Saturday, September 10, 2011

Of course, one forgets immediately domestic misfortunes when a final comes: Bayern vs Leeds United! The names alone suggested mighty clash, for never mind momentary form, when British and German clubs meet one must be certain that the opponents will put fantastic fight. The stage was perfect – Paris. The referee was one the top at the time – the Frenchman Kitabdjian. So, no monkey business.
M. Kitabdjian – important to mention, because it was the Greek referee two years earlier robbing Leeds from a Cup Winners Cup. There was no such danger this time and considering the opponents, the game was in capable hands. Before the match started, that is.
When it started it was not what fans hoped for… Clash it was, surely, but football? Leeds United attacked for 90 minutes and Bayern was reduced to defending in their own penalty area. It was not like the Germans came on the pitch minding to play catenaccio – they loved to attack as well, except they were not capable of attacking. Hardly pressed by Leeds, they just fought to clear the ball away from the net. It was English show, yet, unsuccessful one… Beckenbauer and company fought hard, as a wall, and the dominance of Leeds was fruitless. Or almost fruitless – a goal scored by Lorimer was denied , for Bremner was offside. On two occasions penalties were denied. The English were quick to cry ‘robbery’ and point accusingly to the ‘blind’ Kitabdjian, but… Bremner was offside and as for penalties… both occasions were rather questionable.
Lorimer shoots and scores, but Billy Bremner is offside… bad luck, no more. Leeds was so supreme a goal was just a matter of time.
Looks like clear penalty and no whistle. Decisisve moment? Perhaps. As for the penalty… one has to take the times into account. Short of mass murder, 1970s referees hardly ever awarded penalties. Blatant diving was employed as a counter-measure by 1975, but Allan Clarke was not a diver or at least not at this moment. The other problem was Kaizer Franz himself: he was not a dirty player, just the opposite – a gentleman never playing rough. His tackles were feather-light, hardly ever getting into contact with the striker. And he had huge reputation as well, so one thinks not even twice, but ten times before calling a foul against Beckenbauer. It is not to say the Kaizer was above committing fouls, but… they did not look like fouls: here he appeared to be trying to slide and clean the ball, missed, and caught Clarke’s leg accidentally. It is largely in the posture – Franz appears to miles away from Clarke’s body, seemingly disinterested in it, even doing his best to avoid the slightest hint of contact. And the Kaizer duped the referee, for he committed a foul – a foul not looking like a foul… Leeds paid the price, but fouls like that were increasingly employed, eventually named ‘professional fouls’ and moved away from the penalty area: they were routinely committed just to stop an attack, became essential tactical weapon and plagued and destroyed the game in the 1980s. The denied penalty above is simply an early example.
But whatever Leeds were denied by the referee hardly excuses the team – they were so supreme, they should have scored, no matter the heroics and the fouls of Beckenbauer, Schwarzenbeck, and above all Maier, in entrenched defense. Sure, it looked like goal was to be scored in the very next second, in the next attack… but Leeds failed to score.
Dire times for Bayern – Muller spent most of the game in front of the net, except it was not Leeds net, but his own. Lorimer was unstoppable… and failing to score again and again, and again.
Until the 71st minute… when the Germans scored. Ten minutes later Muller finally appeared in front of Leeds goalie and it was 2-0 Bayern. They shot twice in 90 minutes and scored 2 goals.
What a major disappointment: Bayern was outplayed, clearly was not equal to the task, but nevertheless by sheer power of will not only survived, but won. Not pleasing anybody, though. Undeserving victory… but victory.
Final, Parc des Princes, Paris, 28 May 1975, att 50000

