Monday, April 30, 2012

Double champions! By rules champions of both championships went to play for Libertadores Cup, so the second Argentine spot was to be decided between the runners up of Metropolitano and nacional: River Plate destroyed Huracan 4-1; Luque scoring a hat-trick. Small consolation for River Plate… Meantime lower divisions played their own championships, organized similarly to Torneo Metropolitano, and Platense won promotion to first division.

Platense, promoted – rather returning – to first division: top, from left: Morelli, De Virgilio, Miguel Arturo Juárez, Pilla, Gianetti y Rivero.

Bottom: Roa, Orlando, Pavón, Osvaldo Pérez y Ulrich.

Huracan, continuing their strong performance, but ending second at metropolitano.

Top, from left: Leone, Houseman, Longo, Fanesi, Carrascosa, Baley.

Bottom: Cheves, Cano, Ardiles, Larrosa, Augusto Sánchez.

Note the guy with the mustache in the middle of the first row – nobody yet really heard of Osvaldo Ardiles, but soon everybody will.

River Plate failing to win anything this year, but still going to Libertadores. Second in Nacional, but only second… Second row, from left: Pedro González, Passarella, Merlo, Perfumo, Héctor López, Fillol.

First row: Saporiti, Beltrán, Luque, Sabella, Más.

Daniel Passarella, unusually short-haired for the times, was making name for himself. 14 goals is still very high number of goals scored by defender.

So, Boca with a double. Unlike River Plate, Boca didn’t have dry spell and missing the whole 1960s decade – they were among the top Argentine clubs, winning now and then, but nevertheless the last 15 years were not the best for them. At least internationally, Boca remained in the shadows of Racing Club, Estudiantes, and especially Independiente. The 1960s and the first half of the 1970s were bad years for proper Buenos Aires clubs – the strongest were not far away, but still not Buenos Aires clubs. At last they were coming back… first Huracan restored a bit of Buenos Aires pride, then River Plate, and now Boca Juniors. In the case of Boca, great period in their history started in 1976, although the future was still unpredictable – the champions were not particularly great and not very different from Huracan and River Plate. Each club had fairly eaqual number of star players, but the rest were not that great. Boca’s success was in a way unusual – Huracan, for instance, built their strong team with young, promising talent. River Plate appeared mixed and undecided – some new legs, some old stars, like Mas and Perfumo. Boca betted on establishment – three new players arrived at the beginning of 1976 and made the difference: New, but… old: the striker Ernesto Mastrangelo was 28 years old, a star scoring plenty of goals, yet, never included in the national team. He added power to attack. Francisco Sa, already 31 years old, came with much reputation – he already had 4 Libertadores Cups with Independiente. Sa, never central to Argentina’s national team, was to become the most successful South American player in terms of Libertadores – but his 5th and 6th cups were yet to come. Boca’s defence really benefited from him. The third was perhaps the biggest star: Hugo Gatti. The flamboyant and eccentric goalkeeper was already 32 years old, but far from thinking retirement. For him, coming to Boca was dream made true – he was Boca fan. Ironically, he played for River Plate for 4 years back in the 1960s, when he made a name for himself. Gatti was also a bit unfortunate, for he was mostly a reserve at River – his reason to move to another club eventually. Gatti was noticed early – and was included in the Argentine 1966 World Cup selection – but for various reasons never became a national team starter. He was on and off the national team for years – between 1966 and 1977 he played only 18 matches for Argentina. One reason was tough competition, but his extravagant approach to goalkeeping was perhaps the stronger reason for mistrust.

Gatti was a showman and often considered revolutionary ‘grandfather’ of contemporary goalkeepers: he grew his hair long of course, but their were unusual additions – he played with Bermuda shorts instead of normal football shorts. His bandana became a trademark. As for jerseys – well, he is considered the player adding colour to the standard and dull image of goalkeepers dressed in black. That is a myth, of course – goalies played with various colours from the early days of football (Zamora, Planicka, English and Scottish keepers for decades, and so on) but nobody played in pink! It was not only his image – his goalkeeping was unorthodox: he frequently moved ahead and participated in the team’s play (although not going into attack and scoring goals). He, seemingly, could not just stand still and watch when the ball was away from him. He was original – and also liability… especially in the eyes of conservative coaches. Fans loved him, though, and he was good goalie – in 1976 he was perhaps the biggest star of Boca Juniors. Finally playing for his beloved club – and winning!

The rest of the team was not so great – Trobbiani and Pernia were almost classy, but the rest was was plain… except yong Tarantini. At 21 years of age, he was already playing his third season for Boca. The modern dynamic left full-back was still local hopeful, but already a key member of defense. The world was to learn about him in 1978.

Such a team did not look impressive and longlasting, but it was not to be the case: Boca, definitely improved since 1974, when there was not a single Boca player in the Argentine World Cup squad. Now they having made their ‘core’ in 1976, were going to carefully add players, including Maradona, to it and win and win. Ironically, the best period of the ‘working class’ club was to be during the right-wing military dictatorship.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Further south from Porto Alegre, to more chaos - Argentina. The country was to host the next World Cup, which appeared exciting from a distance – one of the greatest football nations finally was to organize the tournament. Fun? Superficially only… military coup happened on March 24, 1976 and junta, led by General Videla started its infamous rule. The country was on slippery slope for a long time by now, both economically and politically and military dictatorship was not to improve the situation. Given the circumstances, the junta was not really interested in football, but with terror coming from both left and right time was hardly beneficial to the game. World Cup finals were still in the future, but already did not look like great idea. Argentine football was in terrible shape for quite some time, problems became chronic many years ago. Lack of money, in a nutshell. Now, with the military in power, two things were interesting: the one was the ban on strikes, any strikes, imposed by the junta. Players were on strike often – were their strikes forbidden as well? Hard to tell – players strikes were distinct: they were not exactly taking to the streets. Simply, players, whole teams indeed, refused to play scheduled games because of unpaid wages for months. Nominally, labour disputes, but it was striking as far as the new law was concerned. The other result of the grave financial situation of the clubs was the mass exodus of Argentine players and now political reasons were added as well. Yet, it was amassing that most high profile players actually stayed in the country. The most recent example was Norberto Alonso, who moved to France in the summer of 1976, but stayed with Olympique Marseille only half season. He didn’t play well and was increasingly unhappy in France – by the winter he asked his new club to let him go. River Plate was willing to take him back and helped, but Marseille seemed amazingly accommodating – perhaps still smarting up from the fiasco with Jairzinho and Paulo Cesar Lima, the French quickly agreed to let go Alonso and was back in Argentina at the beginning of 1977. The bulk of Argentine stars did not go abroad at all – if one looks at the foreign based Argentine players at that time, most names were either players nearing the end of their careers, or hardly known names. Anyway, their presence at home did not make Argentine football better, but at least attracted people to the stadiums. On the bright side was something else: Diego Maradona made his debute in October, 1976. He was not yet 16 years old. So, General Videla and Maradona happened at the same time…

The championship started a little before Videla stepped in and it was already a Byzantine affair almost on Brazilian scale. Traditionally, Argentina run two championships, which were quite distinct by 1976. The Metropolitano was complicated: the League was divided in two 11-team groups at the first stage. It was standard tournament – every team played twice, at home and away, with the rest of the group. After 22 rounds the first six moved to the second stage and the last five of both groups combined to play in the relegation group. River Plate seemingly continued their revival – the champions of 1975 were first in Group B. Huracan won the Group A, where Boca Juniors ended 4th. The first stage matter little, however – it was important only in terms of relegation and only clubs are really worth mentioning among the unfortunate: Racing Club (Avellaneda) and Argentinos Juniors (Buenos Aires). Racing was far down from their glorious years in the 1960s, and precisely because of that years – their financial situation was terrible even by Argentine ‘standards’. As for Argentinos Juniors, they were hardly known to the world and not really ‘big’ club at home, but it the club having Maradona. He did not appear in the spring (well, the fall in the Southern hemisphere), but nevertheless one of the all-time greatest players was theirs and more or less he was to make the club known. Argentinos Juniors did not win a single match in the relegation group, but managed to finish 7th and better than Racing, with 8 ties out of 9 matches (this stage was 1-match round-robin, everybody starting with zero points). Racing barely escaped relegation, finishing 9th. San Telmo were last and went down.

