Snapshot: Michael Kutzop’s first penalty miss

The shot which decided the German championship in the 1985/86 season.

It’s the 33 match day of the 1985/86 Bundesiga season. Beer tents have been erected outside the Weserstadion, the fans have arrived to celebrate Werder Bremen’s second Bundesliga championship. However, there’s one tiny obstacle in their way: Bayern München are only two points behind the green and whites in the standings and the Bavarians are this evening’s opponents. The German record champions haven’t come to Bremen to hand over the salad bowl without a fight.

Cut towards the end of the second half – A dense match is coming to an end. There are two more minutes to go. Rudi Völler sprints onto one last long and hopeful ball, but Bayern’s Danish defender Søren Lerby is following the striker and in the end prevents him from crossing the ball into the penalty area. It’s gone quiet in the Weserstadion, but suddenly the whistle of referee Volker Roth cuts through the silence. Roth who was somewhat removed from the action has seen an infringement – a hand ball. The noise level in the Weserstadion is immediately rising, Bayern’s players are berating the referee, asking and begging him to change his mind. Lerby’s hand hadn’t touched the ball after all. Bayern legend Paul Breitner sits up in the commentary booth in the Weserstadion analysing the match for German television, and agrees with the Bayern players, exclaiming:

That was nothing, he plays the ball with his face. Why doesn’t the linesman who is closer to the action spot this?

Werder’s usual penalty taker Michael Kutzop meanwhile makes his way towards the penalty spot. Bayern’s players were whispering niceties into his ears whilst trying to step on his feet, Kutzop recalled two years ago in the German magazine 11 Freunde. Bayern’s furious assistant coach Egon Cordes had kicked the ball away, leaving the penalty taker alone with his thoughts for quite some time.

After a while the ball found the way to the penalty spot, and the Werder defender stepped up to the mark.

I started running slowly, hesitated and sent Jean Marie Pfaff choose the wrong corner. I did almost everything correctly, unfortunately it was just almost: (The ball hit the)Post.

The sound of ball hitting the post follows the former Werder defender to this very day. Kutzop has taken over 40 penalties in his career, only missing one. However, it might have been the most important penalty which he has ever taken.

Take a look at how the events unfolded in the Weserstadion that night.

The match ended in a 0-0 draw, keeping the distance between Werder and Bayern at 2 points.

The aftermath

Werder still needed a point against Stuttgart on the last match day of the season, but the riverislanders lost that match 2-1, whilst Bayern won their match against Borussia Mönchengladbach 6-0, in the process blowing past Werder in the table due to their goal difference. (Editor’s note: Back then teams were awarded 2 points for a win).

One might think that Kutzop would have been the Werder fans’ scapegoat for the team’s failure to secure the championship that season. However, the player was never targeted by the fans, but had to endure the ridicule of his own coach Otto Rehhagel who chose to jokingly tear up his contract during the club’s end of season celebration.

Werder defender Jonny Otten would later on state that Kutzop’s miss cost him a condo. Furthermore, Rudi Völler tends to jokingly say that he never won the German championship after a couple of beers due to Kutzop, according to the defender.

Some people even claim that Kutzop is still remembered because of this particularly bad miss, which very well might be the case. However, two years later Werder won the championship with their reliable penalty taker Michael Kutzop.

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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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