Borussia Dortmund In The 96/97 UEFA Champions League

Borussia Dortmund had qualified for the Champions League in 1996/97 after winning the Bundesliga the previous season, beaten Bayern Munich to the top spot by six points.

Manager Ottmar Hitzfeld had brought in Paul Lambert from Motherwell and Paulo Sousa from Juventus to strengthen the midfielder and produce a challenge in the Champions League.

A team that consisted of Stefan Klos in goal, Jurgen Kohler, Matthias Sammer and Martin Kree in a back three with Jorge Heinrich and Stefan Reuter playing as wingbacks. The midfield saw Lambert and Sousa in the centre of midfield with Andreas Moller just behind the front two of Karl-Heinz Riedle and Stephane Chapuisat.

With able replacements such as striker Heiko Herrlich, midfielders Michael Zorc and Lars Ricken as well as Brazilian centre back Julio Cesar, the squad looked very strong on paper.

Dortmund had been drawn in Group B of the Champions League and faced Atletico Madrid, Steaua Bucuresti, and Widzew Lodz. It was a group that Dortmund felt that they could qualify from with the top two progressing to the knockout stages.

They faced Polish team Widzew in their first match at home at the Westfalenstadion.

Dortmund took time to find their feet but scored first in the 45th minute. A free kick was swung to the far post for Heinrich to head back across goal. With the ball skimming of a defenders head it fell nicely for Herrlich to head home from four yards to take the lead at halftime.

Widzew came at Dortmund early on the second half but could not find a breakthrough. On 68 minutes Herrlich pounced on a defence lapses to slot the call home and give the home side a 2-0 lead.

Widzew finally got a goal they deserved on 84 minutes with a deflected shot from Citko which somehow squeezed into the net past Klos, but Dortmund held out to win the first match 2-1. It may not have been the best performance but it was three points on the board.

Dortmund’ second game was a tricky match away to Steaua but the Germans were very impressive.

They opened the scoring early in the sixth minute. Ricken running onto a fantastic long through ball by Moller and finishing well past the goalkeeper.

Heinrich made it 2-0 on 37 minutes after Cesar had played the wing back in, who just managed to get to the ball before the goalkeeper to nick it into the net.

The third goal was a fantastic move by the German side. A long ball found Heinrich sprinting down the left who played in a tantalising cross for Chapuisat to score and give Dortmund the 3-0 win. The pace of the team had been excellent with Heinrich impressing at left wing back.

But Dortmund had their most difficult match next, an away trip to Atletico Madrid.

The Atletico team had Diego Simeone, Juan Esnaider and Kiki in their team and away at the Vicente Calderon was no easy task.

Both sides failed to make the breakthrough in the first half, however, Atletico looked the most likely to score first.

With the second half in full swing, it was Dortmund who took the lead on 51 minutes. Reuter somehow bundled his way into the area and hit an early shot which sneaked in past Jose Molina in the Atletico goal.

The Cauldron fell silent but the Spanish side tried to hit back. Klos was magnificent and kept Atletico at bay to ensure a priceless 1-0 away win for Borussia Dortmund.

With the team now topping Group B confidence was high, but the return match against Atletico brought them back down to earth.

It was, however, Dortmund who broke the deadlock. Herrlich was played onside and managed to beat the offside trap and finish well past the keeper on 17 minutes.

Twenty minutes later Atletico had drawn level with a goal from Roberto who managed to score from a header, it was no more than Atletico deserved as they had put the Germans under increased pressure.

Five minutes later Atletico had taken a 2-1 lead. Having won a free kick on the left-hand side of the area, Pantic somehow scored directly from the set piece which was closer to the corner flag than the goal.

Dortmund attempted to hit back after the break but failed to find a breakthrough. After such a good start to their Champions League campaign, the result was a major disappointment.

Match five saw Dortmund play away to Polish side Widzew.

The match started well for Dortmund with Lambert sweeping home after a square pass from Chapuisat on 14 minutes to give the German side a 1-0 lead.

But a minute later Widzew had drawn level. A long free kick was travelled into the six-yard box for Jacek Dembinski to head home.

Five minutes later the home side were in raptures as they went 2-1 up. Klos had attempted to close down a shot but had skidded out of his area leaving Dembinski to chip home from 25 yards to give the Polish side the lead at halftime.

Dortmund had to respond in the second half, and on 65 minutes they drew level. A looping corner was knocked in by Kohler to give Dortmund a point. It was not a vintage Dortmund performance but they had done enough and qualified for the knockout stages. With one hand remaining it was now who would finish top of the group.

With their final match at home to Steaua, Dortmund gave the home fans some great entertainment.

Chapuisat opened the scoring in the 13th minute firing in a low free-kick on the edge of the area.

Four minutes late Steaua were level, Sabin Ilie scoring from the spot.

Chapuisat made it 2-1 on 22 minutes after Steaua failed to clear, the Swiss striker hammered home an unstoppable shot, then just before half time Rene Tretschok made it 3-1, scrambling in a corner just before half-time.

Steaua had started more brightly and reduced the deficit on 52 minutes. A deep cross found Eugen Baciu who finished well.

Eleven minutes later Riedle made it 4-2. Tretschok floated in a cross from the right for Riedle to meet it with an excellent diving header.

Two minutes later Zorc got Dortmund’s fifth goal after some good work from Ibrahim Tanko on the left.