The real group was the one playing for the title, of course. Huracan came to it with the best record – they did not lose a single match in the preliminary group. They also had the best defense. Good on paper only, for the second stage also started from scratch – no points were carried over from the first stage, thus, the real championship was just this stage. Round-robbin group, but only one match against every other team. Huracan were still strong, but not strong enough… they finished 2nd. Others faired worse: the 1975 champions, River Plate, ended 5th, with record 7 ties. Well, ties don’t win championships… Independiente were really bad – seemingly, the great team reached the end of the road amd were no longer a factor. They finished 10th, losing 8 matches and winning measly 3. Estudiantes (La Plata) maintained their usual strong place, ending 3rd. Boca Juniors were the strongest – 8 wins, 3 ties, no losses, 3 points ahead Huracan, and champions. Mario Kempes was the goalscorer with 22 goals in 33 matches. Unlike points, goals were counted combined from first and second stage. Kempes, already noticed at 1974 World Cup, was establishing himself as perhaps the biggest star at the time, but his goals did not help his Rosario Central – they finished 8th. Curiously, there was no Boca Juniors player among the top goalscorers, but there was a youngster from River Plate endind 6th overall with 14 goals – one Daniel Passarella, a defender.

Metropolitano champions: top, from left: Mouzo, Suñé, Sá, Pernía, Gatti y Ribolzi. Bottom: Mastrángelo, Benítez, Veglio, Felman y Tarantini.

Campeonato Nacional had different structure, closer to cup tournaments: more clubs played there than in Metropolitano – 34, divided in 4 qualification groups. There was no apparent second division and relegation-promotion. One leg round-robbin championship was played in each group and the top teams moved ahead to ¼ finals. It was straight cup format from there – one match played on neutral ground, though in the home city, the winner going to ½ finals and eventually to the final. Boca Juniors and River Plate went all the way and met at Racing’s stadium in Avallaneda to decide the championship. 69 090 fans attended – interstingly high number, considering the political situation in the country. Either football was stronger and more vital than politics, or people found their only distraction from grim daily life in football. Boca Juniors clinched 1-0 victory over the arch-rivals and made a double. Ruben Jose Sune scored the precious goal.

Boca champions of Campeonato Nacional 1976. Second row, from left: Mouzo, Sá, Suñé, Trobbiani, Gatti y García Cambón.

First row: Mastrángelo, Jorge Benítez, Veglio, Felman y Tarantini

Double champions! By rules champions of both championships went to play for Libertadores Cup, so the second Argentine spot was to be decided between the runners up of Metropolitano and nacional: River Plate destroyed Huracan 4-1; Luque scoring a hat-trick. Small consolation for River Plate… Meantime lower divisions played their own championships, organized similarly to Torneo Metropolitano, and Platense won promotion to first division.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Like River Plate, this is not a photo from the finals, but close enough. Cruzeiro lost perhaps the best Brazilian player of the early 70s few years back – Tostao had to quit prematurely, because of his eye problems – a sad event, but the club had consistently strong squad since the late 1960s. Zeze Moreira coached them – the Barzilian national team coach way back in the 1950s. Jairzinho joined the club after his unhappy European spell and although he was the bigger star, he never recovered the form he had around 1970. Growing long hair did not help him… and he was getting old as well. In a way, Cruzeiro mirrored River Plate – Oscar Mas failed in Europe and did not last in Real Madrid. The same happened to Jairzinho in Olympique Marseille. Perfumo was the old experienced commander of Argentine defense – Piazza played the same role and captained Cruzeiro. Alonso was considered the best Argentine midfielder – Nelinho established himself as the best right full-back in Brazil: a modern defender, who attacked and scored plenty. If Nelinho was not the proper answer to Alonso, Dirceu Lopes was. River Plate had a plethora of well respected players – and Cruzeiro as well: Roberto Batata, Moraes, Vanderlei. The Argentines had young stars, seen as central in near future, Fillol and Luque. Cruzeiro had Palhinha. Overall, Cruzeiro was perhaps a bit better team than River Plate – bigger stars, key national team players, and brighter talent. A very good squad, with Palhinha and especially Nelinho at their best form. But what a joke football aften is – Roberto Perfumo left Cruzeiro and joined River Plate in 1975. Was he happy to lose to his former teammates? I bet he was not.

It was easier to win Libertadores Cup than to win Brazil’s championship – Cruzeiro finished 19th in 1976. Well, that low, if the so-called ‘final table’ means anything. By 1976 the championship was fantastic maze of stages, mini-tournaments, and it was not even called a league, but ‘Copa Brazil’. It was already second season under this name. Conflicting interests, influences, complaints, threats made the championship fantastic – apparently, relegation was banished word, so year after year more and more clubs participated – 54 played in 1976, but it was to be outdone soon. In normal league format, so many teams would mean enormous amount of games – 106 for each – but Brazil’s ‘formula’ was stingy: the top teams played only 23 matches. Those eliminated early finished with only 12 games played. So Cruzeiro was 19th in the ‘final table’, but with only 12 games played – by itself, it was actually better record than the one of the champions: Cruzeiro lost only one match, when the champions ended with 3 losses. Generally, the tournament became so monstrous under pressure from the big clubs – accommodating them with various exceptions and provisions for advancement and no relegation opened the door for claims and complaints from the small fry – unlikely clubs participated in 1976 Copa Brasil. Ever heard of Mixto, Treze, Uberaba? Well, they played… and the only queastion left was who and why was out of the tournament. Was anybody going down to second division? Was there anything approximating second division? What was the criteria for playing or not playing ‘top level’ football? May be nobody knew. But no matter what kind of ‘formula’ was introduced the big clubs were not satisfied… for they were not winning. Botafogo, Santos, and Sao Paulo finished even lower than Cruzeiro. Apart from organizational nightmare, there was something even more troublesome: the beautiful Brazilian football was no longer beautiful. Most of the games were sparkles, increasingly brutal affairs. Fans and commentators were not happy at all, especially because of strange contradiction: Brazil had a huge number of very talented players, but they rarely shined and also were no longer able to win. The prime example was Zico – his Flamengo so far won nothing. People lamented the days of Pele and Garincha.

But eventually the machine rolled and came to the end of the road – Internacional (Porto Alegre) and Corinthians (Sao Paulo) were the finalists. On December 12 Valdomiro and Dario scored two goals for Inter. Corinthians scored plain zero and the irksome tradition continued: champions were not the big clubs from Rio de Janeiro, but from somewhere else. Inter won their second title, repeating their success in 1975. Dario, little known outside Brazil, for he rarely played for the national team, was the top goalscorer for third time – with Atletico Mineiro in 1971 and 72, and now with Inter. Another member of the champion squad was voted player of the year – Elias Figueroa. Nobody quastoned the skills of the Chilean defender, but in a way it was alarming coment on the state of Brazilian football – twice in 6 years foreigners were the best players of the season. That in the country of the best players in the world? May be Brazilian talent was drying out? Well, hardly a concern down south – in Porto Alegre football life was sweet: everytning was theirs.

