FC Barcelona vs Fortuna Düsseldorf, ECWC 1978/79 Final

What follows is a reimagining of a minute by minute for the European Cup Winners’ Cup final 1979 between FC Barcelona and Fortuna Düsseldorf. Needless to say this is one giant spoiler. However, the match is highly recommended viewing – you can find it over on footballia. If you don’t know what happened watch the match before, or even while, reading the MBM. Consider yourself warned.

May 16th 1979, 18:00 UTC+1h: We welcome you to Basel, Switzerland, host city of the European Cup Winners’ Cup final 1978/79. FC Barcelona are taking on Fortuna Düsseldorf. Stay with us for the build-up and team news.

18:10 UTC+1h: With little more than an hour until kick-off St. Jakob Park is already filling up. 30,000 fans are expected to have made the trip from Barcelona, dwarfing Düsseldorf’s contingent of 10,000 fans. Hopefully not an indicator of what’s to come.

Fortuna Düsseldorf lacking intl experience?

18:25 UTC+1h: Even though Barça are considered heavy favourites, the actual match might not be as lopsided as many expect. Düsseldorf feature a host of seasoned veterans, with some fine youth prospects sprinkled in: most notable among the youngsters are Rudi Bommer, as well as Klaus and Thomas Allofs – the elder of which, Klaus, has already been capped by West Germany. A trio expecting to earn many a winner’s medal in the coming decade.

The attacking exploits of the Allofs brothers are made possible by a sturdy defence. Captain Gerd Zewe and fellow centre back Gerd Zimmermann have been manning the heart of Düsseldorf’s back-line together for a number of years. In 1977/78 Fortuna boasted the best defensive record in the Bundesliga, allowing their opponents just 36 goals in 34 matches. This season, however, the number of goals against has ballooned up to 59 goals (in 34). Zewe and Zimmermann missed a combined 8 Bundesliga matches over the course of the season. Likely a by-effect of Düsseldorf having to compete on three fronts.

Getting to Basel took a mighty effort indeed. Düsseldorf survived all four rounds by the skin of their teeth, winning by one goal on aggregate or even just on away goals. They bested, in order: Universitatea Craiova, Aberdeen, Servette, and Baník Ostrava.

Against Barcelona, though, a lack of of experience might come into play. This is only Düsseldorf’s third ever season in Europe. And a dearth of silverware might make for shaky legs. Fortuna are not actually holders of the German Cup from the season before. They had lost to Köln in the final, 0:2. Their rivals from across the Rhine picked up the national double and, as German champions, entered the European Cup.

Barça to finally claim a major trophy?

18:40 UTC+1h: Speaking of international pedigree: Barcelona have been involved in some European competition in each season since 1955/56, winning three Fairs Cups along the way. Most notable, though, are the losses in the finals of the bigger cups. The setting for all of them: Switzerland.

  • In 1961 the Barcelona of Suárez, Kubala, and Kocsis came up against Bela Guttmann’s Benfica. Barça lost the European Cup final 2:3.
  • Carles Rexach was already in the side when, in 1969, Barça faced Slovan Bratislava in Basel for the ECWC. Rexach made his way onto the scoresheet but again Barça lost 2:3.

An infusion of total football, brought a steady run of European semi-final appearances the last few seasons. Yet Barcelona never seemed able to quite get over that last hump. Getting to Basel in 1979 was hard work too. After Shakhtar Donetsk were beaten handsomely, Barça needed an improbable comeback against holders Anderlecht. A 0:3 deficit from the first leg was conquered at Nou Camp via penalties. Winning margins might have increased only slightly for the quarter- and semi-final ties. But Joaquim Rifé’s side did make it past Ipswich Town and KSK Beveren respectively.

Tipping a sole player to make the difference tonight, one invariably lands on Hans Krankl. During his first season in Barcelona the Austrian striker is averaging a goal per game. Here’s Krankl scoring from an outrageous angle just the other week:

19:00 UTC+1h: Team news, the line-ups are in!

