Bundesliga Rewind – Bayern München vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach – 1973/74 – A Bundesliga Fairytale

German football was at its peak in the 1970’s and no two teams epitomized the Bundesliga’s golden era more than Bayern München and Borussia Mönchengladbach. Between 1969 and 1979, Bayern and Gladbach won ten of the eleven league titles and set the standard for the rest of the league. In those  years, both teams played many legendary matches against each other and few were better than their meeting on the last matchday of the Hinrunde in 1973.  Before Bayern take on Gladbach in the last match of the calendar year in the 2012/13 season, we take a look back at a match that symbolized not only the rivalry between these two great sides but also the peak of German football in general in a match easily considered one of the greatest in Bundesliga history.

Bayern Munich 4

Borussia Mönchengladbach 3

Place: Munich, Olympiastadion
Time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m..
Date: December 8, 1973
Attendance: 70,000
Referee: Engel (Reimsbach)

Prelude

At the beginning of the season most of the attention was on the upcoming World Cup taking place in Germany the following summer.  Cities renovated and modernized their stadiums and clubs all wanted to set the best example possible.  Still leading the pack ahead of everyone though was Bayern München who were growing by the year on and off the pitch. Their new Olympiastadion increased their capacity and raised profits greatly while on the field the Maier-Beckenbauer-Müller trio dominated the league.  Bayern came into the season on the back of consecutive league titles and looked to be the first club in the country to win it three times in a row. They would also reach the European Cup final for the first time that year.  The only team that seemed to pose a threat to Bayern’s growing hegemony was Gladbach who were the last side to win before them and were also defending Cup champions and UEFA Cup finalists.

It was no surprise then that both started the season with a bang.  Bayern went unbeaten in their first seven matches while Gladbach became the most exciting attacking team in the league and simply could not stop scoring even though many thought the departure of their star player Günter Netzer in the summer was expected to be a big loss. That their match up was left for the final game of the calendar year was almost as if scripted and as if everything up to that point was just leading up to this one game. The press and the nation held their breath.  Everyone expected a game that lived up to its billing and in the end not a single person was let down. Sure enough, the game turned out to be breathtaking.

The Match

And it was already breathtaking from the beginning with five goals coming in the first 23 minutes! Sepp Maier was forced into a save just a minute into the game. Then Gerd Müller found Franz Roth from the center circle and sent him down the left wing with a pass. The powerful ‘Bulle’ rushed forward, beating Gladbach’s right back Herbert Wimmer and then sweeper Klaus-Dieter Sieloff with two feint before hammering the ball from a difficult angle past Wolfgang Kleff into the near post. 1-0! A brilliant start to a brilliant game!

But Borussia’s answer followed 60 seconds later. Jupp Heynckes hit a through ball to overlapping full back Herbert Wimmer on the right wing, Bernd Dürnberger deflected the ball in an unfortunate way so that he served the ball straight into Wimmer’s path. The Gladbach right back got past Sepp Maier who had come rushing out of his goal area, only left back Paul Breitner stood between Wimmer and the Bayern goal but Wimmer placed his shot so well that Breitner, standing on the goalline, could not intervene in any way: 1-1!  Gladbach were not going to be second fiddle to Bayern.

After this great start the players seemed to have tasted blood as the game got even better. Despite the pace being so high, both sets of players understood how to thread together flawless combinations with remarkable precision, almost no bad passes. Forwards became defenders and defenders became forwards, constant switching of positions and the fight for supremacy in the midfield was not a physical one but one of finesse, technique and tactical sophistication.

After 18 minutes, the guests from Gladbach were one up! And what a goal it was. The kicker reporter expressed his admiration with the following words: “The 1-2 will forever be remembered as a goal that knocked me out of the seat due to its beauty in build-up and execution!” People watched in awe while Borussia threaded together a fluid combination of over ten passes before Wimmer got the ball on the right wing after linking up with Horst Köppel. Wimmer sent in a cross to Bernd Rupp who laid the ball off directly with his back to goal to the penalty spot where Dane Henning Jensen had rushed forward from behind, hammering the ball vehemently into the back of the Bayern net with a volley. 1-2! A goal so beautiful, exquisite and stunning that even the staunchest non-football supporter had to get excited watching it. Almost every Borussia player had taken part in the built up in one of the best team goals you’ll see.

