If you were asked to name your favourite ever match, what would you say? Brazil-Italy from the 1982 World Cup? England-Argentina from 1986? The list is practically endless. Let me tell you about mine though.
It’s 1986 and Dynamo Dresden have qualified for the European Cup Winners’ Cup (remember that?) after winning the East German FDGB Cup in 1985. Dynamo had been an extremely strong team all through the 1970s, winning five Oberliga titles and two FDGB cups. However, they hadn’t managed to replicate this success on a European level and had began to suffer from Dynamo Berlin’s domination of the domestic football scene, helped by a certain Mr Mielke at the head of the Stasi (Dynamo Berlin won all league titles form ’78 until ’89, by which time his grip on the state had started to loosen). That season’s European Cup Winners’ Cup only involved 32 teams and five rounds and, after scraping past Cercle Brugge in the first round and comprehensively beating HJK Helsinki over two legs in the second round, Dynamo Dresden soon found themselves in the quarter final accompanied by teams such as Athletico Madrid, Dukla Prague, Dynamo Kiev and, most importantly of all, Bayer Uerdingen.
Bayer Uerdingen had been a relatively good second tier team through the 1970s who had spent a couple of years in the Bundesliga. Then, at the beginning of the 1980s, the club backed by the chemical giant Bayer and based in Krefeld became Bundesliga regulars and even took home the DFB-Pokal in 1985 after coming from behind to beat Bayern München. This meant, of course, participation in the 1985/86 European Cup Winners’ Cup. Like Dynamo Dresden, Uerdingen reached the quarter final of the competition, beating Żurrieq FC of Malta and impressively knocking out Galatasary. Sure enough, as the draw for the quarter finals was made on 9th January 1986, Dynamo Dresden and Bayer Uerdingen would meet.
There was lots of excitement about the meeting of the two sides, as there was every time two teams from either side of the inner German border met. In 1973, Dynamo Dresden lost to Bayern München over two legs in the European Cup by the odd goal in 13 (Bayern went on to win the trophy that season) whilst Lokomotive Leipzig met Fortuna Düsseldorf in the UEFA Cup of the same season. A season later, 1.FC Magdeburg narrowly lost in the European Cup second round to reigning champions Bayern. It was Magdeburg who were involved in the first East German victory over a team from the West, as a Jürgen Sparwasser hat-trick helped them knock Schalke 04 out of the 1977 UEFA Cup. Further meetings followed between Magdeburg and Mönchengladbach Dynamo Berlin and HSV, Lok Leipzig and Werder Bremen. None of these (not even the Dresden-Bayern game) had anything on what was to come between Uerdingen and Dresden.
This football match was, of course, important for many other reasons above and beyond football. The East German government saw the tie as a chance to show its prowess over the West and indeed the Stasi ordered Dynamo to reach the semi-final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup. It was an obligation, alongside winning the FDGB Cup and fighting for the league title, and all members of Dynamo Dresden were aware of the consequences of failure. The Stasi didn’t want to leave anything to chance and made it their responsibility to fix any problems that there might be with the Dresden team and general set-up. An official memo declared: “…with regard to the realisation of these performance goals, the regional state security administration has been made aware of a range of problems, the remedying of which is being worked on…”. This included influencing team selection. Before the first leg in the Rudolph-Harbig Stadion in Dresden on 5th March 1986, the Stasi decreed that top player Frank Lippmann remain in the team against the wishes of Dynamo manager Klaus Sammer, father of Matthias Sammer. Sammer had wanted to leave Lippmann out of the squad due to the latter’s active social life and “evening escapades”. After 50 goalless minutes of the first leg, it seemed that the Stasi’s decision had been vindicated as Lippmann turned in a rebound to open the scoring on an absolute quagmire of a pitch. 12 minutes later in the 62nd minute, Hans-Uwe Pilz showed impressive skills on such a surface to increase Dynamo’s lead to 2-0. Uerdingen were beaten, but not disheartened. “I am disappointed that we held Dynamo during their stronger phase (during the first half), only to then throw everything away in a matter of a few minutes,” said Uerdingen manager Karl-Heinz Feldkamp after the game. “But when I say everything, I don’t mean the tie, I merely mean this match.” Indeed, Dynamo still bore the wounds from their bitter defeat in the previous year’s Cup Winners’ Cup where they had taken a 3-0 home lead to Vienna against SK Rapid Wien and then promptly lost 5-0.
On 19th March 1986, the return leg took place at the Grotenburg-Kampfbahn in Krefeld in front of 22,000 fans. German national broadcaster ZDF decided to broadcast the match over Bayern München’s European Cup tie in Brussels against Anderlecht. However, due to te result of the first leg, it wasn’t a sure bet that Uerdingen would come through the tie and there was even talk of switching to the Bayern tie if the Uerdingen-Dresden game was all over at half-time. The game kicked off in front of 22,000 fans and what followed was quite possibly the most exciting 90 minutes of football ever seen.
It took Dynamo Dresden all of one minute to achieve their main target for the night, an away goal. A free-kick over on the left flank was sent in deep and centre-back Ralf Minge rose highest to nod home the goal that put the tie at 3-0 in Dynamo’s favour. The Uerdingen players were shocked as, not even a minute into the match, their task had just become twice as difficult. Even an equaliser, a towering header by Wolfgang Funkel in the 13th minute, didn’t really seem to be of any importance. Uerdingen still pushed forward, but this inevitably left gaps in the defence. In the 36th minute, a scramble in the Dresden box led to the ball being cleared to Ulf Kirsten on the right-wing who sprinted into the box and put the ball on a plate for that man Frank Lippmann again to put Dresden in the lead once more. Just before half-time, Dynamo extended their lead even further after Lippmann fed Ulf Kirsten in the box and Kirsten’s shot took a wicked deflection of defender Rudi Bommer and nesteld in the back of te net.