  • FC Barcelona: Pedro Artola (30 years old), Rafael Zuvíria (28), Migueli (27), Quique Costas (32), José Albadalejo (23), Tente Sánchez (22), Johan Neeskens (27), Juan Manuel Asensi (29, captain), Carles Rexach (32), Hans Krankl (26), Francesco Carrasco (20); Head coach: Joaquim Rifé.
  • Fortuna Düsseldorf: Jörg Daniel (27), Heiner Baltes (29), Gerd Zewe (28, captain), Gerd Zimmermann (29), Dieter Brei (28), Egon Köhnen (31), Hubert Schmitz (24), Rudi Bommer (21), Thomas Allofs (19), Klaus Allofs (22), Wolfgang Seel (30); Head coach: Ernst Happel.

19:10 UTC+1h: The teams are out, cheered on loudly by their respective supporters. Barcelona are wearing their iconic blaugrana striped shirts with blue shorts and ringed socks, while Fortuna Düsseldorf run out in all white with some red highlights.

19:14 UTC+1h: Juan Manuel Asensi wins the coin toss for Barcelona opting to start in possession. Zewe has his side stay put, and so Düsseldorf will play from right to left in the first half.

Lightening start from Barça…

1′: Krankl and Tente Sánchez get us underway but the first attack of the match falls to Düsseldorf. Klaus Allofs surges up the middle channel and is repelled at third asking by Rafeal Zuvíria. Hubert Schmitz tries the same move and is fouled for a free kick in central position.

2′: Schmitz and Zimmermann try to claim another three or four yards as they are positioning the ball for the free kick, referee Károly Palotai is alert. Six men form the wall, five from Barça, one from D’dorf; Zimmermann blasts the free kick around all of them aiming for the upper right corner. The spot is well covered by Pedro Artola, and Zimmermann’s was always going off target anyway.

4′: Somewhat surprisingly Fortuna Düsseldorf are in command early on. The German side move the ball along swiftly on the ground, trying to free up somebody on either wing, preferably higher up. Barcelona show a good press on the flanks in the middle third.

5′: GOAL. Barça score from their first concerted attack – a great team goal. It all starts with a throw in deep in their own half on the left wing. Asensi throws it to Quique Costas who is under no pressure from D’dorf. Barça’s back-line work it via Migueli to José Albadalejo. Further ahead, with lots of space between the lines, Carles Rexach waits. Albadalejo finds him. Rexach squares up Egon Köhnen, pulls inside, and draws Zewe out of position. Sánchez attacks the space thus opened up, leaving his marker Zimmermann grabbing at air. Cue a perfectly timed through ball from Rexach into the box; one touch from Sánchez inside the box, and a second to lift the ball over Jörg Daniel into the net. They do make it look easy.

…answered quickly by Düsseldorf

6′: Krankl brings down his opposite number, Bommer, on the left wing. Barça had problems dealing with high balls into the box in their semi-final against Beveren. Here the free kick, put in by Klaus Allofs, is defended cleanly, and the lines are cleared swiftly; leaving Düsseldorf to build around the back.

8′: GOAL. Fortuna Düsseldorf are level. Klaus Allofs gets his head on a cross from the right wing, though only slightly. The ball falls to Bommer whose shot through traffic reaches Artola. Barça’s keeper spills it, Klaus Allofs reacts quickest and stabs in the equalizer.

10′: Barça respond by pressing higher up, winning a number of balls before Düsseldorf reach the second line. To be fair, build up play is not their strong suit. Meanwhile Albadalejo is booked for holding up Thomas Allofs in a counter attack.

12′: PENALTY to Barcelona. Krankl had nicked the ball away from Zimmermann who had, for some reason, tried to bring play up into Barça’s half himself. Carrasco takes the ball into the box. Zewe, playing catch-up, scrambles over and brings the winger down illegally.

13′: SAVED. Rexach tries to catch Daniel on the wrong foot. The goalkeeper is not flinching, and so a meek attempt towards the right side of goal is easily stopped. My word, what a start.

Set-up and tactics

16′: Mercifully the pace has slowed down as both sides are looking to get a grip on the hectic start. Fortuna Düsseldorf are on top again, look dangerous with runs up the middle, and are stopped by Barça by any means necessary. Zuvíria & Co. are always toeing the line towards a booking. Especially the Allofs brothers seem to be “targeted” but the bruises should likely be worn as a badge of honour by the forwards. At 19 years old Thomas is the youngest player on the pitch, yet he’s already able to draw such ire from seasoned defenders. And of course a winner’s medal would speed up the healing process.

