Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Unlike the European Champions Cup, drama unfolded early in the Cup Winners Cup. Was it poor form, or poor judgment, it did not matter – weaker clubs appeared in CWC for years. Some big names may be neglected the tournament, wrongly thinking that the opposition will just give up. Yet, some big-name clubs were ailing and declining. With 33 participants, the tournament started with preliminary round in which Glasgow Rangers and Young Boys (Berne) met. The Scots had great difficulty eliminating the modest Swiss: 1-0 in Glasgow and 2-2 away. It was the end of the road for the great club – in the 1/16 finals they were eliminated by Twente: 0-0 and 0-3. The Dutch were better than Young Boys, but... clearly Rangers was in bad shape. Milan was another early victim – Real Betis (Sevilla) eliminated the great Italians after winning 2-0 at home and losing 1-2 in Milano. 1. FC Koln were also early losers – FC Porto went ahead at their expense, after keeping a 2-2 tie in Koln and beating the Germans 1-0 in Porto. This perhaps was big surprise, for Porto so far did not impress Europe and Koln was in great form under no other but Hennes Weissweiller. The last unusually early victim was Saint Etienne, but this was not a case of decline or underperformance: St. Etienne had unlucky draw – they had to play against Manchester United and lost to a worthy opponent, but not without a fight. The rest of the outcomes conformed to predictions.

The 1/8 finals were more shocking: it looked like a lot of clubs were in poor shape, desperately trying to keep afloat, but really in decline. Hajduk (Split) barely qualified and there opponents were not a name to recon with: the small Hungarian club Diosgyori VTK troubled Hajduk to penalty shoot-out. So did Univeritatea (Craiova) to Dinamo (Moscow). On the other hand there were two pairs deserving to play at the final, not at early stage – but draws play cruel jokes often. FC Porto vs Manchester United ended with new surprise: the English were destroyed at Porto 0-4! The second leg they did whatever possible to no avail: United won 5-2 and Porto qualified. Attractive matches, though – lots of goals, open attacking football – fans love that. Well, Porto's fans at the end. But this was nothing compared to Hamburger SV vs Anderlecht. Only a few months ago these teams played at the final for the same cup. Hamburger SV prevailed 2-0, winning the Cup, which Anderlecht won in 1976. Not only the most recent winners met, but the final of 1977 was repeating – one can imagine the desire for revenge, the desire to best again already beaten opponent. And both clubs were in great shape, full of excellent players ranking among the very best in Europe. Keegan vs Haan and Rensenbrink - should be enough said. Anderlecht took sweet revenge in Hamburg, clinching 2-1 victory. Advantage, but against Germans what could be an advantage? Back in Brussels, the hosts survived a 1-1 tie – enough to eliminate the current Cup holders!

Lady Luck was cruel in the ¼ finals as well: arguably, there were only two really impressive teams reaching this stage – and they had to face each other. Porto vs Anderlecht. Porto won at home 1-0, but the Belgians were really in top form – and anyway the stronger team – crushing 3-0 victory. Meantime, Twente had no trouble with Vejle BK: the Danes reached so far mostlt thanks to lucky draws . Now they faced reality: 0-3 and 0-4. Real Betis in theory had rather similar opponent in Dinamo (Moscow), but only in theory: the Russians managed a scoreless tie in Sevilla. Because of the weather, Soviet clubs normally played their early spring international games far away from home – in Tbilisi. But lacking home pitch did not stop them – 3-0 and there was no more Spaniards. The last pair proved toughest – Austria (Vienna) vs Hajduk (Split). Two 1-1 ties, nothing in overtime, the Austrians luckier in the penalty shoot-out. May be not luckier – Hajduk did not score a single penalty! Austria did not miss any meantime.

Anderlecht and Twente seemed the best teams reaching the ½ finals – and once again the draw was cruel... Usually, matches between Dutch and Belgian clubs are tough and unpredictable. No exception this time, although the result is misleading – Anderlecht won both matches. 1-0 in Enschede and 2-0 in Brussels. Twente did not score a goal, but to beat them was not easy at all. Still, Anderlecht had stronger – or at least more famous – team. Dinamo (Moscow) vs Austria (Vienna) – a third chance for a Soviet club to play at Cup Winners Cup final; a second chance for Dinamo to play at the final of same tournament and may be to win it this time. Traditionally, Austria was beatable opponent. They were not all that strong so far, may be reaching the ½ finals thanks to good luck rather than strong play. However, Dinamo was not great either – a fading team since the beginning of the 1970s. Good squad, yet suspect one, not exceptional. Like Austria, the Russians reached that far mostly because of lucky draws... Both teams were ambitious, of course, and fought with determination. Neither had an edge – Dinamo won 2-1 at home, but lost 1-2 in Vienna. No goals in overtime and penalty shoot-out again – and again the Austrians won 5-4.