As the half-time whistle blew, the game was surely over. Uerdingen needed to score five in the second half to win and hope that Dynamo didn’t find another goal. Dynamo’s rapid counter-attacking in the first half had already demonstrated how dangerous they were on the break so if Uerdingen pushed too many men forward, they were leaving themselves open for punishment at the other end. With a 5-1 aggregate lead (plus the three away goals they had scored), Dresden looked to be home and dry. There was, however, a glimmer of hope.
An innocuous incident just before Dresden had scored their third proved to be the turning point. Goalkeeper Bernd Jakubowski ran straight into Funkel whilst trying to collect a high ball into the box and suffered a significant shoulder injury (which ended up actually ending his career). In the changing rooms at half-time, he wanted to receive painkilling injections so that he continue but he had already been administered with the highest dosage. He had to be substituted. On the bench, Dynamo had a young goalkeeper in the shape of Jens Ramme. Ramme had no league or European experience and was only 22 years old. Sammer came to him with five minutes of the break left and said, “you’ll keep goal second half”. Four years earlier, Aston Villa’s Nigel Spink had come off the bench, making only his second first team appearance, to replace injured goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer and subsequently kept a clean sheet and help Villa win the European Cup. Jens Ramme’s debut was not to be so glorious.
Perhaps driven by the fear of failure and the repurcussions at home if the team lost the tie, and also haunted by the events of the previous year in Vienna, panic filled the Dresden dressing room. Ramme was understandably nervous, but Dresden started the second half confidently and dealt with Uerdingen’s attacking threat relatively comfortably for the first 15 minutes. However, on 60 minutes Ramme was called into action for the first time. He made a fantastic save low to his right but was only able to parry in the direction of the Uerdingen attackers. Dresden defender Ralf Minge leant in to try and clear the ball and the referee’s whistle blew: penalty.
The penalty was duly dispatched by Funke and this seemed to give Uerdingen the lift they needed. An own goal from Ralf Minge shortly afterwards brough the match to 3-3 on the night, 3-5 on aggregate. Only two minutes later in the 68th minute, Uerdingen were suddenly in the lead. Dresden were defending desperately, but couldn’t get out of their own half. Wolfgang Schäfer picked the ball up on the right of the box and lobbed it over the onrushing Ramme in the Dresden goal. 4-3. In the 78th minute, Dietmar Klinger picked up the ball on the halfway line and the Dresden players backed off. He let fly with a low right-footed shot and it flew into the bottom right-hand corner of the net. Suddenly it was only away goals that were the difference; Uerdingen needed one more.
From now on, there was only ever going to be one outcome. Uerdingen attacked “like waves”. And barely a minute after the 5-3 had been scored, they had another penalty. Following another scramble in front of the Dresden goal, an Uerdingen shot was blocked on the line by the hand of Dresden captain Dixie Dörner. Wolfgang Funkel stepped up again and confidently sent the ball into the back of the net for his hat-trick. Uerdingen had the lead at 6-3 on the night, 6-5 on aggregate, and the atmosphere in the stadium was electric. That being said, there were still 10 minutes to be played and Uerdingen keeper Werner Vollack produced two fantastic saves to keep Uerdingen ahead. With Dresden pouring forward, all it took was a strong defensive header from the peerless Funkel and one quick touch from Schäfer to send the latter clean through and with all the time in the world to put the game well and truly beyond doubt.
Five minutes later and the referee blew the full-time whistle, Uerdingen were through. The fans in Krefeld partied through the night but the Uerdingen players had still not fully grasped what had happened. “We had promised ourselves at half-time that we would go out of the cup with our heads held high,” said Uerdingen manager Feldkamp. Nothing had been put in place for any kind of celebrations. In the Dresden dressing room, on the other hand, there was deadly silence. Everyone was aware of the repurcussions.
One of the most consequences of the game took place later that night at the hotel. At some point in the night, Frank Lippman slipped out of a back entrance at the hotel and never returned to the GDR. Due to the standing of footballers and how well-known they were around the country, this incident was highly embarassing for the state. Sammer was held responsible and promptly lost his job. Endless reports had to be written and interviews had tobe conducted by Dresden players and directors. Lippmann went on to play in the Bundesliga with FC Nürnberg and Waldorf Mannheim. Jens Ramme, the substitute goalkeeper who had conceded 6 goals in the second half never got a chance to fight for the number 1 shirt, his career quite possibly tarnished by that one night in Uerdingen.
Since that famous night, both clubs have fallen on hard times. Dresden finally won another DDR Oberliga in 1989 and reached a UEFA Cup semi-final in 1989. They also managed a 4-year stay in the Bundesliga during the early nineties, but since then mostly been downhill. They currently play in the third tier of German football but still attract crowds of over 15,000 on a regular basis. Uerdingen, on the other hand, have perhaps suffered even more. They were relegated from the Bundesliga in 1995 and have made the gradual fall form grace into the 6th tier Niederrheinliga along with giants of the modern game such as Rot-Weiss Essen’s reserve team and SV Hönnepel-Niedermörmter. But however low Uerdingen fall, there will always be a special place in the hearts of many for that fantastic night in 1986.