Everyone loves an underdog: Borussia Dortmund 1997

After watching Borussia Dortmund’s latest crazy escapade in Europe, an end to end tie that finally finished 3-4 away to Karpaty Lviv,  my mind went wandering back to the great team of the 1990’s and particularly their 3-1 Champions League victory over Juventus.  So a small homage to Dortmund and that wonderful team is in order…

Dortmund celebrated their 100 year anniversary in 2009, a century after a group of miners and steelworkers decided to mix their two favourite hobbies, beer and football.  Borussia was the name of the local brewery, and the new club was named in it’s honour.  Dortmund were the first German side to win a major European trophy, beating Liverpool 2-1 in extra time in 1966.  Their real glory years came in the nineties when Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld was appointed in 1991.  Hitzfeld had managed two other teams before then, both in Switzerland, FC Aarua and Grasshoppers Zurich but made his name with Dortmund.  In his first season they finished second in the league and in his second they made it to the UEFA cup final eventually losing 6-1 to Juventus, the team they would go on to face 5 years later in the Champions League final.  They won the Bundesliga in 1995 and 1996, and had the 1996 European player of the year in Matthias Sammer (BBC brainbox Alan Shearer came in third).  In the 1996 campaign Michael Zorc’s goals from central midfield, combined with the intelligent thrusting and probing of Andreas Möller had driven Dortmund to the championship.  In 1995, it went down to the wire, Dortmund finished 1 point ahead of Werder Bremen but in 1996 they were the undisputed Champions, 6 points clear of Bayern München at the finish.  Dortmund were to finish third in 1997 but they would claim the biggest prize in club football.  In the previous season’s Champions League Dortmund and Juve had been drawn in the same group playing out two unpredictable away wins.  In Germany Juventus inspired by Alessandro Del Piero triumphed 1-3, while in Turin Dortmund won 1-2 with another goal from Zorc and the decider by Ricken.  They both qualified from that group but their fortunes were mixed.  Juventus went on to defeat the reigning champions Ajax on penalties in the final, and the beaten finalists had knocked out Dortmund in the quarter-finals.  Next year though the new reigning champions would experience the same disappointment they handed out to Ajax in 1996.

Juventus were right in the middle of their period of domination of the Italian game.  They were Serie A champions in 1995, runners-up in 1996 and champions again in 1997.  In the Champions League in 1997 they were unbeaten through the group stage taking 16 points from a possible 18, scoring 11 and conceding only once.  Their dominance of Group C made it possible for Manchester United to qualify in second place after losing three times.  In the quarter-final Juve progressed 3-1 on aggregate after 2 games against Rosenborg, and then met Ajax in the semi’s, their conquerors from the year before.  This time Juventus were ruthless, beating Ajax 1-2 in Amsterdam, and 4-1 in Turin.

Dortmund had a less comprehensive progression to the final, they finished second on goal difference to Atlético Madrid.  Dortmund lost one game to Madrid but made it through to the next round with their defence looking unusually suspect.  They had scored 14 but conceded 8, including 3 at home to Steaua Bucuresti.  Auxerre were waiting in the quarter-finals and Dortmund saw them them off with a 0-1 away win and 3-1 home win to set up a semi-final against the English champions.  In the first game Manchester United boasted Schmeichel, Cantona, Beckham, Keane and Giggs in their starting line-up but found it impossible to score against a revitalised Dortmund defence.  Dortmund were missing Riedle, Sammer, Chapuisat, Julio Cesar and Kohler but their re-organised team held on for the victory.  Nicky Butt hit the post in the second half but the game was settled following a long range shot from Rene Tretschok that was deflected slightly by Gary Pallister.  In the Theatre of Dreams Manchester United were beaten again.  This time by a single Lars Ricken goal, he fired across Schmeichel into the far corner after outmuscling the lumbering Pallister.

The starting line-ups for final were enough to make your mouth water:

The final is played in Munich’s Olympiastadion.  In front of 59,000 Juventus make the early running in the game as Vieri hits the side netting with the scores at 0-0, but Dortmund take the lead.  After a corner had been cleared Paul Lambert (who became the first British player to win the Champions League) sent over a cross for Riedle to chest down, break free from the melee and fire past Perruzi.

Four minutes later and Dortmund shocked all of Italy, as from a corner by Andreas Müller, Riedle laid down the definition of the bullet header to make it 2-0.

Marcello Lippi’s Juventus, the reigning European champions and their team of superstars were too good to go down without a fight.  They were arguably the best club team in the world at this point.  And as such Zidane tried to drive his team on, he hit the post from 20 yards late in the first half but Dortmund made it to the break unscathed.

On 53 minutes Boksic picked up the ball on the half-way line, played a 1-2 with Zidane, with Vieri dummying the return pass, Boksic took one touch and drove into the left hand side of the penalty area, holding off Jürgen Kohler, then crossed from the by-line for Del Piero to finish. “Juve zurück im Spiel” said the German commentator.  The Dortmund fans began to fear the worst, but still the best team in  Germany were leading the best team in Europe 2-1 with half an hour to go.

On 70 minutes Ottmar Hitzfeld played his joker, bringing on the scorer of the deciding goal in Manchester, Lars Ricken replaced Stephane Chapuisat.  15 seconds later, Juve are piling forward but their latest attack breaks down, Möller receives the ball 10 metres inside his own half and spots no-one has picked up Ricken on the right wing.  Ricken breaks and Möller threads an inch perfect through ball for him.  Running onto the ball and with his first touch Ricken lofts a beautiful shot high over Peruzzi, standing way off his line and into the centre of the net.

3-1 Dortmund, cue Freddy Mercury.

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