20′: As the match has quieted down a look at how the teams are set up:

Approximate formations and player movements for FC Barcelona vs Fortuna Düsseldorf, May 16th 1979

Approximate formations and player movements for FC Barcelona vs Fortuna Düsseldorf, May 16th 1979

Barcelona look to disrupt Düsseldorf’s play very early on. Krankl is hovering between the centre backs. He is a proven threat as demonstrated in the lead up to the penalty. Düsseldorf adapt to the pressure Barcelona can bring. After a few situations where passes between centre backs almost fell short, Schmitz is dropping into the full back position. This is mostly done on the left wing to help bring up play.

Fortuna Düsseldorf, against the ball, sit very far back, applying no pressure at all before Barcelona have not passed the halfway line. Zimmermann meets Krankl in midfield. Thomas Allofs holds the line high up on the right wing, Wolfgang Seel does the same on the left. Klaus Allofs is furthest man forward against the ball but drops back into midfield when D’dorf are in possession. Bommer, not a striker by trade, brings the necessary height (1.85m / 6’1”) to already bother Barça’s defence. He will venture into the box to offer another target for crosses. Brei and Schmitz will take turns to double up on either wing.

An unfortunate accident for Brei

24′: Daniel breaks the lull with an excellent save. Neeskens had put in a cross from the right wing. Asensi is only a few yards out when he puts his head behind the ball. Daniel gets his hand up within a split second to deny Barça a second goal.

Fortuna Düsseldorf had been a man down during this attack. Dieter Brei was down receiving treatment. Just a freak accident: with no-one around, Brei’s foot is caught awkwardly in the grass, a twisted knee being the result. It took a few minutes to sort the situation out but the 28-year-old is now being replaced by Josef Weikl. [For Brei multiple operations and comeback attempts would follow but this injury spelled the end of his career.]

26′: Weikl slots into right central midfield next to Schmitz; Düsseldorf need to be alert about their spacing. Currently the side are stretched into five forwards and five defenders with a big gap in midfield between the two lines.

29′: Barcelona seem more structured but always remain fluid within that structure; Rexach moves up and in beside Krankl, Neeskens uses the space over the right wing. The favourites are well in control again after half an hour, though have created too few chances. A tame Rexach effort from the edge of the box the sole exception.

Another set of goals

34′: GOAL. Barcelona are ahead again, took some good movement among the forward line to finally create an opportunity. Rexach had chipped a deep free kick towards the box. Neeskens claims it but can only manage to work it back to Rexach via Albadalejo. Up ahead a number of criss-crossing runs happen too quickly for the D’dorf defence. Rexach, with impecable timing, sticks a ball through the gap thus opening up, feeding Carrasco in the box. Carrasco fends off Zewe, and shoots at a bad angle. Daniel is awkwardly positioned, half blocks the shot, half spills the ball – unfortunately into the center of the box where Asensi had gambled and puts Barça in front from 6 yards out.

37′: While the 2:1 had been somewhat coming Düsseldorf can only hope to shake the setback off quickly, otherwise Barça could finish the match off before half time. As demonstrated by Neeskens going close from 14 yards out.

39′: This is a cup final alright. Weikl harrasses Asensi off the ball near the centre circle, plays it onto Thomas Allofs who is neatly upended by Costas after dribbling all of five yards.

40′: GOAL. Barça’s lead lasted all of six minutes. And it was so simple. Zimmermann, having only just crossed the halfway line, sends a cross towards the edge of the box. Seel beats Zuviría to it; lets it bounce once and then sticks the outside of his right boot onto it from six yards out, taking everybody by surprise and leaving Artola with little chance. Moreso than Artola’s goalkeeping the problem was lax defending. Seel should never have been allowed to get onto the ball like that, enjoying five yards of space all around.

44′: With half-time approaching close up shots of the dugouts reveal stern faces on both benches. The scoreline makes for a tense team talk in either changing room. Small margins seperate the teams. Düsseldorf will be somewhat lifted by the fact that they struck the last blow of the half.

