KSK Beveren vs FC Barcelona, ECWC 1978/79 Semi-final

Basel beckons. St. Jakob Stadium is set to host the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup 1978/79. Fortuna Düsseldorf looks a likely finalist having beaten Banik Ostrava 3:1 in the first leg of their semi-final encounter. In the other match-up Barcelona secured the narrowest of leads against Beveren winning the meeting at Camp Nou 1:0.

On their way to Belgium Barcelona have picked up two black eyes. If Shakhtar Donetsk could hardly trouble Barça (3:0 & 1:1), Anderlecht and Ipswich had the Blaugrana on the ropes. Holders Anderlecht won the first leg of the Second Round encounter 3:0 but were beaten on penalties in Catalunya. Ipswich could only ensure a 2:1 advantage in their quarter-finals first leg and fell to that away goal when they lost 0:1 at Camp Nou.

Some uphill battle Beveren are facing then for their semi-final return leg. Then again Carles Rexach’s lone goal a fortnight before was the first goal Beveren had conceded in more than five hours of cup action. No small feat judging by the level of opposition the Belgian Cup winners had faced thus far. Ballymena United of Northern Ireland proved an easy enough appetizer in the first round (6:0 on aggregate). NK Rijeka of Yugoslavia (2:0 on agg.) as well as Internazionale (1:0 on agg.) proved trickier but were beaten nonetheless.

Barcelona impose their dominance early

Beveren catch a lightning start, press in midfield, and break quickly. Barça’s opening moments by contrast are littered with small mistakes and miscues. Migueli wakes his teammates up and demonstrates the hosts he will not be taking any prisoners tonight as he brings down Albert Cluytens hard (2’).

It only takes a few minutes for Barcelona to establish their dominance. Barcelona’s centre backs set up 5 to 10 yards beyond the halfway line. All players bar Pedro María Artola and Erwin Albert are positioned inside Beveren’s half. While Artola tends the visitor’s goal, Albert is down receiving treatment having picked up a knock. This would become a running theme in the match as Beveren’s players would fling themselves into challenges only to land hard or collide with an opponent.

Within five minutes Jose Vicente Sánchez takes aim at Jean-Marie Pfaff’s goal. His first effort comes from too far out, never quite getting on target.

 Approximate formations and player movements for KSK Beveren vs FC Barcelona, April 25th 1979

Approximate formations and player movements for KSK Beveren vs FC Barcelona, April 25th 1979

Unsurprisingly there seem to be hardly any positions to Barcelona’s structure. Apart from the goalkeeper only the centre backs appear to have fixed roles. Jesús Antonio de la Cruz will defend on the right wing but will then move in front of the back line to distribute play or move upfield into the first line of attack. Johan Neeskens will pop up on either wing. Juan Manuel Asensi and Carles Rexach interchange on the left, as do Sánchez and Juan Carlos Heredia on the right; even Hans Krankl will drop deep into midfield. Combine all of that with constant motion off the ball and crisp passing, and within ten minutes the Belgians are holding on for dear life.

Put it down to nerves that the hosts even manage to place a throw-in straight out of touch ten yards further down the line. Beveren when on the ball always look out-numbered in midfield. Challenges from Barça players fly in from all sides, not always clean. Referee Pat Partridge shows a keen sense to keep the tackles within limit. Beveren, though, rarely string more than three or four passes together in the opening twenty minutes.

KSK Beveren manage to negate Krankl

Beveren do however meet that scrappiness and get a better grip on the game mid-way through the first half. Barcelona’s offensive output is limited to a number of corners which fall victim to Pfaff’s good aerial command inside his box.

The Belgian international is excellent on the ground as well. Heredia and Sánchez catch Beveren’s left side of defence sleeping. Sánchez puts in a cross, Krankl gets his head on it to extend it for Asensi at the far post. Pfaff is out quickly to stifle the shot. Rexach first-times the rebound but Pfaff had remained alert, and with a lightning reflex denies Rexach and Barça the opener (22’).

Beveren struggle when the visitors widen the pitch as they are known to do. The Belgians get pulled apart horizontally and stretched vertically, and then are not quick enough individually to prevent getting beat in one on ones. Beveren focus on the most important defensive aspect and do manage to limit Krankl’s involvement to a minimum. The Austrian was playing his first season for Blaugrana, producing perhaps his finest campaign. Krankl’s final tally for ‘78/79 would read 36 goals across 40 appearances in all competitions. In Beveren, though, he hardly sees any of the ball. In the first half only a few passes reach him.