Bayern may have been impressed (in fact, they surely were impressed) but it seemed as if this demonstration of high quality football by their guests only further motivated them to impress with their own efforts. Franz Beckenbauer in particular drove his teammates forward towards Mönchengladbach’s goal. At the end, Beckenbauer was the key to Bayern’s success.  For all their brilliance, Borussia did not have a player equal to Beckenbauer in their ranks. Within just three minutes, the Kaiser’s empire had struck back with a vengeance! 120 seconds had passed after Mönchengladbach’s ‘dream goal’, when a diagonal cross by Erwin Hadewicz from the right flank found Gerd Müller at the center of the Gladbach penalty box, the Bomber beat the incredibly tight marking Berti Vogts and scored with a left footed strike: 2-2!

Three minutes after that Bernd Dürnberger sent a long cross from the right flank to the left wing, Hoeness stopped the ball on the touchline and immediately swung in a cross from there, Rainer Zobel jumped up the highest and curled his back header so well that it found the way between Kleff and the crossbar: 3-2! Kleff – Germany’s number one goalkeeper at that time – had not looked too well in that situation, but so had Maier at one of Gladbach’s goals. Kleff had however pulled off an outstanding save in the 14th minute when Beckenbauer had unleashed a terrifically hard and well-placed shot from 30 yards. Nobody would have complained if Kleff had not managed to parry this ‘unstoppable’ bombshell.

Meanwhile, the action on the pitch continued to surge from goal to goal, all players dedicated to the pure and simple cause of why they had become footballers in the first place, to express themselves and to score goals! Gerd Müller was seen defending in his own box (almost scoring an own goal at that). Herbert Wimmer terrified Bayern’s defense with his constant solo runs at both flanks, no player could afford to rest or to remain at his position, the breathtakingly fast action forced every player to give his all, all players being spurred by the shining examples of the Breitners, Wimmers, Beckenbauers, Müllers, Bonhofs, Roths and Jensens.

Next to Beckenbauer’s unique class, Gerd Müller’s will to cover virtually every blade of grass on the pitch caused some difficulties to Borussia. Berti Vogts had great problems following Müller effectively, one could say he was still practising, as he would excel in a similar job on Johan Cruijff in the World Cup final seven months later. At the time Vogts struggled to contain Müller, Franz Roth slowly but surely started to have the advantage in his duel with Gladbach’s right back Herbert Wimmer. This coupled with Beckenbauer’s commanding presence on the pitch was the foundation of Bayern’s victory in this epic encounter.

Beckenbauer, the attacking libero, had once again impressed with a world class performance. It was Beckenbauer who had set up the all-decisive fourth Bayern goal shortly after an hour was played. The Kaiser had started one of his amazing runs from his own box straight to Gladbach’s defensive third, on the way elegantly rounding several Gladbach players as if it was the most natural thing to do. After having arrived at the edge of the Gladbach box, three panic-stricken Gladbach defenders launched into Beckenbauer, but Beckenbauer, sly as a fox, had of course anticipated the situation and flicked the ball with effortless ease over the Borussia players into the now free space to Uli Hoeness. Rainer Bonhof tried to tackle the ball off Hoeness but too late! The future Bayern managing director had already shot the ball towards Kleff’s goal. Kleff managed to get his hand on the ball in a desperate jump, but the shot was too hard for him to save and found its way into the back of the Gladbach net: 4-2!

With his goal, Uli Hoeness had come out on top in his duel against Gladbach’s great Rainer Bonhof as Hoeness had already assisted Bayern’s third goal. Roth, Müller and Hoeness all winning their personal duels against their opponents was the foundation of Bayern wrestling down their fantastic opponents. After Bayern’s was up 4-2, it looked for a while as if Gladbach was in danger of conceding even more goals. Gladbach had run out of power pushing for the equalizer with all their might in the second half. Hoeness’ goal came as a real blow to the guests from the Rhineland. Bayern now fully dictated the play with Breitner attacking on the left wing, running up and down his side, overlapping with the self-confident Bernd Dürnberger.