Defensive focus after the break

47′: There seemed to be no cooling hot heads during the break. Going for a long ball into the box, Zimmermann misses out on the header. Migueli clears artistically then stays down. Replays show that Zimmermann likely gave him a bit extra as he passed by. Migueli is slow to get up. As protests from Barça’s bench fall on deaf ears Migueli gets a lick in on Klaus Allofs on Düsseldorf’s next attack.

52′: Düsseldorf are in command early on in the second half. At risk of getting caught on the break Fortuna push very high up. Zimmermann is interpreting his role ever more offensively. The Germans are now doing a better job of denying Barça that final pass, and harass their opponent once attackers reach final third.

Barça, pressing in the middle third, show that different defensive approaches can be successful. Here the sides cancel each other out for most of the beginning of the second half. Migueli has his own “approach” in defence. Incensed he turns 50:50 challenges into 90:10s. It is a sight to behold as long as one is not on the end of his bone crunching tackles… Neeskens joins him with some cynical fouls in midfield.

56′: Klaus Allofs, showing great finesse, takes only one little touch to buy himself enough space to send a decent effort towards goal from 26 yards out. Artola was almost caught flat footed, the keeper maybe having thought the shot never had the upper corner. It is only wide by a few inches.

58′: Jesús de la Cruz comes on to replace Albadalejo.

59′: Not so much cynical as mis-timed, Neeskens loses the ball against Bommer then goes in hard on Thomas Allofs from behind. Booked.

A tepid Blaugrana start to the second half

60′: D’dorf are collecting corners, keeping their opponents away from Daniel’s goal. Barça have yet to muster a shot in the second half. The Catalan side had one attack ruled offside which subsequently saw the ball in goal, but whistle had sounded well before.

As Bommer moves inside Düsseldorf sacrifice a bit of width for additional legs in the centre in their play against the ball. Crucially Fortuna are now able to shift their defensive focus into the middle third. No longer do they just have to rely on stopping the final pass

64′: Klaus Allofs is brought down just outside the box, setting up a 22 yard free kick. An “interesting” variant: Zewe, standing right on the ball, looks likely to roll it forward for a Zimmermann shot. Instead he opts to backheel it for Klaus Allofs to sneak a shot around the wall on the outside. However the players forming the wall are alert and two defenders are out immediately to deny him a shot.

68′: Francisco Martínez comes on for Costas making for a more offensive minded set-up now. Martínez slots in ahead of de la Cruz on the left wing. Asensi takes over at left centre back next to Migueli. It seems Rifé is at least willing to try something. Tippenhauer, though, already had to use one of his subs early on to replace the unfortunate Brei so his options are rather limited.

Krankl slowly coming to life; Zimmermann out

71′: Might as well count this as a shot so Krankl finally gets on the stats sheet. The Austrian hoofs a free kick, from 28 yards out, over both wall and goal.

73′: Krankl again and closer this time. Having tanked his way into the box, fending off three defenders, he forces Daniel into an albeit makeable save.

80′: Ten minutes to go and wear and tear is beginning to show. Players are limping, stemming hands into hips. Worringly for the travelling German fan contingent Düsseldorf are also showing signs of breaking down into a defence / attack split again. Barcelona remain a bit more focussed. Asensi is structuring play from the back, with the blaugrana forwards now starting runs deeper trying to get involved. For some extra confusion both keepers suddenly develop problems dealing with high balls which are now rarely plucked out of the air cleanly.

85′: One too many clashes for Zimmermann. Fortuna’s hard man had received treatment for a bum knee, then tried to walk it off. On first asking Krankl breezes by him. Zimmermann is replaced by Danish international Flemming Lund.

89′: Neither side seem eager to go high risk in order to avoid extra time. Some half chances fall to Barça, aided by miscues in Düsseldorf’s defence. No high percentage shots to speak off as the second half draws to a close.

Into extra time

92′: Düsseldorf start off the extra time with some aimless passes for the first few attacks. Lund, still fresh, finds a gap in the Barça defence up the right half channel and is picked out beautifully by Baltes with a diagonal ball. Lund takes it in-stride on the volley, his shot nearly clipping the bar.

93′: Schmitz with a good kick to the shin of Zuvíria who, to be fair, had that coming from any one of his opponents. Lund is brought down hard on Düsseldorf’s next attack. Are things about to kick off?