Of course, it was good squad. Manga continued to win trophies, although he was ignored by national team coaches. Figueroa and Marinho Perez were excellent duo of central defenders in front of the old goalkeeper. Valdomiro, Dario, and Lula – strikers to dream of, although none of them became a regular national team player. And Falcao in midfield. This was not yet the megastar Falcao, but young talented fellow quickly establishing himself among the finest. Paulo Cesar Carpegiani is missing on the photo, but he was there as well and Inter fans still argue nostalgicly who was better and more important: Carpegiani or Falcao. Unfortunately, Carpegiani suffered heavy injuries and had to cut his career short… but he was the king in 1976.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cruzeiro played for the Intercontinental Cup as winners of Libertadores Cup, of course. The tournament developed interestingly – Brazilian clubs were not really successful, barring the long gone years of great Santos with Pele. Even bigger news was the absence of Independiente (Avellaneda) at the final. Argentine presence was maintained by River Plate – it was there second final, but their first was 10 years earlier, and they lost it. River Plate was going into revival at last, and may be this time… for their opponents were debutantes at this level and on top of it were not even champions of Brazil. Cruzeiro played strongly indeed, but were good only for runners-up in 1974 and 1975 at home. In fact, Cruzeiro had to wait many more years for their first Brazilian title – until 2003! Well, they compensated by reaching the Libertadores final.
Cruzeiro and River Plate – so far, equal.
The first leg was in Belo Horizonte and River Plate was destroyed 4-1. Palhinha (sometimes spelled Palinha) scored 2 goals, with two more by Nelinho and Waldo. Mas scored the lonely goal for River Plate on July 21.
Nelinho opens the ‘goleada’ at Mineirao.
Final (Jul 21 & 28)
Cruzeiro Bra River Plate Arg 4-1 1-2
Playoff (Jul 30) (in Santiago)
Cruzeiro Bra River Plate Arg 3-2
1st leg. Estadio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte, 21- 7-1976
Cruzeiro - River Plate 4-1
22' Nelinho 1-0
29' Palhinha 2-0
40' Palhinha 3-0
63' Mas 3-1
80' Valdo 4-1
Cruzeiro: Raúl, Nelinho, Morais, Darcy Menezes, Vanderley, Eduardo (Ronaldo Drumond),Wilson Piazza (Valdo), Zé Carlos, Jairzinho, Palhinha, Joãozinho.
River Plate: Fillol (Landaburu), Comelles, Perfumo, Lonardi, H.O. López, J.J. López,Merlo, Sabella, P.A. González, Luque, Mas.
Referee: Llobregat (Venezuela)
Attendance: 58,720
A week later and in Buenos Aires it was tougher match. Palhinha scored again, but River Plate managed two by J. J. Lopez and Gonzalez. Since accumulated goal difference did not count, for forth consecutive year the winner was to be decided in third match on neutral ground.
Palhinha scores in Buenos Aires. Landaburu is helpless, but the goal is not enough – Cruzeiro lost.
2nd leg. Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires, 28- 7-1976
River Plate - Cruzeiro 2-1
10' J.J. López 1-0
48' Palhinha 1-1
76' P.A. González 2-1
River Plate: Landaburu, Comelles, Perfumo, Passarella, H.O. López (Artico), J.J. López,Merlo, Alonso, P.A. González, Luque, Mas (Sabella).
Cruzeiro: Raúl, Nelinho, Morais, Darcy Menezes, Vanderley, Eduardo (Ronaldo Drumond),Wilson Piazza, Zé Carlos, Jairzinho, Palhinha, Joãozinho.
Referee: Martínez Bazán (Uruguay)
Attendance: 90,000
The wisdom of third match was shaky, given the vast South American distances, expensive and difficult travel, and the eternal financial strains of the clubs – at the end, the meager hope of new revenue never really materialized, but the practice continued. So, River Plate and Cruzeiro flew to Santiago de Chile to play the decisive match on July 30 - a mere day after the second. Cruzeiro clinched the win this time, answering with three goals the two scored by the Argentines. Mas and Urquiza for River Plate, and Nelinho, Ronaldo, and Joazinho for Cruzeiro. The team from Belo Horizonte won their first Libertadores!
Play-off. Estadio Nacional, Santiago, 30- 7-1976
Cruzeiro - River Plate 3-2
24' Nelinho 1-0
55' Ronaldo 2-0
59' Mas 2-1
64' Urquiza 2-2
88' Joãozinho 3-2
Cruzeiro: Raúl, Nelinho, Morais, Darcy Menezes, Vanderley, Ronaldo Drumond,Wilson Piazza (Ozires), Zé Carlos, Eduardo, Palhinha, Joãozinho.
River Plate: Landaburu, Comelles, Lonardi, Artico, Urquiza, Sabella, Merlo, Alonso,P.A. González, Luque, Mas (Crespo).
Referee: Martínez (Chile)
Cruzeiro enjoys Libertadores Cup.
Second lost final for River Plate, no matter how good or brave they were: standing, from left: Merlo, Comelles, Pena, Fillol, Perfumo y Héctor López.
First row: Pedro González, Juan José López, Luque, Norberto Alonso y Más.
Not a bad squad (although this is not the picture from the final), with two future world champions – Fillol and Luque: the old star Perfumo, who returned from playing in Brazil; another old star – Oscar Mas; and perhaps the best Argentine player at that time – Norberto Alonso. Strong, ambitious… but Libertadores escaped their reach.
Cruzeiro conquering South America, if not Brazil: top, from left: Nelinho, Moraes, Ozires, Valdo, Vanderlei, Raul;
Bottom: Silva, Eduardo, Jairzinho, Palhinha e Joãozinho
Like River Plate, this is not a photo from the finals, but close enough. Cruzeiro lost perhaps the best Brazilian player of the early 70s few years back – Tostao had to quit prematurely, because of his eye problems – a sad event, but the club had consistently strong squad since the late 1960s. Zeze Moreira coached them – the Barzilian national team coach way back in the 1950s. Jairzinho joined the club after his unhappy European spell and although he was the bigger star, he never recovered the form he had around 1970. Growing long hair did not help him… and he was getting old as well. In a way, Cruzeiro mirrored River Plate – Oscar Mas failed in Europe and did not last in Real Madrid. The same happened to Jairzinho in Olympique Marseille. Perfumo was the old experienced commander of Argentine defense – Piazza played the same role and captained Cruzeiro. Alonso was considered the best Argentine midfielder – Nelinho established himself as the best right full-back in Brazil: a modern defender, who attacked and scored plenty. If Nelinho was not the proper answer to Alonso, Dirceu Lopes was. River Plate had a plethora of well respected players – and Cruzeiro as well: Roberto Batata, Moraes, Vanderlei. The Argentines had young stars, seen as central in near future, Fillol and Luque. Cruzeiro had Palhinha. Overall, Cruzeiro was perhaps a bit better team than River Plate – bigger stars, key national team players, and brighter talent. A very good squad, with Palhinha and especially Nelinho at their best form. But what a joke football aften is – Roberto Perfumo left Cruzeiro and joined River Plate in 1975. Was he happy to lose to his former teammates? I bet he was not.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Intercontinental Cup came back in 1976. It was not played at all in 1975 and appeared dead. This time Bayern decided to play – for the first time, after refusing twice, like Ajax before. Part of the reason most likely was German desperation – Bayern needed badly some trophies to convince their fans, if nobody else, that they were still top team. The opponent was more agreeable as well – it was Brazilian club, which was considered much better option than the usual murderous Argentines and Uruguayans. But it was not only South American dirty playing leading to decline of the competition: scheduling it was big headacke. There was never regular, fixed dates – it was more of mutual agreement between participants, as they found convenient time. Most often the two legs were played in September – October, but increasingly dates were moving towards the end of the year. In 1976 the first leg in Munich was played on November 23. Snow was falling hard… Cruzeiro’s players probably never saw snow before, let alone playing on it. As attraction, the first leg failed – only 1/3 of stadium was full, due to combination of bad weather, fans losing faith in Bayern, and the stupid decision of the club to increase the ticket price at the last moment.
Bayern fielded their eternal squad… Cruzeiro, not the best known to Europeans Brazilian club, looked quite dangerous: at least 4 players were well known to Europeans – Jairzinho, Piazza, Nelinho, and the rising star Palhinha.
1st. leg:
November 23, 1976

Bayern München (West Germany) 2-0 Cruzeiro (Brazil)
Goals: Gerd Müller, Kapellmann.

Bayern München: Sepp Maier - Andersson, Franz Beckenbauer, Schwarzenbeck,Horsmann, Dürnberger, Karl Heinz Rummenigge, Torstensson, Gerd Müller, Hoeness, Kapellmann.

