The UEFA Cup. West German and English clubs were seen as favourites plus Spanish Valencia with Mario Kempes and Rainer Bonhof. Until the 1/8 finals nothing sensational happened – strong team were eliminated only when paired with equals. Thus, Athletic Bilbao was eliminated by Ajax, Twente by Manchester City, and Torino by Sporting Gijon in the the first round. In the 1/16 finals Standard Liege lost to Manchester City, Hajduk Split to Arsenal and Benfica – to Borussia Moenchengladbach. The only surprise was the elimination of Everton by Dukla Prague. In the third round Milan lost to Manchester City in a battle of equals, but other results were surprising: VfB Stuttgart lost to Dukla Prague after initial 4-1 victory. But Dukla won 4-0 in Prague and went ahead. Ajax was beaten 1-4 by Honved in Budapest and there was no recovery – they won 2-0 at home, but lost by a goal. Arsenal was eliminated by Crvena zvezda – the first match in Belgrade ended well for the Gunners: they lost 0-1 and nobody expected difficulties in the second leg. But Crvena zvezda played tough: 1-1 tie eliminated Arsenal. The biggest surprise was the elimination of Valencia – true, so far they were shaky as visitors, depending entirely on home matches, and the opponent was one of the rising English clubs – West Bromwich Albion – but Valencia was seen as the favourite. WBA tied their away match – 1-1 and won the home game 1-0. Three of the big favourites were gone in this round: Valencia, Arsenal, and Milan. The draw continued to play jokes in the next round too – Manchester City faced Borussia Moenchengladbach and Crvena zvezda – West Bromwich Albion. Borussia comfortably eliminated Manchester City – 1-1 away and 3-0 home victory. Crvena zvezda repeated their clash with Arsenal – 1-0 home victory and 1-1 tie away.
The ½ finalists were interesting group – the supremacy of West German football was confirm: so far, only one – VfB Stuttgart – was eliminated. Three of the last four team in the tournament were West German. Crvena zvezda – bravely beating the odds so far, for they eliminated three strong opponents – Sporting Gijon, Arsenal, and West Bromwich Albion – was the forth semi-finalist. Strangely, the three West German teams had weak season at home. Hertha and MSV Duisburg were trying to avoid relegation at the time of the ½ finals. This was seen as a prime example of the supremacy of West German football – even their lowest teams were way stronger than the clubs of the rest of Europe. One of the finalists was to be West German. Very likely the final would be all German – and it came very close to that. Borussia managed to tie the first match against MSV Duisburg – 2-2 and the second leg was at home. Relatively speaking, for Borussia almost never played international matches at their small stadium in Moenchengladbach. Home match, even when played in another city, is still home match... Borussia won 4-1. Hertha and Crvena zvezda were similar so far – both scored little and depended heavily on away ties, but if Crvena zvezda had tough draws and had to play with strong opponents, Hertha had it easy – Trakia (Plovdiv, Bulgaria) in the first round, then Dinamo (Tbilisi), followed by Esbjerg fB (Denmark), and Dukla (Prague) at the ¼ finals. Hertha were simply lucky so far, but... they were Germans. Crvena zvezda was hosting the first match – for a third time in row and for a third time they won 1-0. And for a third time they were expected to lose in the second leg and eliminated, and for a third time they tied 'the surely lost' match 1-1. Alas, no... in West Berlin Hetha won. 2-1. Crvena zvezda went ahead thanks to their away goal.
The final opposed one of the greatest clubs of the 1970s to strong and traditionally respected Yugoslavians. Crvena zvezda was no joke – they eliminated Spanish, two English, and West German teams. There was no favourite at the final. Perhaps Borussia was favoured a bit more than Crvena zvezda – but hardly in the Borussia camp. Fate continued to play its joke – once again the first leg was in Belgrade. In front of 87 000 frenetic fans, predominantly supporting the home team, Crvena zvezda continued to repeat earlier games: they opened the result in the 21st minute. And did not allow Borussia to score equalizer... but the match ended 1-1. Jurisic scored in his own net in the 60th minute.