So, a final between Anderlecht and Austria. Frankly, this was the easiest opponent for Anderelcht in their all three consecutive finals. Austria was not neither West Ham United, not Hamburger SV.
Ludo Coeck easily dribbling between Austria's players.Prohaska at the back.

Vercauteren shoots and the Austrians either watch, or try to keep away from the ball.

It was almost a walkover – Anderlecht finished the final in the first half, ending with 3-goals lead. One more was added in the second half for good measure. Rensenbrink scored the first two goals, but may be to show how dominant Anderlecht really was to future generations, the last two goals were scored by the right full-back van Binst.

Final, Parc des Princes, Paris, 3 May 1978, att 48679

RSC Anderlecht (3) 4 Austria/WAC (0) 0

13' 1-0 And: Rensenbrink

41' 2-0 And: Rensenbrink

45' 3-0 And: Van Binst

80' 4-0 And: Van Binst

RSC Anderlecht

De Bree; Van Binst, Thissen, Dusbaba, Broos; Van der Elst, Haan,

Nielsen, Coeck, Vercauteren (Dockx); Rensenbrink


Baumgartner; R.Sara, J.Sara, Obermayer, Baumeister; Prohaska,

Daxbacher (Martinez), Gasselich, Morales (Drazen); Pirkner, Parits

There was little doubt who was going to lift the Cup long before the end of the final. Here is van Binst, number 2, just scoring the third goal. His first. Perhaps one should add only that Anderlecht were really powerful playing in white – there reserve colours. Curiously, the 1978 finalists had same colours – violet and white. Violet did not help Austria at all.

Clearly outplayed losing finalists... Austria were quite lucky to be in Paris at all: their campaign was not impressive. In the first round they barely eliminated Carfiff City – 1-0 and 0-0. Lucky to meet rather plain Lokomotiva (Kosice, Czecholsovakia) in the second round – no win at all this time. Two ties, scoreless in Vienna, but l-1 in Kosice, so Austria advanced thanks to away goal. Two ties with Hajduk (Split) at the ¼ finals, leading to penalty shoot-out. And another shoot-out victory in the ½ finals. Austria did not overcome any opponent in regular time. They won only matches and minimally at that (1-0 and 2-1). Lucky to go far, but no further... Clearly not in the same class with Anderlecht, yet... Austria was key part of the revival of Austrian football. They were playing better for a few years already. They had a whole bunch of strong players, topped by Herbert Prohaska , already considered more than promising star, but actually rapidly becoming one of the best European midfielders. It was good team. It was also the first Austrian team to reach European final. It was great achievement. Lucky they have been, but also they played a bit. In any case it was great to see modest club playing at a final.

On the surface, an easy, confident victory suggests business as usual for a superior team. And Anderlecht was vastly superior to Austria, when compared – the world famous Rensenbrink and Haan. The near-world class star van der Elst. Excellent Vercauteren and Coeck. Belgian national team regulars like van Binst and Broos. The new Dutch addition Dusbaba, also playing for Holland. All that, but Anderlecht had something to prove as well – it was their amazing third Cup Winners Cup in three years. But they lost in 1977 – of course, they needed badly to win again, to prove they were really great club. Especially this season, for they faced bad luck – their only easy opponent was in the very first round, Lokomotiv (Sofia). The Bulgarians were almost not noticed by starry squad – 6-1 away and relaxed 2-0 in Brussels. After that it was tough – Hamburger SV in the 1/8 finals, Porto in the quarterfinals, and Twente in the semifinals – the strongest possible opponents among all qualified for every round. Eliminating them, it would have been a shame to lose a final inferior to almost every club they played before. In fact, it was not all that certain that Austria would have eliminated Lokomotiv (Sofia), if they were playing against them. Anderlecht wanted to win very much, no doubt about it. They delivered. A second Cup Winners Cup for them – and they, like Liverpool, were recognized as one of the top European clubs of the time. May be even better, if the Super Cup really counted, for at the end of the year Anderlecht beat Liverpool as well. Excellent team at its prime. Deserving winners. And big fun to watch.