Cruzeiro:Raul - Moraes, Ozires, Nelinho, Piazza, Vanderlei, Eduardo, Ze Carlos, Palinha, Jairzinho, Joãozinho (Dirceu Lopes).
Curously, Bayern had no advantage in the snow – Cruzeiro controlled most of the game, the tempo was slow, and Bayern struggled. Nobody shined and eventually Jairzinho was substituted. The match was not really good, but rather tough battle.

Horsmann tackles Jairzinho – it was 50-50 duel.

Playing on white, Brazilians proved equal – if Jairzinho was unable to overcome his lesser opponent Horsmann, the same fate suffered Hoeness struggling against Vanderlei.
But Bayern was never to be underestimated… Muller managed to score in the 80th minute and in the 82nd Kappelmann finished successfully the only meaningful attack Bayern organized for the whole match. 2-0 and that was final. Most observers already had written off the game by the time the Germans scored.
The second leg in Belo Horizonte was played on December 21, in the South American summer. Bayern had difficult travel and not enough rest before the match, but their real problem was the host team supported by nearly 115 000 crowd. Both teams made little changes.
2nd. leg:
Belo Horizonte.
December 21, 1976

Cruzeiro (Brazil) 0-0 Bayern München (West Germany)

Cruzeiro:Raul - Nelinho, Moraes, Piazza (Eduardo), Ozires, Ze Carlos, Vanderlei, Dirceu Lopes (Ofarlan), Jairzinho, Palinha, Joãozinho.

Bayern München: Sepp Maier - Andersson, Franz Beckenbauer,Schwarzenbeck,Horsmann, Weiss, Karl Heinz Rummenigge (Arbinger), Kapellmann,Torstensson, Gerd Müller, Hoeness.
Cruzeiro attacked, Bayern defended. Later Kramer said that his team was uncomfortable, for they were used to attacking tactics, but really… Bayern played mostly defense in every final, so what was really ‘surprising’ in Belo Horizonte? Bayerm had only one chance, when Rummenigge eliminated Brazilian defense and goalkeeper in the 40th minute, but missed the empty net. Cruzeiro, however, missed many opportunities – especially Jairzinho. The game was clean, a refreshing change of the ugly tradition, and as a whole the match was enjoyable. Beckenbauer had a storng game, but the biggest German hero was Maier, who saved everything possible and impossible.

Palhinha sandwiched between Maier and Schwarzenbeck. Maier saves once again. Jairzinho does not look thrilled behind…

Stand off: Palhinha(9), Dirceu Lopes, Ze Carlos (left of the refferree) vs Schwarzenbeck and Beckenbauer.
At the end, it was 0-0 and Bayern won. Brazilian press praised Beckenbauer and Maier for outstanding performance, but the Germans themselves recognized the element of sheer luck. Muller was especially modest, saying that it was impossible to say which team was better after the terrible snowy conditions in Munich. He thought both teams fairly equal and the result did not mean supremacy of the victors.

Cruzeiro against Bayern: top, from left: Moraes, Nelinho, Ozires, Piazza e Vanderlei;
Bottom: Roberto Batata, Zé Carlos, Palhinha, Jairzinho, Joãozinho e Raul