Final 1st Leg, Red Star Stadium, Belgrade, 9 May 1979, att 87000
Red Star (Belgrade) (1) 1 Borussia M'gladbach (0) 1 21' 1-0 R: Sestic 60' 1-1 B: Jurisic (OG) Red Star (Belgrade) Stojanovic; Jovanovic, Miletovic, Jurisic, Jovin; Muslin (Krmpotic), Petrovic, Blagojevic, Milosavljevic (Milovanovic); Savic, Sestic Borussia M'gladbach Kneib; Vogts, Hannes, Schäffer, Ringels; Schäfer, Kulik, Nielsen (Danner),
Wohlers (Gores); Simonsen, Lienen
Nothing was decided yet – two weeks later the foes met again, this time in Dusseldorf and in front of half the crowd attending the first leg. Home advantage was hardly an issue, not only because Borussia played away – huge number of Yugoslavians were working in West Germany and visiting Yugoslavian teams always had massive support. It was to be great battle.
Captains Vladimir Petrovic and Berti Vogts shaking hands before the match – two great players eager to win. But it was not easy... Borussia took early lead – Simonsen scored from a penalty in the 15th minute.
The call was bit dubious – especially to Yugoslav eyes – but there was plenty of time. In which nobody scored again. Crvena zvezda lost the final.
Final 2nd Leg, Rheinstadion, Dusseldorf, 23 May 1979, att 45000 Borussia M'gladbach (1) 1 Red Star (Belgrade) (0) 0 15' 1-0 B: Simonsen (pen) Borussia M'gladbach Kneib; Vogts, Hannes, Schäffer, Ringels; Schäfer, Kulik (Köppel), Gores, Wohlers; Simonsen, Lienen Red Star (Belgrade) Stojanovic; Jovanovic, Miletovic, Jurisic, Jovin; Muslin, Petrovic, Blagojevic, Milovanovic (Sestic); Savic, Milosavljevic Berti Vogts, sporting Crvena zvezda shirt, collected the UEFA Cup. More tired than happy, but winner to the end of his playing days. The losing finalists became legends instantly.
Crvena zvezda had a strong team, which reached European cup final for the first time in the club's history. Strong campaign and, from some perspective, they were unbeaten – Borussia really did not score: Jurisic scored own goal in Belgrade and Simonsen scored from suspicious penalty. Almost winners... winners in folklore... legends are made of such stuff. But something is undeniable – internationally, this vintage was the most successful.
The main heroes – legends, without too many stars: Vladimir Petrovic, the only remaining player of the excellent squad of the first half of the 1970s, was the big name. Savic and may be Sestic were coming close to the great players of the previous vintage. The rest were not at the same level – but it was a good team and success may them club legends. If Crvena zvezda was at its prime, Borussia was another story. Berti Vogts and company with yet another trophy was one of the most familiar pictures of the time. But it was a swan song this year.
On paper, everything looked great – Borussia won their second UEFA Cup. The names were familiar and dangerous – Lattek at the helm, Heynckes learning the trade as assistant coach,Vogts, Koppel, Kleff, Danner – as alaways, Simonsen – European player of the year, Del'Haye at his prime, strong younger players – Kulik, Klinkhammer, the next Danish talent – Tycosen... Strong, but not as strong as the team of only few years back. One after another, the stars left – either retired or to play in Spain. The clock was ticking dangerously for the last great veterans... Alan Simonsen followed the path of Netzer, Jensen, Stielike, Bonhof right after the end of the season and went to Barcelona. There was nobody of the similar class among the next generation – Del'Haye, as good as he was, was not at all a great star and the others were reliable professionals, but no more. Decline was already taking place, inevitable decline – it was the end of one of the teams defining and revolutionizing football in the decade. They had one more spurt of greatness, but really 1978-79 was year Borussia stepped down – in great style, as winners, fortunately. This was their last international triumph – long decline laid ahead.