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Five Bayern Munich games that defined the dramatic 1980s

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The third installment of this series covers games from the 1980s, an era full of off-field turmoil, renewed domestic, success and heart-breaking European campaigns. 

Photo by Peter Robinson - EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images

The 1980s for Bayern Munich was defined by renewed domestic success, calamitous European Cup final losses, and dramatic events off the pitch. Bayern charged into the 80s as the constant subject of the German media.

Bayern Munich’s domestic trophies during the 1980s:

Bundesliga titles: 6 (1979–80, 1980–81, 1984–85, 1985–86, 1986–87, 1988–89)

DFB Pokal: 3 (1981–82, 1983–84, 1985–86)

DFL-Supercup: 1 (1987)

Why? To answer this, we have to go back even further, to 1962 when Bayern appointed Wilhelm Neudecker president of the club. Neudecker was Bayern’s president for the next seventeen years. During his tenure, Bayern transformed from a relatively unknown club from Munich to one of the best in the world. Hence Wilhelm Neudecker is considered the father of the modern Bayern Munich.

By 1979, opinions of the Bayern pioneer had shifted. Bayern had not won the league since 1974, and the last trophy they won was the Intercontinental Cup in 1976. Neudecker was on the verge of hiring Max Merkel, a veteran manager with extensive experience in the Bundesliga as well as the La Liga. Somewhat surprisingly, the team unanimously voted against the idea. This made news in German television in an era where sports were hardly a regular subject of the German media. Neudecker’s ensuing resignation only increased Bayern Munich’s constant domination of the news arena.

Before resigning, Wilhelm Neudecker’s last act changed the club forever. He decided to hire 27-year-old Uli Hoeness as the club’s new business manager in 1979. Injuries had forced Hoeness to hang up his cleats in 1979, but his impact on the club was arguably greater off the pitch. Hoeness took over at a time when the threat of bankruptcy loomed over Bayern Munich. Thanks to Hoeness’ shrewd signings and business savvy, Bayern emerged from debt only five years after his appointment.

1. Bayern Munich 2-1 Eintracht Braunschweig, May 31, 1980

GERMANY OUT football, Bundesliga, 1979/1980, Parkstadion, FC Schalke 04 versus FC Bayern Munich 1:1, club manager Uli Hoeness (FCB) left and coach Pal Csernai (FCB) on the coaching bench.
Club manager Uli Hoeness (left) and coach Pal Csernai (right) on the bench.
Photo by Werner OTTO/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Bayern hired Pál Csernai instead of Max Merkel in mid-December 1978, after Bayern shockingly lost to Fortuna Düsseldorf away 7-1. Under Csernai’s management, Bayern finished fourth despite the poor start, losing only one game after the 22nd matchday. The watershed moment was a 7-1 away win against powerhouse Borussia Mönchengladbach on matchday 23, which many believe foreshadowed the successes of the 1980s ahead.

Csernai revolutionized Bayern’s style by introducing a combination of man-to-man and zone defense, which was referred to as the Pal-System in Munich. Bayern replaced the greats of the Golden 1970s with players such as Klaus Augenthaler, Paul Breitner, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, and Dieter Hoeness.

These four were crucial to Bayern’s Bundesliga campaign in 1980. Rummenigge and Breitner made a formidable partnership. In the title-clinching game at home against Eintracht Braunschweig, “Breitnigge” scored the two goals that gave Bayern the title. Breitner opened the goal-scoring with a penalty in the 6th minute. Rummenigge increased the tally in the 52nd minute. Although Braunschweig scored in the 88th minute, it was not enough to stop Bayern from winning their 5th Bundesliga title.

The six-year-wait was over, and Bayern’s domestic success had just begun.