Steaua managed a consolation goal by Augustin Calin who powered home from range, but it was not enough, as Dortmund sent their home fans home happy with a 5-3 win.

Dortmund finished second in the group behind Atletico on goal difference. Their next match they were drawn in the knockouts to play Auxerre. A team with Taribo West, Alain Goma, and Sabir Lamouchi in their ranks.

With the first leg at home, Dortmund knew they needed a positive result.

Dortmund got off to a flying start as Riedle scored first to put them 1-0 after 12 minutes. It took until the second half before Dortmund doubled their lead, Rene Schneider scoring on 54.

The dangerous Lamouchi grabbed a goal back for Auxerre before Moller scored with seven minutes to go to give the German side a 3-1 lead to defend in France.

The second leg was a very tight affair. Dortmund knew they just needed to keep things tight and a clean sheet would be enough. But with Auxerre needing goals they were always confident of hitting the French side on the break with the pace within the team.

Hold out they did, a fantastic defensive display was made even sweeter as Ricken scored in the 61st minute to grab a vital away goal and a 4-1 win on aggregate.

They had made it into the semi-final of the Champions League.

They had been drawn to face Manchester United if England. United were starting to become a dominant force in England and abroad and boasted Peter Schmeichel in goal, a young Gary Neville

and Gary Pallister in defence, Nicky Butt, David Beckham and Paul Scholes in midfield, while up front they had Andy Cole, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and one Eric Cantona.

Again Dortmund were playing at home first and needed a goal to be able to take something back to Old Trafford.

With the score goalless at half-time it took a wonder strike to win the match. Tretschok picked up the ball about 30 yards out, with a quick turn and a couple of steps forward, he unleashed an unstoppable left-foot shot which flew into the back of the net. It was a truly wonderful strike worthy of winning any game. With the match finishing 1-0, Dortmund had a lead to protect in England.

They knew United would come at them but Dortmund knew they would get opportunities to score.

The match could not have started much better for Dortmund, as Ricken scored a vital goal albeit with a deflection on eight minutes to give them a 2-0 lead on aggregate. They had silenced the Old Trafford crowd and given Manchester United a mountain to climb.

United never recovered from conceding the early goal and Dortmund managed to hold firm at the back to secure a fantastic 2-0 aggregate win. United had wasted many chances and had hit the woodwork on numerous occasions, It seemed Dortmund were destined to win and had actually made it to the Champions League final, a remarkable achievement.

The Champions League Final was against Juventus who had been favourites to lift the famous trophy at the start of the season.

The Italian side were so strong in every department and were clear favourites to win. A squad consisting of Angelo Peruzzi in goal, Ciro Ferrara and Paolo Montero at the back, Didier Deschamps, Vladimir Jugovic and Angelo Di Livio in midfield while their front three of Alen Boksic, Christian Vieri, and one Zinedine Zidane. Alessandro Del Piero was only fit enough to make the bench. They were managed by the incredible Marcello Lippi. This was a team filled with world class players, the footballing world were only expecting one outcome.

For Dortmund, Cesar was out injured and Sammer was not match fit but managed to play. Clearly, Dortmund were second best.

The game kicked off in front of 59,000 people packed into the Olympiastadion, Munich.

As expected, Juventus went straight for the jugular, pushing Dortmund back into their penalty area.

Klos had to be at his best to deny Juventus but the Italian side were clearly missing Del Piero.

Against the run of play it was Dortmund who grabbed the first goal on 29 minutes.

Lambert crossed from the right which fell for Riedle who tucked the ball away to give the German side an unlikely lead. The Dortmund faithful could not believe what they were watching.

They were even more in shock five minutes later. Dortmund sent in a corner which Riedle powerfully met to head home and take a 2-0 lead.

Juventus tried to hit back immediately and Zidane hit the post and Vieri had a goal ruled out for handball.

At half time a change was needed and Del Piero was brought on.

Dortmund were hanging on, Klos was called into action and the defence were shutting out Juventus. But finally, Juve found a way through and Del Piero so desperately missed in the first half scored to reduce the deficit, scoring a delightful back heel.

But with the Italian side pushing further up looking for an equaliser, Dortmund knew they could hit them on the break. On 71 minutes with Dortmund on the counter, the ball was slid through to Ricken. With it all to do, Ricken looked up and saw Peruzzi off his line. The midfielder hit a lofted shot over the keeper and dropped into the net to send the Dortmund support into a crescendo of noise. It was a magnificent strike from a player who had only just been brought on a minute earlier.

The referee finally blew the whistle, Dortmund players jumped for joy, arms aloft before finishing as a human pyramid as each player jumped on each other. The Dortmund fans were jubilant, all around the stadium you could see the yellow flags being waved and fans celebrating with their heroes.

Dortmund had achieved the impossible beaten a Juventus side packed with stars. But don’t let anything undermine this Borussia Dortmund team. They were blessed with their own star players, many who would have walked into any top side in the world.

Unfortunately the following season the team started to break up. With transfers and injuries to key players having a significant effect on the team and their performances. But take nothing away from this great side, they battled when they needed too, defended well when required and proved they could beat some of the best teams in Europe. A magnificent victory in the final without a doubt, but they had some truly memorable results along the way too.

An excellent team who defied all critics to win the Champions League, there are not many clubs that can say that.