This week sees Borussia Mönchengladbach return to the Champions League stage with a mouth-watering group stage fixture at home to European giants Real Madrid. The two sides have enjoyed differing fortunes over the past few decades, but their last meeting back in the 1985-86 Uefa Cup campaign produced two scintillating matches, ten goals over two legs and more than a few jittery moments on both sides. Let’s go back 35 years and revisit those classic encounters.
The back story
Both Borussia Mönchengladbach and Real Madrid had enjoyed plenty of success in Europe in the past with the Spaniards triumphing in the European Cup six times between 1956 and 1966. They were also the reigning Uefa Cup holders having beaten Hungarians Videoton in the previous year’s final.
The Germans had won the Uefa Cup twice (1975 and 1979), were losing finalists twice (1973 and 1980) as well as finishing as runners-up in the 1977 European Cup to Liverpool.
By the mid 1980’s though they were both ‘relegated’ to playing in the Uefa Cup competition and met each other for the very first time at the third-round stage. Mönchengladbach had progressed past Lech Poznan and Sparta Rotterdam, whereas Real had beaten both AEK Athens and Ukrainians Chornomorets Odesa on their way to the third round.
The triumph on the Rhein
Sadly, the Bökelberg’s capacity of 34,500 was deemed too small for a match of this magnitude meaning the first leg in Germany was switched to the 65,000 capacity Rheinstadion in Düsseldorf. In early winter conditions with late November snowfall, the stadium was sold-out for the visit of the Spanish giants.
The Fohlen however were not overawed by their illustrious visitors and set about their task with vigour. That it took the hosts until the 36th minute to open the scoring didn’t reflect their dominance, but Frank Mill duly broke the deadlock after confusion in the Madrid defence after a saved shot from Uwe Rahn.
The goal made the Spaniards nervous and four minutes later it was 2-0. A ball in from the left from Michael Frontzeck was missed by Rahn, but fortunately defender José Antonio Salguero scuffed the ball into his own net for an own goal.
With the cold Nieselregen (icy drizzle) coming down the second half began well for trainer Jupp Heynckes as he saw his side score twice more before the hour mark. First Rahn headed home from a right-wing corner on 55 minutes, before he then added a second four minutes later. Text-book combination play between Wilfried Hannes and Hans-Jörg Criens on the right split open the Madrid defence and handed Rahn a straightforward chance to make it 4-0.
It was the stuff of dreams, but ten minutes later a consolation goal gave Real the away goal that would prove so important in the long run. Rafael Gordillo volleyed home from the edge of the six-yard box after a long ball had found him unmarked.
Five minutes before the final whistle a fine run and ball inside found Ewald Lienen, who struck Gladbach’s fifth goal of the match. There was just time for Real goalscorer Gordillo to get sent off after he got involved in an argument between Santillana and Thomas Krisp. An innocuous shove was deemed worthy of a red card by Italian referee Luigi Agnolin.
Borussia Mönchengladbach had demolished Real Madrid and had one eye on the next round, but the ‘consolation’ goal from Gordillo would prove so much more than that by the end of the second leg.
The beast at the Bernabeu
Despite the first leg mauling, Real knew that a 4-0 win would see them through and achieving that result was not beyond the realms of possibility, but still seemed a big ask.
Gladbach were a pale shadow of the side that impressed in the first leg and when Jorge Valdano scored twice in the opening twenty minutes with two headers, the writing was on the wall with the 95,000 supporters inside the Bernabeu screaming for the goals that would see them achieve the seemingly impossible.
The third goal didn’t arrive until the 77th minute via Santillana’s volleyed finish, and although they knew a fourth goal was needed to go through on the away goals rule, the sense was that it would be found somehow. Santillana duly fired home his second two minutes from time after keeper Ulrich Sude had saved an initial effort from Michel.
The Bernabeu was in raptures, while Mönchengladbach were left wondering how their sensational performance from the first leg could ultimately count for nothing. Real would go on to defend their Uefa Cup title beating German side 1.FC Köln 5-3 over two legs following a 5-1 victory in the first-leg in Spain.