Bayern, pictured here just before the second leg started, with Cruzeiro at the far right, won the Intercontinental Cup. Finally at the top of the whole world. Hard work, determination, and iron will prooved stronger than luck. Brazilians recognized that, if not Europeans. Bayern finished 1976 quite well, yet, it was the last triumph of Beckenbauer and company. Their end was spelled out in curious fashion: Cruzeiro not only adapted better to the snow, but physically dominated the Germans both legs. Outrunning Germans already meant the end of Germans… but coming from usually weaker South Americans was especially ominous.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The European Supercup was more established by now, although it was difficult to find the best time for playing it. This year it was in late August, just before the new season was to begin. Still, not the time to really attract interest – the transfer window was not closed yet, teams were not fully completed and hardly in good form. It was two-legged format too. Bayern and Anderlecht were the contestant, but unlike 1975 the Germans were not seen as favourites, but the underdogs. It was pointed out that Bayern was not only getting too old, but that the club became peculiarly handicapped: new players struggled to establish themselves in the team. Kapelmann and Wunder were prime examples – both shined in their previous clubs, but not in Bayern. Looked like Bayern was able to accommodate only players coming from its own youth system – Breitner, Hoeness, and now Rummenigge. Building new team was to be tough, but the superstars were still at hand. They managed to win the first leg at home 2-1. Belgians were optimistic, Germans – not so much. If Bayern was accused of not taking seriously the challenge in 1975, this time they looked determined to win – only their football was not good anymore.
1st Leg, Olympiastadion, Munich, 17 Aug 1976, att 40000
Bayern Munich (0) 2 RSC Anderlecht (1) 1
16' 0-1 And: Haan
58' 1-1 BM: Müller
88' 2-1 BM: Müller
Bayern Munich:
Maier, Kappelmann, Horsmann, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer, Hunkel,
Dürnberger, K.H.Rummenigge, G.Müller, U.Hoeness, Torstensson
RSC Anderlecht
Ruiter, Haan, Van Binst, Broos, Van der Daele, Dockx (De Groote),
Van der Elst, Vercauteren, Ressel, Coeck, Rensenbrink
The Belgian camp was optimistic before the second leg. They not only were in better shape, but had larger group of players to choose from. Raymond Goethals, ‘the Wizard”, was the new coach. New addition was to make his debut – Duncan McKenzie. He was not big star and known for inconsistency, but his transfer was significant: he was the first English player to join foreign club (not counting the North America) since mid-1960s. Soon bigger stars started an exodus lasting for years and justified by better money paid and better football played on the continent. McKenzie made his debut and got amusing press: he did not contribute much to Anderlecht, but was praised for not spoiling the team’s performance. Strange compliment… if it was a compliment. Anyhow, Anderlecht dominated in Brussels, scoring their usual early goal in the 20th minute and leading 3-0 before Muller finally scored for Bayern in the 63rd minute. By then there was no doubt who was going to win and German willpower was clearly not enough of a weapon for a miracle. Eight minutes before end Rensenbrink scored one more.
Rensenbrink soars in the air above Schwarzenbeck – symbolic picture. Anderlecht really outplayed Bayern by far.
2nd Leg, Parc Astrid, Brussels, 30 Aug 1976
RSC Anderlecht (2) 4 Bayern Munich (0) 1
20' 1-0 And: Rensenbrink
25' 2-0 And: Vander Elst
59' 3-0 And: Haan
63' 3-1 BM: Müller
82' 4-1 And: Rensenbrink
Anderlecht won 5-3 on aggregate
RSC Anderlecht
Ruiter, Haan, Vanderelst,Broos, Van der Daele, Dockx, Haan, Vercauteren, Ressel,McKenzie, Coeck, Rensenbrink
Bayern Munich
Maier, B.Andersson, Horsmann, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer, Kappelmann,Dürnberger, K.H.Rummenigge, G. Müller, U. Hoeness (Hunkel), Torstensson
The accumulated result was 5-3 and Anderlecht kept the Supercup in Brussels. Bayern lost second consecutive Supercup final. They were desperate to win some trophies this year, after their worst Bundesliga season, but it looked like nothing good was to happen in the next season as well – just before it started, the mighty Bayern was pathetic. Anderlecht was delight and, in a way, brought back the original Dutch total football – clearly better version, than the German distortion of it. Four of the Belgian goals were scored by Haan and Rensenbrink. For Arie Haan this was 7th European Cup already. Add one Intercontinental to the list – and think hard who had more. Not Cruyff and Beckenbauer, certainly.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The final opposed old foxes of Bayern to the ‘newcomers’ St. Etienne. Unquestionably, it was a triumph of French football – the country did not reach European finals since Reims in the late 1950s. The opponents new well enough each other, though, for they met at earlier round for the same cup one year before. Back then Bayern won quite easily, but now many saw St. Etienne the better team. The squads were the same really, but Bayern was aging and had terrible domestic season. Looked like the days of Beckenbauer & Co were over. The French were much younger and at the top of their form, reaching their maturity as a team. Bayern added nothing new to their game, but the French improved – adding physicality and stamina. They had the edge. Both clubs had problems with injured players, but Kramer decided to field his injured man; Herbin was unable to use Farison and left Rocheteau on the bench. Hoeness was out of form and young Rummenigge was considered inexperienced for match of this scale, so St. Etienne, having bigger choice of players, was still in better position. The match started sluggishly – it was immediately clear that Bayern aimed to slow down the tempo and concentrate the battle in midfield. St. Etienne tried to play, the Germans tried to destroy the French efforts. Eventually the game became better, but only thanks to St. Etienne – the Germans were largely defending.
Muller attacking? On standstill photo – yes.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge may be scoring with this header? Pictures are deceiving – Bayern was rarely in attack.
St. Etienne was clearly the better team and the more entertaining, but it was not enough. In the second half it became painfully clear that will shall decide the game. Came the fatal 57th minute… Beckenbauer took a free kick and passed the ball to Roth, who mightily kicked the ball and it ended behind Curkovic. 1-0 for Bayern.
Franz Roth shoots and scores.
Then the goalscorer became invisible… among celebrating teammates.
St. Etienne attacked to the end, but nothing changed. At the end Rocheteau came out to help… Lady Luck denied the French as well – two shoots bounced at the goalposts. Will won, for Roth’s goal was hardly normal goal, but rather an expression of willpower. Bayerm failed to please, but ended winning.
Final, Hampden Park, Glasgow, 12 May 1976, att 54864
Bayern München (0) 1 AS Saint-Etienne (0) 0
57' 1-0 BM: Roth
Bayern München (trainer Cramer):Maier; Hansen, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer, Horsmann; Roth, Dürnberger,Kapellmann, K.H.Rummenigge; Müller, Hoeness
AS Saint-Etienne:Curkovic; Repellini, Piazza, Lopez, Janvion; Bathenay, Santini, Larque;P.Revelli, H.Revelli, Sarramagna (Rocheteau)
Referee: Palotai (Hungary)
Hoeness and Hansen making their round of triumph. Don’t look happy, but never mind.
St. Etienne, worthy finalists and crowd pleasers. This is not the the line of the final, but from the ½ finals against PSV Eindhoven, but the essential players of perhaps the finest St. Etienne ever are these. Almost conquering Europe, but, sadly, almost… Just like Leeds United, St. Etienne was unable to establish itself as truly great club. Lucky, unlucky, doesn’t matter – they lost their best opportunity.
Bayern with three European Champion Cups. Trophies were common thing by now to this squad. Which also became so familiar to everybody, that it was – and is – to find unusual photos. Unlike Ajax, bayern were not undisputed champions – and in 1976 they had fewer friends: St. Etienne were the ‘moral winners’. Yet, the real ones were West Greman and they were the sad winds of the future – gritty, physically strong, never giving up, without a spark or buty, they simply trampled pitch and opponents. Ajax did not played always great, but were always in control of the tempo, adjusting their tactics to the needs at hand, but the artistic touch was always present. In sharp contrast Bayern were dull – if the replay in 1974 is discounted, they did not dominate in any of their three successful finals. They just fought stubbornly and used the tinyest of opportunities. Their megastars did not shine – instead, the real heroes of the European finals were Schwarzenbeck, Hansen, Durnberger, Roth, the ‘woking horses’. Especially Franz Roth – the unassuming midfielder, whose prime function was to stifle opposition in the centre of the pitch, scored three goals in three finals – the winning goal in Cup Winners Cup 1967 final; the first goal against Leeds in 1975 and the sole German goal in 1976. Important goals all – but coming from unlikely player. Add the last minute equalizer scored by Schwarzenbeck in 1974… The football of the 1980s was sadly shaped by the greatest Bayern team – what they did from joyful total football was something boring and centred on midfield battles. Winning, though. The machine still worked, which was good for Dettmar Kramer.
A few months back, in 1975, he was photographed posing as Napoleon. A lot of fun was made of this picture, for Bayern lost miserably the European Supercup – Waterloo, indeed. But Kramer defended the conquering image by winning the third consecutive European Champions Cup, and even rubbed French nose for good measure.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The crème of the crème tournament – the European Champions Cup – developed curiously orderly: the expected clubs won and went ahead; no flops; no surprises. Real Madrid proved to be determined enough to bring some speculations for major revival. Real came back from devastating loss from Derby County 1-4 to winning the tie after home win 5-1. Then they eliminated the West German club considered strongest – after 2-2 in Moenchengladbach and 1-1 in Madrid Borussia was gone. Real reached the ½ finals and that was that – Bayern was too much. The Germans survived the hell in Madrid, tying the opening leg 1-1. In Munich they scored two goals and real – zero. Still, it was very good run for Real: perhaps their best in the whole decade.
Much was expected from Dinamo (Kiev), the revelation of 1975, and at first expectations were fulfilled. Dinamo easily progressed, but it was also lucky with the draw, for their really serious opponent appeared no sooner then the ¼ finals. Problems were detected after the first match, played in Simferopol, not in Kiev – early spring international games the Soviets always played somewhere in the South, where the stadiums were not still frozen. Dinamo won 2-0, but the French played hearty football and it was not easy win. Still, it looked like Dinamo will go ahead.

A. Konkov in attack for Dinamo with captain V. Kolotov ready to increase the pressure. St. Etienne looking in dire straits – even the striker Patrick Revelli is back in defense and quite desperate at that.
Confident win, but Dinamo showed tiredness in the second half , the tempo significantly slowed down in the last 20 minutes, and the whole concern was to prevent the French from scoring. An excuse was found – Soviet clubs traditionally suffered in spring tournaments because their season was just beginning and nobody was in top form. On this occasion it was pointed out that Dinamo had only one month of training. No serious reasons for concerns – St. Etienne was practically beaten…
The second leg suddenly changed everything: it was expected that St. Etienne will go in attack. It was known the French were the more skilful and artistic team, but Dinamo was physical brand and with their fantastic running covered the whole field – the French would be lucky to score a goal in a pretty much tied game. Not so… the French went into attacks with creativity and improvisation. They also matched the physicality of the Ukrainians. On the other hand, Dinamo was very different from the team of just few months before: they looked clueless, physically weaker, and defensively minded. Blokhin was the sole striker, by this time operating left, right, and centre, and also going back deep in midfield. It was not an improvement… a left winger, Blokhin was seemingly uncomfortable in any other position. His speed was not working to advantage when he had to start from far back. He was painfully predictable and easy prey for the French defense. Dinamo lost the battle in midfield, where Janvion, the right full back, terrified Soviet midfielders. Larque was too much for Dinamo with his great passes. The Soviets did not find a way to stop Piazza either – his great runs in the best tradition of Beckenbauer were constant danger for Dinamo. St. Etienne clearly dominated the match and eventually goals came along – Herve Revelli in the 65th and Larque five mintes later equalized the result. And it looked like Dinamo were goners… then Larque was injured and substituted. The match went into overtime with Dinamo practically good only to clear the ball away. St. Etienne was relentlessly attacking, and finally managed to score third goal in the 113rd minute, Rocheteau the happy scorer. St. Etienne eliminated Dinamo and justly so.

