Kaiserslautern 7-4 Bayern Munich- Fritz Walter Stadion, 20 October 1973
The fact that 1.FC Kaiserslautern are a giant of German football means they have a multitude of memorable moments to hark back to, but neither the championships won with the legendary Fritz Walter or the Bundesliga triumph as a newly promoted side in 1998 stir the emotions quite like the 7-4 win over Bayern Munich at the Betzenberg in October 1973. Ask any fan of the Red Devils about the match and countless stories can be gleaned from a match dubbed the ‘Jahrhundertspiel’ (once in a lifetime game).
Matchday 12 of the 1973-74 Bundesliga season saw reigning champions Bayern arrive in the Pfalz having already lost twice to Köln and Hannover, but with a squad containing many of the German national team side that would lift the World Cup just eight months later. The hosts had won the German national championship twice in the early fifties, but had been largely used to finishing in mid-table since the Bundesliga’s inception in 1963.
Kaiserslautern, under new coach Erich Ribbeck were wary of Bayern having been thrashed by the Bavarians in their last match at the Olympiastadion 6-0 with Gerd Müller scoring five. They did however have new signings Herbert Laumen (future Mönchengladbach star) and Swedish striker Roland Sandberg in their ranks.
The mother of all games
With 36 minutes played it looked very much like it was going to be another stroll in the park for Bayern. Two goals from Bernd Gersdorff, a summer signing from Eintracht Braunschweig, and a header from Gerd Müller put the visitors in firm control, although when Franz Roth was robbed by Josef ‘Seppl’ Pirrung just before half-time the hosts pulled one back.
Bayern were 4-1 up twelve minutes after the restart when Müller clinically finished a through ball from Franz Beckenbauer. Game over? Not in the minds of the Kaiserslautern players it wasn’t and having beaten Bayern at home in the previous season they knew that they had it in them if they just kept going. Almost from the restart, the hosts reduced the arrears when Klaus Toppmöller looped a header over Maier following a Hermann Bitz diagonal ball.
Four minutes later the deficit was down to one when Pirrung capitalised on confused defending after a poor goal-kick from Maier. He then remarkably completed his hat trick on 73 minutes and the home fans who had begun to leave the stadium early began to stream back in on hearing of the comeback. Sepp Maier did well to claw away a cleverly worked free-kick, but FCK’s number eight was on hand to fire home from a very tight angle.
Bayern were now a shadow of the side that had led 4-1 with just over half an hour to play and Kaiserslautern could smell blood- especially after two-goal Bernd Gersdorff had been sent-off. More goals seemed inevitable and they were only going to come from one team. Klaus Toppmöller had a goal disallowed before captain and centre back Ernst Diehl got in on the scoring act to put the hosts in front on 84 minutes as the home side carved their way through the Bayern defence with ease.
Two quality strikes from Herbert Laumen in the final three minutes put the icing on the cake for 1.FC Kaiserslautern and sealed a breathtaking 7-4 win after being 4-1 down with half an hour to play. Kaiserslautern coach Ribbeck was seen to shed tears in the dugout at what he had just witnessed, while Bayern trainer Udo Lattek was ready to lynch his players in the dressing room following the final whistle. The only thing that stopped him was the fact that Bayern had to play a European Cup tie days later against Dynamo Dresden. He did however rebuke the team heavily demanding that those players who no longer wanted to play for Bayern to raise their arms- nobody did.
Down, but not out
The defeat, with seven goals conceded, remains one of Bayern’s heaviest Bundesliga losses, although they have lost while scoring fewer goals (7-0 against Schalke in 1976 and 7-1 versus Fortuna Düsseldorf in 1978). The aberration at the Betzenberg however didn’t throw them off course too badly as they secured a third consecutive Bundesliga crown after finishing a point ahead of Borussia Mönchengladbach. A 5-0 loss at home to the Foals on the final matchday wasn’t enough to stop their title party days after winning their first European Cup against Atletico Madrid.
The subsequent successes of the Bayern XI puts the remarkable achievement of Kaiserslautern into even greater perspective using hindsight. For their part the Red Devils fished sixth. Coach Erich Ribbeck would go on to become Bayern head coach for a season in 1992-93, while goalscoring midfielder Klaus Toppmöller would later become the father of ‘Bayer Neverkusen’ overseeing the Werkself finishing runners up in the Champions League, Bundesliga and DFB Pokal in the 2001-02 season.
Hat trick hero Josef ‘Seppl’ Pirrung went on to make two appearances for the Nationalmannschaft in qualifiers for the 1976 European Championships, but he never reached the highs experienced as his goals helped win the ‘Wunder vom Betzenberg’. He died aged 61 and is buried less than one hundred metres from Kaiserslautern legend Fritz Walter in the city’s central cemetery.
Kaiserslautern: Elting, Huber, Diehl, Schwager, Fuchs, Toppmöller, Bitz, Laumen, Pirrung, Sandberg, Ackermann- Coach: Ribbeck
Goals: Pirrung (43, 61, 73), Toppmöller (57), Diehl (84), Laumen (87, 89)
Bayern Munich: Maier, Hansen, Schwarzenbeck, Beckenbauer, Dürnberger, Zobel, Roth, Hoeneß, Gersdorff, Hofmann, Müller- Coach: Lattek
Goals: Gersdorff (5, 12), Müller (36, 57)
This article is part of a new series on Bundesliga Fanatic entitled German Football’s Greatest Games. Celebrating 120 years since the first ever German football championship and 60 years since the first Bundesliga season, we’ll be going back through the country’s footballing history and writing about some of the most important and most memorable games Germany has ever seen.
Click the tag ‘German Football’s Greatest Games’ to see all the entries in the series.