2. Bayern Munich 4-2 FC Nürnberg, May 1, 1982

Bayern won two consecutive league titles in 1980 and 1981. Bayern failed to win the league a year later, finishing third behind FC Köln and the champions, Hamburger SV. Hamburg had a very good team, with players such as Manfred Kaltz, Felix Magath, and Bundesliga golden-boot winner Horst Hrubesch. As a back-up, they had 36-year-old Franz Beckenbauer, who won the title in his very last Bundesliga season. Hamburg won the European Cup one year later.

Despite finishing third, Bayern’s season did not end titleless. Both my father and my grandfather were at the Waldstadion in Frankfurt with 61,000 other supporters to witness the DFB Pokal final. Expectations were high since Bayern was the clear favorite against Nürnberg, and this was considered a golden opportunity to win the DFB Pokal for the first time since 1971.

To everyone’s surprise, Nürnberg was in the lead at the end of the first half. After a wonder-strike from Reinhold Hintermaier and a cool-headed finish from Werner Dressel, it looked as if the DFB Pokal title would go to the city 170 km north of Munich. To make matters worse, Bayern’s star striker Dieter Hoeness had collided with Nürnberg center-back Alois Reinhardt and was bleeding heavily from his head. But Hoeness soldiered on to play the whole game while wearing a bandage soaked with blood.

What happened next is considered one of the greatest Bayern comebacks of all time. Hoeness headed (!) a perfect ball to Karl-Heinz Rummenigge who cut Nürnberg’s lead to 2-1 in the 54th minute. Wolfgang Kraus then equalized in the 65th minute and Paul Breitner scored a penalty for Bayern only seven minutes later. The comeback was complete when Hoeness himself scored in the 89th minute. How? With a well-placed header.

After an eleven-year wait, Bayern was once again the DFB-Pokal winner. Hoeness said after the game that it was the most important victory of his career, and the Bayern President, Willi Hoffmann said that Hoeness deserved the Iron Cross for his selfless effort.

3. Bayern Munich 0-1 Aston Villa, May 26 1982

Twenty-five days after the victory at the Waldstadion, Bayern played in the European Cup Final against the Birmingham club Aston Villa. The game was played at the famous De Kuip in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

For younger Bayern fans, the final against Chelsea in 2012 at the Allianz Arena — das Finale dahoam — epitomizes the cruel injustice of when the better team loses. For the older generation of Bayern fans, that game was played at De Kuip.

Funnily enough, Aston Villa also experienced a change in management midway through the season, just like Chelsea did in 2012. Villa won the English league in 1980-1981 under Ron Saunders. On February 9, 1982, Saunders resigned over disagreements with Villa’s shareholders. Saunders’ assistant, Tony Barton, a man with no previous head-coach experience, became manager. In strange symmetry, at both Villa and Chelsea, the assistants to the previous head-coaches were the men to lead their English sides to two very unlikely European Cup triumphs.

At De Kuip, Bayern was the clear favorite. Already in the 9th minute, Villa’s chances of a European Cup title shrunk significantly when veteran goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer had to leave the pitch with an injury. His replacement, Nigel Spink, came on for his second first-team appearance. In hindsight, this substitution won Villa the game.

For the rest of the game, a red Munich wave beat against the white wall from Birmingham with no success. Spink was fantastic — and also had a fair bit of luck, as it became clear it would not be Bayern’s day. In the 67th minute, Peter White scored the only goal of the game. Bayern had to go home empty-handed.

There’s a theory that the Bavarians had used up all their luck with English sides in 1975 when they won the controversial European Cup final against Leeds United. As history would show, the loss against Villa was the first of three finals that Bayern unluckily lost against English sides.

Brian Moore’s commentary on the winning goal in the 67th-minute goal is cemented at the North Stand of Villa Park:

Shaw, Williams, prepared to venture down the left. There’s a good ball in for Tony Morley. Oh, it must be and it is! It’s Peter Withe.

And what happened to Nigel Spink? After his second appearance for the club, he became Villa’s first-choice keeper for 10 years.