The second leg reversed the roles – now Dinamo’s midfielders, like Buryak (at the far right) had to defend and desperately at that. Batheney shoots a deadly ball from very far – and on target! Danger was constant and coming from everywhere and Dinamo looked lost for the most of the match.
A victory of artistic over mechanistic football was refreshing, but St. Etienne also displayed a weakness difficult to put in words. During the last 15 minutes of regular time and in the overtime the French were strange – yes, dominated the game, were in excellent condition, constantly attacked, and eventually scored the winning goal, but it was like their willpower was exhausted. They were fragile, without self-confidence somewhat. It was a problem detected in 1976, but the French national team was to really suffer from it for many years. Luckily, St. Etienne was paired with PSV Eindhoven for the ½ finals – a team of Borussia Moenchengladbach mold. The Dutch constantly failed important games with their reckless tactical approach. The French managed 0-0 tie away and won the home leg 1-0.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Cup Winners Cup was more than routine affair: practically no surprises. Critics of the tournament easily found targets – smaller clubs played here and the difference of quality really showed, for even middle of the road teams of stronger country were able to demolish similar second tier clubs, but from weaker countries. Giant results amassed, especially in the opening round - 9-0, 7-0, 6-0, 6-2, 5-1 – and not between, say, Liverpool and some amateurs from Malta. The amateurs were there alright, but their opponents were half-good: Borac (Banja Luka), for instance. The only real surprise came from one of those half-baked clubs: BSG Sachsenring (Zwickau). The East Germans, hailing from the city manufacturing the infamous Trabant cars, reached the ½ finals. They steadily eliminated Panathinaikos, Fiorentina, and Celtic. Alas, the impressive names distort the picture – none of the loser was in good shape at the time. Of course, it did not matter much – for Sachsenring it was tremendous run.
The surprise winners from Zwickau: standing, from left: Krieger, Henschel, Dietzsch, Stemmler, Brautigam, Schubert, Toss (?), Schykowski, Pfeifer (?), Lauch (?).
Bottom: Blank, Leuschner, Reichelt, Lindl (?), Croy, Braun, Voit, Nestler.
Fairy tales eventually end and the end of Sachsenring was new fodder for critics of the tournament: Anderlecht easily won both legs at the semi-finals 3-0 and 2-0. It was not real fight, signifying only the weakness of the whole tournament – if toothless clubs were able to appear at the semis, what would be next? Cup winners of the same mold?
Anyway, Anderlecht went to the final with confidence. The other finalist was West Ham United – they prevailed over Eintracht (Frankfurt) by one goal: lost the first leg in Germany 1-2, but managed 3-1 victory in London. Thus, Anderlecht was the second Belgian club to reach European final this year. It was also traditionally the most respected Belgian club in Europe – constantly strong, yet not so strong to be real contender. And tradition affected predictions: English clubs, no matter how they played at home, were tough in Europe and most likely to win a final. However, Anderlecht was playing at home – for Brussels was awarded to be the host of the final.
The English did not appear rattled by the inconvenience and the match turned out to be greatly entertaining. Both teams rushed into relentless attacks and to the great surprise of many Anderlecht proved to be more interesting and innovative team. Nevertheless, the Hammers scored first. Then Anderlecht scored two goals, but Robson equalized in the 68th minute. Five minutes later Rensenbrink scored a penalty, but nothing was decided yet – three minutes before the end Anderlecht scored again, but to the last whistle the Hammers attacked trying to equalize. It was fun to watch, there was no a single dull moment, many goals, and change of fortune. Tension to the end and at last Anderlecht won their very first European trophy.
Final, Heysel Stadium, Brussels, 5 May 1976, att 58000
RSC Anderlecht (1) 4 West Ham United (1) 2
28' 0-1 WHU: Holland
42' 1-1 A: Rensenbrink
48' 2-1 A: Vander Elst
68' 2-2 WHU: Robson
73' 3-2 A: Rensenbrink (pen)
87' 4-2 A: Vander Elst
RSC Anderlecht: Ruiter; Lomme, Van Binst, Thissen, Broos; Dockx, Coeck (Vercauteren),Haan, Vander Elst; Ressel, Rensebrink
West Ham United: Day; Coleman, Lampard (A.Taylor), T.Taylor, McDowell; Bonds, Brooking,Paddon; Holland, Jennings, Robson
West Ham United, failing to win second European Cup: back row, from left: Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking, Tommy Taylor, Marvyn Day, Kevin Lock, John McDowell, Frank Lampard.
Front row: Billy Jennings, Keith Robson, Alan Taylor, Bobby Gould, Graham Paddon.
And the winners – this squad became instantly familiar and it was here to stay. Anderlecht was fueled by Dutch total football power – Arie Haan, who as most of his former teammates moved to another post – a playmaker now – and immediately influenced his new team. Robbie Rensenbrink was a mega-star since 1974 World Cup. Ruiter was solid between the goalposts and earned his first – and only – cap for Holland. Was included in the Dutch squad for the finals of the European Championship, but did not play. The forth ‘tulip’ was Ressel – less known than his compatriots, but no stranger to success either, for he played in Feyenoord before joining Anderlecht and won the UEFA Cup with them. The rest of the squad was mostly Belgian national team players – van Binst, Broos, Thissen, Dockx, Coeck, Vander Elst. But there was something else as well – by 1976 there were a few European clubs practically using 12 players in the game: the regulars plus an eager youngster, typically a product of the club’s youth system, who was a reserve not that much because he was still weak and unexperienced, but because the main team was incredibly competitive. Liverpool with Fairclough, Dinamo Kiev with Buryak, St. Etienne with Rocheteau, Bayern with Rummenige. Anderelecht’s answer was Vercauteren and after the victorious final Europe got to know him as well. Such players were symbol of health: the leading clubs were obviously ready to keep their place at the top of international football. And now, finally, Anderlecht were among the leaders too. And with class and flair, to say the least. The critics of Cup Winners Cup were silenced for a change.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The last of the rabble was peeled off at the ¼ and the only ‘strange’ semi-finalist was FC Brugge. Milan was their opponent at the ¼ finals and traditionally the Italians were expected to go ahead. But FC Brugge was enjoying excellent season and prevailed. The semi-finals ended the dreams of Barcelona and Hamburger SV. Liverpool humiliated Barcelona at Nou Camp, winning 1-0. 1-1 tie at Anfield was no consolation for Cruyff and company, but was enough for Keegan and the rest. FC Brugge strubbornly survived in Hamburg, managing also 1-1 draw. The second leg was also tough affair, but the Belgians won 1-0. The semi-finals were obviously heavily contested between quite equal teams and scoring was scarce. Liverpool and FC Brugge were to try winning the UEFA Cup.
The first leg should be remembered largely for the rare case of fulfilled predictions. Bob Paisley outlined a simple tactic before the game – he said that Liverpool must score three goals and thus build a solid advance before the second match. Happel, FC Brugge’s coach, said that his team must score two goals to ensure a tie or a minimal loss. At the end of the match both coaches happened to be right… and because of that, also wrong.
Liverpool apparently expected defensive style from the Belgians, or at least a team pushed back into defense by relentless English attacks. But Brugge thought differently – Liverpool was surprised by speedy attacks and caught off guard. By the 12th minute Happel was more than right: Brugge was leading 2-0. Thew first half was bitter for Liverpool – they never got into commanding the game flow and looked rather shocked. It was different picture after the break – finally Liverpool found their game and eventually started returning goals. If Brugge scored two in 12 minutes, Liverpool scored 3 in half the time – Kennedy in 59th, Case in 61st, and finally Keegan from a penalty in 64th turned around the result. But nothing more happened to the end. Well, Paisley was also right – his boys scored three goals, just as his said they will. Both coaches were right… expect Liverpool won by measly 1 goal difference and the Belgians were unable to preserve a tie. Yet, it was a result favourable to them – now they needed a minimal win: 1-0, 2-1 would be enough. True, Liverpool had won the UEFA Cup before, but Ernst Happel did won the European Champions Cup!
Weird photo from the opening match: what is Jensen doing here? Getting ready to clear the ball? Already cleared it? Or may be missed the ball entirely?
Final 1st Leg, Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, 28 Apr 1976, att 56000
Liverpool (0) 3 Club Brugge KV (2) 2
5' 0-1 CB: Lambert
15' 0-2 CB: Cools
59' 1-2 L: Kenndey
61' 2-2 L: Case
65' 3-2 L: Keegan (pen)
Liverpool:Clemence; Smith, Neal, Thompson, Hughes; Keegan, Kennedy, Callaghan;Fairclough, Heighway, Toshack (Case)
Club Brugge KV: Jensen; Bastijns, Krieger, Leekens, Volders; Cools, Vandereycken,Decubber; Van Gool, Lambert, Lefevre
Things changed significantly before the second leg: by now Anderelecht won the Cup Winners Cup, beating West Ham United 4-2, after a display of splendid football. Belgians were no longer the underdog – and Brugge was seen the favourite. Once again they scored early – from a penalty in the 11th minute. But Keegan restored equality in the 15th. It was equality only in the score – Liverpool played unusual defensive scheme, which Paisley later explained by tiredness: 7 of his players just came back from duties with their national teams. Rested or not, the British had to defend not only because of Paisley’s design – the Belgians attacked to the end of the match, dominating the game, but were too nervous and chaotic for real efficiency. After the final whistle Liverpool lifted the UEFA Cup for second time.
Final 2nd Leg, Olympiastadion, Brugge, 19 May 1976, att 32000
Club Brugge KV (1) 1 Liverpool (1) 1
11' 1-0 CB: Lambert (pen)
15' 1-1 L: Keegan
Liverpool won 4-3 on aggregate
Club Brugge KV:Jensen; Bastijns, Krieger, Leekens, Volders; Cools, Vendereycken,Decubber (Hinderyckx); Van Gool, Lambert (Sanders), Lefevre
Liverpool:Clemence; Smith, Neal, Thompson, Hughes; Keegan, Kennedy, Callaghan;Case, Heighway, Toshack (Fairclough)
Worthy finalists: bottom, from left: Le Fevre, Krieger, Cools, Lambert, Sanders, Leekens.
Top: Jensen, van Gool, Bastijns, Volders, Vandereycken, Hinderyckx, De Cubber, Pieters.
With the exception of reserve goalie Pieters everybody else played in the finals. Lambert was the big star, but it was really van Gool who shined in the two matches with Liverpool. Experts raved about him at the time, expecting him to become the next great Belgian player – he failed expectations to some degree, yet, not in 1976. The rest of the team was solid enough – Belgian national team players like Leekens, Bastijns, Cools, Vandereycken, finely complimented by three foreigners – Austrian international Eddie Krieger and two Danes – well known winger Ulrik Le Fevre and young goalkeeper Birger Jensen. At the end, Jensen perhaps was the unlucky one – he was rarely used by the Danish national team, making only 19 appearances between 1973 and 1979. As a whole, Club Brugge KV, to give them their proper name, were quite good and 1976 was their year: they won the domestic championship and played well at the final of the UEFA Cup. They arrived – FC Brugge established themselves as the second ‘big’ Belgian club and remained so. Alas, they were outdid by Anderlecht and may be because of that this particular squad is not widely remembered.
For Liverpool – it was second UEFA Cup, the first won in 1973. It was difficult victory and they were perhaps just a bit lucky, but the cup was theirs at the end.
As for Liverpool – go back to the posting on the English championship for the team picture. The second UEFA Cup was an announcement in some way – the great Liverpool has arrived. This was just the beginning of their long domestic and international dominance. Better things were yet to come, but Kevin Keegan already shined and was among the very best European footballers. No longer young hopeful, but firmly established superstar. He did not fail to confirm his status, scoring the two decisive goals against Club Brugge KV and that is precisely what stars must do – decide the outcome of tough games.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

