.

Fortuna coach Rudi Wojtowic made some changes in hopes of getting their attack going and for the most part it worked in the first half.  Düsseldorf’s defensive leader and organizer Holger Fach initiated a lot of attacks from the back and the dangerous Igor Dobrowolski troubling Bremen’s defense.  Meanwhile, Bremen’s midfield, Ungar and Eilts in particular, were giving the ball away too frequently while their brilliant playmaker Andreas Herzog’s passes were not met with the same level of anticipation and positioning.

Fortuna survived the first half but they still needed a goal to meet their target.  The severity of their situation had truly inspired a positive performance from the visitors but no matter how poor Bremen were they could just not capitalize on their chances in the second half.  And they had plenty.  Bremen on the other hand were blessed to have a player like Herzog who whipped in a great cross in the 55th minute with Bode finished.  Fortuna threw everything forward but almost as if scripted tragically and inevitably it was to no avail.  With Hamburg and Rostock victorious in their fixtures Fortuna were relegated.

Fortuna fans were optimistic going into the match but could not avoid the seemingly inevitable.

The match that sealed Fortuna’s fate


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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

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