Bayern gained about half a dozen further scoring opportunities however Gladbach’s resistance was still firm. After 72 minutes, Jupp Heynckes had an almost 100 percent safe scoring opportunity when he got to head from short distance unmarked but Sepp Maier saved his header with a brilliant reflex. Three minutes later Henning Jensen just missed the goal with his shot. Two minutes before time, Herbert Wimmer, defying all exhaustion, started his umpteenth solo run on the wings, leaving the ball to Bonhof who had run parallel to him, Bonhof surprised the unexpecting Maier from 25 yards with a swerving shot: 4-3! This goal was considered by all as a well-deserved one for the magnificent guests.  In any other regular match, this goal would have been the highlight of the game but then again, this was no ordinary match.

So why did Gladbach lose this game when they were such a tremendous side? Firstly, Udo Lattek countered Hennes Weisweiler’s surprising tactical manoeuvre of playing Herbert Wimmer by using “Bulle” Roth as Bayern’s outside left, something Weisweiler never expected from the traditional defensive midfielder. Weisweiler wanted to exploit Bayern’s traditional weakness at the flanks but the powerful and strong Roth was more than a match for Wimmer. Secondly, of the two leading Bundesliga goal scorers, Gerd Müller was on target while Jupp Heynckes failed to score so once again Müller’s incredible efficiency and finishing put Bayern on top.  Thirdly, Paul Breitner had a fantastic comeback after his seven weak pause due to an injury. Fittingly Breitner’s opponent was Gladbach’s strongest forward, the Dane Henning Jensen. Without Breitner confronting him, Jensen may well have been more devastating. Fourthly, Johnny Hansen and Georg Schwarzenbeck controlled their opponents Jupp Heynckes and Bernd Rupp very well. Bayern was overall more agile and determined while Gladbach lacked a conductor of Beckenbauer’s calibre. Horst Köppel could not dictate his side’s play like the dominating Beckenbauer did for Bayern, especially since Köppel had to fight off one of Bayern’s best in Rainer Zobel.

What came next?

“Once upon a time … is what people will say years later. It was like in a fairytale: Football can’t be played any finer than this.” This is how one newspaper started its report on this fabled meeting between the German champions Bayern München and the German Cup winners Borussia Mönchengladbach. After referee Engel blew the final whistle, the 70,000 spectators had seen one of the finest displays of attacking football ever staged in München’s Olympic stadium or anywhere in Germany, a game that managed to exceed the highest of expectations of both the supporters and the media, an electrifying festival of everything that makes football such a great joy to watch. Gripping duels, lots of goals, plenty of goal scoring opportunities, the whole bag of football tricks. Beckenbauer’s finesse, Wimmer’s verve and crosses, the mesmerizing duel between Europe’s best goalgetter Gerd Müller and Europe’s best defender Berti Vogts, a thrilling exchange of blows between both sides executed at the highest pace – the viewers were overwhelmingly gifted for their presence!

Legendary 1954 World Cup winning coach Sepp Herberger was too overwhelmed to properly analyze what had happened, a simple “Magnificent! Simply wonderful!” was all he was able to muster after the game when asked by the media. Similarly overwhelmed was then Germany manager Helmut Schön, whose “What a game!” comment further illustrated the world class quality of this unforgettable game. Schön continued: “We can be proud of the Bundesliga. This was a tremendous advertisement for all of football. We can be glad that we have two such sides who are motivating all others to play the same way.”

The 1973/74 season was the season of two incredible football teams and by the end it would not have been farfetched to say that both deserved to be champions.  Bayern edged Gladbach by a single point but both played incredible seasons. To this day no two teams have scored more than 90 goals in one season.  Gladbach scored an incredible 95 goals in 34 games and Bayern scored 93, almost 3 goals per game. It also remains the highest scoring season in Bundesliga history but more than anything, the game was proof positive why decades on these two sides are still considered arguably the two best in league history.

Teams

Bayern München: Maier – Hansen, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer, Breitner – Hoeness, Zobel, Dürnberger – Hadewicz, Müller, Roth

Borussia M’Gladbach: Kleff – Wimmer, Sieloff, Vogts, Danner – Kulif, Köppel, Bonhof – Jensen, Rupp, Heynckes

Goal Scorers:

1-0 Roth 4
1-1 Wimmer 5
1-2 Jensen 18
2-2 Müller 20
3-2 Zobel 23
4-2 Hoeness 64
4-3 Bonhof 88

Video

Special thanks to Wolfgang Steiner on his great help for this piece.

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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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