Bayern Munich (0) 2 Leeds United (0) 0
71' 1-0 BM: Roth
81' 2-0 BM: Müller

Bayern Munich (trainer Cramer)
Maier; Beckenbauer, Schwarzenbeck, Dürnberger, Andersson (Weiss);
Zobel, Roth, Kapellmann; Hoeness (Wunder), Müller, Torstensson
Leeds United (trainer Armfield)
Stewart; Reaney, F.Gray, Madeley, Hunter; Bremner, Giles, Yorath
(E.Gray); Lorimer, Clarke, Jordan
Referee: Kitabdjian (France)
By hook and crook Bayern lifted the European Champions Cup for a second time. There was plenty to be said about this final post-factum. Losers first.
Leeds United before the start of the final. It became the swan song of the club, although nobody detected it at the time. The signs of downfall were already there – Leeds plummeted to midtable position in England, but their weak season was obscured by the general unpredictable competitiveness of English football. The bad luck and outrages refereeing further obfuscated the club’s troubles: they lost two European finals, but were seen as victims of others. Years later British observers reasoned that Leeds were already dangerously aging, but such opinion somewhat contradicts evidence: so far Leeds showed capability of gradual smooth change of generations – surely Giles, Bremner, Reaney, Eddie Gray were getting long in the tooth, but Madeley, Clarke, Hunter, Lorimer were still in their prime, and Yorath, Jordan, and McQueen were young and already establishing themselves as key players. Transition seemed fine. True, Don Revie left to coach the English national team, but Armfield was experienced enough and looked like just a matter of time until he gets Leeds in shape. It was not to be, though – 1975 was the final year of Leeds United, they expired right then and if one looks at their record from the early days of Revie’s dream back in the 1960s, one thing became painfully clear: Leeds were not winners. They won very little during their golden years and the vision of making an English version of great Real Madrid never materialized. Internationally, Leeds won only the old Fairs Cup in 1968. Somehow, as good as this team was, it was not a winner – it was only a second-best, a promise of greatness never fulfilled. After the lost final there was more, practically putting the lid on Leeds: fans violence was already growing, but this time it was really noticed – angry and disappointed English fans started massive fighting immediately after the final whistle. The riot was so bad UEFA punished the club with three years banishment from European competitions. Football violence only grew after that and became a permanent part of the game – so 1975 and Leeds have the dubious honour of introducing the trend to the world.
Bayern put different stamp of football – on the pitch, not in the stands.
Happy with their second European Champions Cup: bottom, left to right: Hans-Josef Kapellmann, Sepp Maier, Rainer Zobel, Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck.
Top: Franz Roth, Bernd Durnberger, Franz Beckenbauer, Klaus Wunder, Franz-Josef Weiss, Gerd Muller, Conny Torstensson.
First of all, Bayern became only the third club so far able to win back-to-back Cups – after Real Madrid and Ajax Amsterdam. A sign of greatness, hands down. Unlike the other two, Bayern was not exactly convincing winner – they rather survived the perils of the finals, and by sheer will extracted victory. Tough and admirable for that boys, but hardly pleasing to watch. Like Leeds, Bayern had disastrous season and new coach – unlike Leeds, their previous coach did not leave on his own, but was fired. Yet, like Leeds, the new coach hardly changed anything, continuing already established tactics and squad. Cramer continued what Lattek already started: gritty, physical game, in which Bayern was constantly pressing the opposition everywhere on the pitch. Iron spirit, excellent condition, and no no-sense fancy football. Imagination was seemingly banished for good after 1973 – just outrun the opposition and win. Victors Bayern were – tough relentless, inexaustible fighters, with iron determination and no nerves. They employed mercilessly every trick in the book – the so called ‘professional fouling’ was more or less their invention; they never shied away from artless clearings; from the off-side trap. And there was no way to break their spirit and will – no matter the result, they were playing as if they were winning. The impression on their opposition was massive: Bayern was a team impossible to beat, they looked fierce, and even leading 3-0 against them was no comfort, but frightful. Born winners and winners they were, except it was no longer the real stars who won the games: especially in Europe, it was the ‘gritty’ players who won the games. It was Schwarzenbeck equalizing in the 90th minute against Atletico Madrid in 1974. It was Franz Roth scoring the first goal against Leeds in 1975. It was the ‘work horses’ making the difference: unimpressive, unimaginative, unartistic, yet, ever determined, always excellently fit, and capable to play at every position. Roth, Durnberger, Weiss… dull and effective crushers. And victory depended on them. And Bayern was increasingly becoming full of them. And this dreadful kind of football was becoming the norm, for it was successful. Who cares about beauty when at the end a cup is lifted in triumph. Mediocrity was becoming the road to victory. It cannot be denied, though – Bayern’s brand of football was triumph of will, discipline, condition. One has to appreciate that. One may not like it too. Bayern were bitter-sweet winners.