By the 1/8 finals the small fry was largely eliminated, and as progressing further, the tournament was shaken by fewer and fewer surprises. But there was one unexpected and unusually long run of unlikely club – Levski-Spartak (Sofia). The club had some problems, especially in defense, but it was really its tradition making it unlikely candidate for reaching higher stages: Levski, as a rule, underperformed in the European tournaments. The first opponent was no trouble – Eskisehirspor (Turkey). The ‘Blues’ won confidently 3-0 and 4-1, but they did not look particularly strong.
Levski scores the first goal against the Turks in Sofia.
The second round looked like the end of Levski - they were paired with MSV Duisburg at the 1/16 finals. The ‘Zebras’ were hardly great and unbeatable, but were West German team… and there was little doubt who will go ahead even among Levski’s fans. The first match was lost 2-3, but although Levski fought well and even managed to lead twice, pessimism dominated. Levski got new kit when in Duisburg and this was most likely their gain from playing in the UEFA Cup.
The home game supported the pessismists for a long time – with some injured players, Levski was unable to score against well organized Germans. Finally, in the 50th minute, the central defender and captain Kiril Ivkov, who rarely crossed the midfiled line, scored with a header. It was more an act of frustration and desperation, then a result of dominance….
Ivkov scores the opening goal, giving shaky lead to Levski.
Duisburg equalized 9 minutes later. Levski continued to attack, but the match appeared decided already. Luckily, a penalty was given in the 81st minute, which Pavel Panov, less efficient in Sofia, then in Duisburg, converted into goal. Levski was clearly lucky to advance.
And it was clear that the 1/8 finals were to be the end of the road: Levski was meeting Ajax (Amsterdam). It was not the mighty Ajax, surely – only Hulshof (by now playing in midfield, not defense), Krol, Suurbier, and Gerrie Muhren remained from the old squad, but Rinus Michels was again at the helm and Geels and Schrijvers were dangerous newer additions. The first leg, in Amsterdam, fulfilled the expectations – in the first half, Levski did not have a single shot towards Schrijvers. Ajax, although not great, was in control – Geels opened the result in the 34th minute and the second half continued the same way. Steffenhagen doubled the lead in the 75th minute, game over… third goal was brewing… and then a rare counterattack happened, a brief mellee in front of Schrijvers, and Voin Voinov scored in the 85th minute. Ajax was so surprised and shaken by the goal, they lost rhythm and were unable to do damage in the last five minutes. The hosts won, but were in shock – suddenly the second leg was a problem. Meantime Levski built confidence: suddenly the devil was not all that scary.
There was something curious novelty about Levski too - Nikolay Grancharov was fielded as right full back. There was some problems with his summer transfer from Cherno more (Varna) and he had no rights to play in the Bulgarian league – but had rights to play international football. In the next years this predecent was to loom large – a whole bunch of Bulgarian players playing for the national team and European club tournaments, but not for their clubs in the regular domestic championship. However, fielding Grancharov was big risk – he did not play a single official match in 6 months.
A moment of the first leg in Amsterdam: Kiril Milanov (#9) gives trouble to Helling (#7) and Dusbaba (#4). How different the future of the opponents – Dusbaba hardly ranks among the best players in the history of Ajax, but he conquered Europe with Anderlecht. Milanov, arguably the best Bulgarian centre-forward in the 1970s, fell victim of high placed Communist adversary – by the time Dusbaba climbed on top of Europe, Milanov was banned from football for life. And he still is the only Bulgarian player whose sentence was not revoked or reduced… he went down.
‘The Blues’ were in fighting mood at the beginning of the second leg – just before that, they destroyed the arch-enemy CSKA 4-1 in the Bulgarian derby and the moral was further boosted. There was cautious optimism and on December 10 the National Stadium in Sofia was full – 70 000 attended, braving the miserable weather. Captains Barry Hulshof and Kiril Ivkov shaking hands and the second leg is about to begin.
The cold did not help the game – it was nervous affair, quite tough, but not ugly. Ajax played careful defensive game, hoping for chancy counteattack. Levsky had no other option but to attack. Unfortunately, their afforts were rather chaotic and hardly dangerous… their first shot towards Ajax’s net was in the 33rd minute! But what a first shot – Pavel Panov scored. 1-0, enough for eliminating the Dutch. The lead lasted until 63rd minute – Ajax did not appear very dangerous, the pitch was hard and difficult for better game, providing only for physical struggle in which Levski was able to keep the Dutch at bay. Yet, Ruud Geels scored an equalizer and now game was over for Levski. Incredibly, Levski, known for mental fragility and giving up, went into attacking and now the new boy Grancharov proved himself – his brave attack left Panov in front of empty net. Grancharov passed him the ball, Panov scored 2-1. It was only the 66th minute, but nothing more happened to the end. And nothing happened in the overtime, so the winner was to be decide by penalty shoot-out. Neither team had a goalie known for saving penalties, hence, the winner was to be decided by the nerves of the shooters. Levski really had only two masters of penalties – Panov and Tishansky. The right winger Voinov was the third option, but he was already replaced in the 89th minute. Ajax did not seem to have great penalty takers either… the Bulgarian were to start, which is normally seen as the worse option. Ivan Tishansky was chosen for the opening kick - a psychological decision, for Tishansky had tremendous shot. A central defender, he was also regular free-kick taker and often scored. Clearly, the idea was to scare and break down Schrijvers, but Tishansky was not all that happy – he did not want to take the first penalty, for he already missed three in a row in recent games. Tishansky scores. He decided to do exactly what was expected from him – a hard, strong, vicious ball delivered straight. Schrijvers dived in the right direction, but unable to even touch the ball. 1-0. Ajax also opened with their best – Ruud Geels. He equalized. Pavel Panov scored 2-1. Ruud Krol equalized. Kiril Milanov scored – Notten equalized. Krassimir Borissov scored 4-3. Helling kicked and missed, his ball soaring above and out. Now it was a matter of one right kick – and the 5th Bulgarian player was another unwilling taker. Yordan Yordanov begged the coach not to select him, for he was scared. Scared or not, Yordanov paid attention and noticed that Schrijvers dived to the right in the first four penalties. Yordanov decided to kick the ball in the same corner, taking a risk, which eventually was worth gold: Schrijvers dived to the left, and the ball rested in the net.
