The winter of 1979/80 had left the pitch at City Ground in a dire state. And it had left Nottingham Forest chasing the leading pack of the First Division. As March 1980 rolled around Forest sat in eighth, twelve points off the pace Liverpool had set. But they still had the European Cup to defend.
Under the guidance of Brian Clough Forest won the coveted trophy in ‘78/79 beating Malmö FF in the final. Their ‘79/80 campaign had started promisingly enough. Picking up three wins in their first three matches Forest were leading the league in September. Come November Forest started bleeding goals. Trips to The Dell, The Baseball Ground, Selhurst Park and Old Trafford all proved fatal. Southampton and Derby each put four past Peter Shilton. Manchester United helped themselves to three goals while Crystal Palace needed just the one to keep the points in South London.
Nottingham Forest look towards Europe
By boxing day Nottingham Forest were out of the title chase. Sitting in tenth even the drop loomed ominously. Well, at least it was closer than the top of the table. Alas Forest were able to turn their attention towards Europe. As holders of the European Cup they met Barcelona who had picked up the Cup Winners Cup the season prior. At stake: the 1979 European Super Cup. A glitch in the scheduling matrix saw the sides vie for the trophy in January and February of 1980 with Forest running out victors in a 2:1 aggregate win.
In the European Cup Forest bested Sweden’s Öster and Romania’s Argeş Piteşti. Their opponents for the quarter-finals were newcomers on the grandest international stage. BFC Dynamo’s finest European campaign had come in 1971/72 when they reached the semi-final of the Cup Winners Cup. After two 1:1 draws against their brothers in arms from Moscow BFC had to bow out on penalties. A number of early exits from the UEFA Cup followed until BFC were able to claim their first league title in ‘78/79 which saw them finally enter the European Cup.
BFC on the verge of establishing a dynasty
One of the most dominant league campaigns in GDR top flight history, in ‘78/79 Dynamo only lost one of 26 matches, drawing four and winning 21. The sporting love child of Erich Mielke, head of the East German Ministry for State Security, BFC would go on to claim another nine consecutive league titles. That collusion shall be the topic for another day. But make no mistake, beyond any shady dealings, this was still a very fine footballing side reaching the quarterfinals of the European Cup.
Making their way past Ruch Chorzów of Poland, and Servette of Geneva, Switzerland, Dynamo arrived in Nottingham. Stepping out onto the muddy pitch clad in their characteristical wine red shirts their chief opponent were nerves. Nottingham Forest looked much the calmer side early on. Dynamo’s goalkeeper Bodo Rudwaleit was caught off his line just a few minutes in. Frank Gray’s chip from 35 yards out had him beat but went wide.
Trying to stifle Nottingham Forest’s attack
Dynamo’s approach was simple and allowed them to settle in within a reasonable time frame. Tight man marking and hard tackles were employed to stifle Forest’s attack. Trevor Francis was shadowed by Rainer Troppa, Gary Birtles was hounded by Artur Ullrich. Norbert Trieloff acted as sweeper. The trio of BFC defenders played with a resoluteness belying their respective age, of 20, 22, and 22.
On attack Dynamo tried to send Hans-Jürgen Riediger into sprint duels to capitalize on the space opened up by a high Forest back line. Hartmut Pelka proved vital when shifting direction in central midfield. Often the 22 year old (another youngster) collected the outlet from the defence, quickly turned and sent the ball upfield, seemingly without even looking. There is an important distinction to be made here as the passes came not blindly. They were high risk but never impossible to reach. Dynamo played a very direct style, at most attackers took two touches and moved the ball on diagonally or vertically. If modern statistics had been around in 1980 the average length for Dynamo passes inside the opponent’s half may well have been 15 yards.
Dynamo nominally fielded three forwards but could trouble Forest’s build up with a fourth if Frank Terletzki stepped into the first line. Alternatively Pelka would drop into attacking midfield to provide another central passing option.
Apropos pass length, that 15 yards figure for Dynamo would likely have been triple of what Nottingham Forest were going for. The hosts strung lots of short passes together and were using quick interchanges to pull markers out of position to open up lanes.
