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.