4. Bayern Munich 1-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach, May 31, 1984

Uli Hoeness decided to appoint his former manager Udo Lattek in 1983. Success followed Lattek, although at the time Bayern was still in financial trouble. Bayern replaced a retiring Paul Breitner with Danish playmaker Sören Lerby, a great player, but one who came at a steep cost.

I decided to include this DFB-Pokal game because it foreshadowed the successful period that lay ahead. It was also a game that epitomized the dramatic 1980s, as it ended with controversy.

The road to the final was as dramatic as the final itself. Bayern played Schalke at the Parkstadion in Gelsenkirchen, a game that ended with the incredible scoreline of 6-6 after 120 minutes. Back in those days, a draw after 120 minutes meant a replay game, which would be played in Munich. A week later after the 12-goal thriller, Bayern won at home 3-2. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge scored the deciding goal.

After the 1983-1984 season, Bayern sold the then 29-year-old Karl-Heinz Rummenigge for a record fee of €5.7m to Inter Milan. After that sale, Bayern’s debt had been cleared, and the club could afford new talents, such as Lothar Matthäus. As fate would have it, Bayern bought the 23-year-old from Borussia Mönchengladbach before the final. Matthäus thus played his last game for Die Fohlen against his future club in the DFB Pokal final. (Mario Götze, anyone?)

Gladbach took the lead in the 33rd minute but Bayern equalized eight minutes before the end of normal time. The game went to penalties, which never had happened before in a German cup final. Bayern won the penalty shootout with 7-6, but the main discussion point after the game was Lothar Matthäus penalty miss. Matthäus, in his last kick as a Gladbach player, smashed the ball over the bar. As a result, enraged Borussia fans questioned his loyalty to the club after the game.

Bayern won the league title three years in a row after that dramatic final, winning the double in 1985-1986.

5. Bayern Munich 1-2 Porto, May 27, 1987

By 1987, Bayern had a truly great team. They had won the league for the third time in a row, and now Udo Lattek’s men had qualified for their second European Cup final in the span of five years. They would face Porto. In goal, Bayern had the Belgian Jean-Marie Pfaff; their defense included star players such as Klaus Augenthaler and Andreas Brehme; the midfield was manned mainly by the East-German Norbert Nachtweih and Lothar Matthäus, and the attacking outlet was Michael Rummenigge, Roland Wohlfarth, and 34-year-old target striker Dieter Hoeness.

Both sides missed key players when they met in the final. Bayern’s sweeper, Augenthaler, was suspended, and Wohlfarth was injured. Fernando Gomes, Porto’s main striker, who had won the European Golden Boot in 1983 and 1985, also missed the final due to a broken leg.

Just like the game against Aston Villa five years before, Bayern was seen as the clear favorite. Apparently, Bayern’s then president Fritz Scherer had prepared his victory speech in advance, and Uli Hoeness stated on the eve of the match that it would be the beginning of a new, great era.

Porto adopted a conservative approach. Bayern controlled the first half as it was easy for the Bavarians to dominate possession. Bavaria-native Ludwig Kögl scored the first goal in the 25th minute. After tactical changes in the second half, Porto, however, began to play more courageously and confidently. In the 77th minute, Algerian Rabah Madjer scored the equalizer with a cheeky back-heel, which remains one of the more famous goals in a European Cup final. Two minutes later, he set-up the Brazilian Jaury for the winner.

Porto had won their first ever European Cup title, and Bayern’s inability to cope with a new tactical set-up lost them their second and last European Cup final of the 1980s.

Before the new decade began, Bayern managed to win the 1988-1989 Bundesliga season. New coach Jupp Heynckes managed to deliver success with an average squad, since Bayern had lost both Matthäus and Brehme to Inter Milan.

Bayern thus went into the 1990s having won 6 league titles in the 1980s. Although the team ended on a high note, what was to follow was not pretty. The next edition of this BFW Series will cover the 90s, an era epitomized by Bayern’s new nickname, “FC Hollywood.”