Forest favored the left wing with both Trevor Francis and John Robertson occupying Michael Noack. It’s Martin O’Neill, though, who set up Forest’s first big chance of the night; fending off both Ralf Sträßer and Reinhard Lauck on the right wing. In the middle Birtles out jumped Ullrich to send a header just over the bar.
One way traffic towards Rudwaleit’s goal
During the first half Dynamo were solely focussed on preserving the clean sheet. Pulling everybody behind the ball they established a massive presence around there box. This limited both offenses. Forest had to make do with long range efforts or crosses sent in from the goal line. On the other end of the pitch Dynamo lacked numbers going forward; Riediger was left to claim the balls himself. Even if he managed to do so he was left wanting for lack of passing options. Dynamo’s only effort came via Lauck who blasted a Terletzki corner over the goal altogether.
It’s one way traffic towards Dynamo’s goal; yet Rudwaleit was only forced into action once, producing a fine stop on a Robertson shot. Forest saw much more of the ball but had frustratingly little to show for it as half time whistle went.
Upon restart Dynamo quickly looked to take any tempo out of the contest whatsoever. Soon enough the pattern of Forest attacking and Dynamo defending was established again. Forest just could not seem to make any pass into the middle stick. There was always an East German leg in the way spurring many a Berlin Wall comparison by the English broadcast commentary.
Dynamo capitalize on Forest’s exhaustion
Some ten minutes into the second half came the first bit of danger for Rudwaleit’s goal. Robertson was allowed space enough by Lauck to send in a cross which dipped down dangerously at the far post. An alert Rudwaleit tipped it over the bar. Bowles’ delivery of the ensuing corner was headed on by Burns into the 6 yard box. Nobody in a yellow shirt was able to capitalize from the promising combination though.
For a moment the match seemed on the verge of descending into a kick fest. Francis had given Troppa the slip, was then brought down just outside the box by Trieloff. Robertson was tripped by Lauck shortly after. While Lauck did well to escape a booking, a fate Trieloff did not share, the tone had gotten rougher.
But with an hour off the clock and the physicality ratcheting ever up Forest looked depleted. After the hosts lost yet another ball in the final third Dynamo strike.
The lone goal of the night came via a brilliantly played out counter attack. Pelka had gathered the ball in his own box, brought it out into midfield where nobody bothered him. Terletzki had started a run down the left wing, leaving his marker far behind. Pelka released him into space. Before Bryn Gunn could properly square Terletzki up the attacker had already put in an inswinging cross towards the far post. There Riediger controlled the ball with his chest and pulled inside. As two defenders looked on Riediger slotted a shot into the lower left corner past an outstretched Shilton. It was a move spanning 80 yards, covered by three Dynamo players in less than twenty seconds.
Shortly after Netz and Terletzki combined for another counter. This time Terletzki’s through ball for Sträßer – who would have been clear through on goal – was called back for off-side.
Nottingham Forest postpone the chase
Forest were still dominating as the second half played out but their urgency waned. Their attack became disjointed and was living off moments of individual brilliance. Bowles and O’Neill both produced fine solos to buy a bit of space; their respective shots were ultimately blocked or stopped.
As energy was sapping quickly from the Forest side and fans alike, few inside the City Ground will have believed a comeback was on the cards. Rudwaleit could only be troubled by a few corners. Standing all of 2.02m (6’6’’) he was not bad in the air as much as he got stuck in traffic inside the box while trying to claim the crosses.
In the closing minutes both sides could have gotten themselves into a better position for the return leg. Francis skyed a clear look at goal from 12 yards. Riediger was denied his second by a fine Shilton stop.
As it were Dynamo took a 1:0 lead back to East Berlin. There, two weeks later, the holders prevailed. Nottingham Forest won the second meeting 3:1 courtesy of a Francis brace with Robertson converting a penalty. Terletzki got on the scoresheet for BFC.
- Man Of The Match: Toss up between Trieloff and Terletzki
- Best Hair: Ralf Sträßer
- Viewing recommendation: Skippable; could only find highlights of the return leg, below
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