97′: Some half chances are starting to accumulate, none though are really threatening. Klaus Allofs, aiming for the goalie’s corner, puts a free kick, from 20 yards out, a few feet wide of goal. Rexach, on Barça’s first trip to the opponent’s box since the restart, blasts a shot into the sky. Neeskens, from the edge of the box, shows fine form on a volley at waist height but misses all the same.

99′: Krankl is still in the match apparently. He receives the ball for, what feels like, the first time in a good half hour. Aaand gets called back by the linesman. Which begs the question, is a touch deemed off-side really a touch?

102′: It’s all a bit helter-skelter at the moment. Neither side are able to string more than three or four passes together, their attempts being either mis-placed, or play broken up by fouls altogether.

104′: GOAL. Barça re-take the lead. Blaugrana had set up shop in the D’dorf half, finally moving the ball around with pace. The goal itself, though, needing just one pass by Neeskens. Deep on the left wing, with ze Germans backing off, Neeskens picks out Rexach in the box, lobbing the ball up towards him. Rexach plucks it out of the air with his thigh, taking a volley shot with his second touch. Crucially Zewe had slipped and fallen down right in front of Rexach. A deflected shot loops over Daniel into the goal.

Fortuna Düsseldorf are struck, their subsitutes and coaching staff in the dugout seem frozen. Barcelona are lining up with a whole new energy. Soon enough Carrasco and Krankl are flying down the channels again. They might put another three past their opponents tonight.

105′: Neeskens sends the photographers behind the goal scurrying with an ill-placed free kick.

Barça clinch it, or do they?

107′: Baltes and Lund must have formed some sort of instant connection. Again the former picks out the latter at just the right moment. Lund is bursting through the left side of Barça’s defence. His cross towards the far post squandered by Schmitz, and Barça are right on top of the action. Could have, or should have brought Tippenhauer Lund on earlier?

111’: GOAL. Barcelona clinch it with a fourth. Düsseldorf had pushed forward. Their efforts on goal, though, came from too far out, were more desperation than anything else. With little cover at the back Neeskens, again, can pick his options as he nicks the ball off Schmitz. The Dutch international goes for Carrasco down the center. He has Baltes on him, and pulls into the box at an angle allowing Krankl to cross paths behind them. Carrasco lays the ball off into in the center for Krankl who can take his time as all defenders are simply to beat to close the gap. An easy finish from 10 yards out for the decider.

113′: Barcelona are on coronation street now, playing keep ball. Düsseldorf can only muster a token resistance.

114′: GOAL. Hold the press just yet! Düsseldorf pull one back. Who else but Lund to start it? He puts in the decisive cross from the right wing. This time, thankfully, Klaus Allofs is waiting at the far post who is not dallying as he sends it across the face of goal hard, hoping for a touch. He gets several but the crucial one comes from Seel who gives Fortuna Düsseldorf a lifeline at 3:4.

115′: Still D’dorf are one goal down with only five minutes left to play. Barça’s bench are looking worried though. Anybody wearing a suit is allowed to bellow instructions. If the players will be able to make much sense of half a dozen different signals remains to be seen.

118′: What the players do manage is to slow the match down to a crawl. Which, come to think of it, likely was all of the instruction passed on since the last goal.

120′: Barça are just hammering the balls out of their half. It ain’t pretty but it’s highly effective. D’dorf can’t even establish a foothold.

FULL TIME: As the final whistle sounds Barcelona had clung onto their lead. Make no mistake, during the course of extra time they were the better side. Heavy handed tactics were born out of necessity but were only needed because they had scored twice themselves.

Part of the 30,000 Blaugrana fans flood the field with Catalan flags, hoist Rexach onto their shoulders and celebrate their heros.


  • Man Of The Match: Rexach. Honourable mentions to Neeskens, Lund and Klaus Allofs.
  • Best Hair: Gerd Zimmermann.
  • Viewing recommendation: As said at the outset this match is highly recommended viewing and can be found on footballia. Highlights below.

If you enjoyed the write-up check out the list of Retro Match Reports also available; and follow us on Twitter and Facebook so you will be notified of future installments in the series.

About Sebastian

Sebastian writes and talks about football of all eras in German and English. His series of Retro Match Reports focus on British, German and Italian football history. For YYFP he is currently working his way through the late '70s and early '80s. Follow Sebastian on Twitter: @maltacalcio.

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