End to end action before half time

Approaching half time the match suddenly springs to new life as both teams look to score. Robert Stevens puts in a cross from the left wing. With more than enough defenders in the box De la Cruz whiffs on a clearance. The ball falls to Erwin Albert at the penalty spot who turns and shoots straight at Artola (38’).

Two minutes later Albert wins the ball inside Beveren’s half, shifts play via Heinz Schönberger who finds Albert Cluytens with a lovely chipped ball over the defence. Barça had held a high back line trying to spring the offside trap. Cluytens beats it, latches onto the pass, and takes it into the box. Artola is out quickly enough to stifle the shot.

Almost end to end action then as Heredia puts in a cross from the left wing. Krankl beats Freddy Buyl to it at the near post but the Belgian proves foil enough to prevent Krankl getting off a clean shot (43’).

Beveren catch the better start to the second half. After all the close of the first had shown they were in with a shout. The hosts only need one goal and now take the game to Barça. Beveren’s midfield press works better now. Barça look for quicker passes into the first line to bridge the midfield finding mixed success.

Beveren try not to allow themselves to be stretched as badly anymore, keeping the center tighter. While that stifles Barcelona’s ball progression it also allows more options for ball carrier when Beveren win possession. This had been a large issue in the first half. Now only the distribution into the first line lacking. Chances still pop up: Robert Stevens gets an uncontested shot off from 20 yards out; is too hurried, and scuffs it (57′). Wim Hofkens pulls off a ¾ overhead kick. There is too much traffic in the box so his shot is ultimately blocked but it speaks to the confidence of the Beveren side (61′).

Eddy Jaspers sends a deep free kick forward, Barça have trouble dealing with, and barely get a clearance out of the box. A second ball in finds Jean Janssens who lets it bounce once, then tries a lobbed header over Artola. While a good idea, his execution takes too long. Artola is out in time to snatch ball out of the air (66′).

Barça calm under pressure

Danger for Pfaff’s goal arises out of these situations in particular. When Beveren lose the ball high up the pitch they don’t fall back as a unit. Five or six players, likely due to exhaustion after 60+ minutes played, always seem slow to get back. The hosts run the risk of getting stretched again with a big hole opening up in front of the defence. Barça can’t yet capitalize: Krankl fails to get an uncontested header on target (75′) while Neeskesn forces Pfaff into a nice save from long range (77′).

Beveren’s coach Robert Goethals opts to use only one substitute, bringing on the Argentine Saúl Lisazo for Paul van Genechten (83′). Joaquim Rifé, sat in the other dugout, had already bolstered the defence by introducing Antonio Olmo for Enrique Álvarez Costas (68′). Esteban Vigo, on for Heredia, was to be a fresh pair of legs for midfield. Neeskens plays in Esteban right away with a great through ball. Seemingly clear through on goal, Esteban is only denied by a magnificent last ditch tackle from Cluytens (80′).

Krankl, largely unnoticed in the second half, resorts to falling back into midfield. The Austrian starts an attack himself, tanking his way through the Beveren defence on the left wing, and whips in a low cross from the goal line. At the far post Rexach sticks a boot on it but ends up skying it over an open goal (85′). Up the other end, high balls spell trouble for Barça again. Multiple crosses are cleared only halfheartedly, get sent straight back in. Artola produces a fine save to deny Albert (87′).

As the replay is shown Barça are already up the pitch again. We rejoin the action to a cluster of celebrating Blaugrana players. Alas they had not scored just yet. Rexach is to take a penalty in the 87th minute. He calmly slots it into the lower right corner, catching Pfaff on the wrong foot. Again the celebration is rather short lived. Partridge must have spotted some encroachment, and orders the penalty to be retaken. Krankl steps up, sends Pfaff the wrong way, and places it just where Rexach had put it moments before. Neither the original offense nor the encroachment are replayed for the TV audience; at least not on the surviving footage.

Awards

  • Man Of The Match: Cluytens
  • Best hair: Albadalejo
  • Viewing recommendation: Yes, especially for Barça’s fluid play in the first half and Beveren’s fight back in the second half

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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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