The crucial 5th penalty – Yordanov clearly looks where he shoots, but Schrijvers hardly paid attention to the striker. He already decided to dive to the left… to his club’s peril. Both goalkeepers played no real role in the duels – it was a matter who would miss the target, and Helling missed… 5-3, Levski eliminated Ajax. The heroic squad eliminating Ajax. They are dressed in the kit they got when visiting Duisburg, which became ciltic for the fans, but the kit means this was not the squad of the second leg against Ajax – for Levski played in Adidas-made entirely blue kit that match.
1975 ended in high spirits – Levski was going to the ¼ finals of the UEFA Cup and were leading in the Bulgarian championship. Grancharov got permission to play in the domestic championship – this ended the problems in defense, or so it appeared. More miracles in the spring of the new year… the next opponent was Barcelona. At this stage there were no easy opponents, so nobody was particularly troubled by the draw. But by March 1976 Levski was different… just like many times before, strong fall half-season was followed by terrible spring, as if the season for Levski really finished about December, title was guaranteed and there was no need to play. Barcelona was having terrible season as well, but that was in the Spanish championship. By March the war between Weisweiler and Cruyff was in full force, but it did not show in the UEFA Cup.
Barca reached the ¼ finals with impressive record 7 wins and 1 loss. The only match they lost was the away first leg in the 1/32 round – 0-1 to PAOK. The Greeks were annihilated at Nou Camp 6-1. Then Lazio was demolished – true, the match in Rome was not played and Barca was awarded a win, but back home it was all Barca and 4-0. Vasas put some fight in the 1/8 finals, but the Catalans won both legs nevertheless – 3-1 and 1-0. They scored a lot… their defense hardly gave a chance to the opposition. They had Crujff and Neeskens, they were mighty Barcelona, even when playing miserably in Spain.
The first leg was in Barcelona, something giving some edge to Levski – in theory, for in practise there was no contest… 4-0 Barcelona. Levski distinguished themselves by two things: the first was infamous record – Levski was unable to shoot at Bracelona’s net even once! The second was curiousity was their kit – Levski played in something approximating a reserve kit: the usual blue shirts with white shirts and socks. It was weird – as visitors, they had to use away kit, because of the clash with the colours of Barcelona. Whatever the rules were at the time, they were not precisely enforced, for Levski’s blue shirt did not solve the problem. But it was interesting change – this was the only time I ever saw Levski playing in such kit. I am not even sure they had proper reserve kit during the 1970s, for they always played entirely in blue – in case other Bulgarian clubs used the same colours, they played in their second kit, no matter was it a home or away game. Barcelona seemingly did not make fuss about the blue shirts.
The unsual and unique kit of Levski – whire shorts and white socks were not to be seen again. Otherwise, it was déjà vu – Voinov against Neeskens. It happened at the 1974 World Cup, ending 4-1 for Holland, the Bulgarians not scoring at all (Krol scored for them) and pretty much just props to the Dutch show. Now it was Barcelona – Levski, 4-0 for Barca, Levski mostly watching what was going on.
Nothing good was going on – here Stefan Staykov saves with a risky dive, but normally the ball ended in the net despite his efforts.
This was true to the reality: Staykov acts like sweeper, but is obviously late to stop Asensi. Unstoppable Cruyff, no matter how many defenders. They look static, don’t they?
After the game ended the Bulgarians blamed the refferree – for an absurd penalty given to Barcelona in the 38th minutes, after which the score was opened. But it was clear that Levski was no match for Barca and were already out. The secomd leg was mere formality, and such hopelees fixtures normally do not attract crowds. Yet, 70 000 went to see the ‘formality’ in Sofia, myself included. It was largely to see live Barcelona and especially Cruyff – yes, we were to support our beloved Levski, but only on principle. Nobody dreamed of winning – it was just to enjoy Cruyff and Neeskens. How wrong we were – and how lucky.
The match started strange enough – both teams played in their regular kits, making the colour clash even bigger than the one on Nou Camp. Barcelona was sluggish and disoriented and Levski rushed in attacks. It was only the 8th minute, when Panov kicked hard ball on target and it was 1-0.
Mora jumps in vain… Panov opens for Levski.
It was 2-0 in the 10th minute, increadible. It was all Levski, mighty Barca nowhere to be seen… and the mellow, resigned mood of the crowd changed into hope. Were we going to see one the greatest miracles in football? Barcelona was more than lethargic – it was in shock and Levski was flying. In the 20th minute it was almost 3-0… Voinov missed in the 20th minute, but Barcelona was in desperate defense – Neeskens far back, next to Mora. The Catalans were a bit lucky, but not unbeatable… one thing was clear by now: their defense was quite leaky and they had mediocre goalkeeper. Goalkeeping was to remain a major problem for Barca until the beginning of the 1980s, but their strength was not in defensive game anyway. After the match, retrospectively, Voinov’s missed opportunity was lamented: if he scored, then the outcome of the duel would have been different, is the speculative logic. Reality was quite different: Levski was heroic, but not that great. Barcelona was sluggish and entangled in struggle between coach and players, but it did have Cruyff. He took charge. It was hardly one of his best performancies and Barcelona remained disjointed, but class is class. Marcial and Asensi scored two goals and the first half ended 2-2. The dream of miracle ended as well, but the fighting spirit remained and crowd was excited – if anything, it was good show. Asensi scores. Tishanski (on the far left) is late and can only watch gloomily.
The second half started with new bomb – Emil Spassov scored in the 47th minute, Levski leading again. But this time Barca had more teeth – Heredia equalized in the 57th, and then Neesklens scored from a penalty kick in the 62nd. Going back to normal… Barca leading, no more surprises. No more? Levski did not throw the towel. Kiril Ivkov defending and even going in attacks himself.
Neeskens trying to clear the ball from Panov – it should have been the other way around.
Levski’s efforts lead to another turn: Yordan Yordanov equalized in the 87th, and then in the last minute Levski was awarded a penaly. Which Panov scored and Levski won 5-4. Levski was eliminated, but what a thrill! True, Barcelona obviously was not in good form and Levski was not either, which made for rather bizarre match and even more bizarre result – but it was fun! Seeing Cruyff, seeing 9 goals, seeing your team winning against one of the mightiest clubs in the world – what more a fan could want? The dream ended and nobody was bitter – if anything, Levski was the first Bulgarian team to beat Cruyff-lead squad.