Just imagine being 2nd on goal difference coming into the final day of the season, winning 12-0 and still not winning the League.
Imagine being top of the League on goal difference coming into the final game, winning 5-0 and yet only winning the League by 3 goals.
That’s what happened to Borussia Monchengladbach and FC Cologne in 1977-78.
Gladbach were defending champions having won the title for the past three seasons. They’d won back-to-back titles in 1969 & 1970 before Bayern Munich won it for three years, but now they were the dominant team in German football. Cologne had last won the Bundesliga back in 1964, and had finished in the top five for the past six years.
Gladbach, managed by Udo Lattek, had come close to winning the European Cup the previous season, when they lost to Liverpool in Rome. Their squad included West German internationals such as Bertie Vogts, Rainer Bonhof, Jupp Heynckes as well as the current European Footballer of the Year, Denmark’s Allan Simonsen.
Cologne were managed by Hennes Weisweiler. Their squad included Toni Schumacher, Herbert Zimmermann, Heinz Flohe, and Dieter Muller.
The season didn’t begin well for Cologne as they were thrashed 1-5 by Fortuna Dusseldorf, but just two matches later they thrashed Werder Bremen, 7-2, when Dieter Muller scored 6! They then went to the Olympic Stadium and beat Bayern Munich, 3-0 before another big win when they hit Eintracht Braunschweig, 6-0.
Gladbach were less prolific but by the beginning of October had already been beaten by Eintracht Frankfurt and VFB Stuttgart. They were also competing in the European Cup and had eased past Vasas Budapest. At the beginning of October they would meet Cologne for the first time.
The game was at Bokelberstadion, Monchegladbach but the visitors were 2-0 up at half-time when Prestin and Neumann scored. Bonhof got a goal back early after the break but then Prestin scored his 2nd of the game, and when Konopka made it 4-1 to Cologne things were looking bleak for the champions. Dieter Muller then scored his 12th of the season before Simonsen got a late consolation goal and Cologne ran out 5-2 winners.
Cologne were up to 4th with Gladbach down in 9th. At the end of the month, Cologne hit another 6 when 1860 Munich visited. They won 6-2 and were now top of the table. On the same day, Gladbach went to Braunschweig and won 6-0 when Simonsen hit a hat-trick. It was the start of a great week for the club when they beat Red Star Belgrade, 5-1 in the European Cup to reach the Quarter-Finals and then beat Saarbrucken, 6-1 in the League.
At the beginning of January, Gladbach were beaten at home 1-3 by MSV Duisburg and then were unbeaten to the end of the season, a run of 14 matches. At the time they were 3rd with Cologne still top and a gap of 5pts between the two. Cologne were also going well in the Cup and beat Schwarz-Weiss Essen, 9-0 just before Christmas.
At the end of February, the two met at the Mungersdorfer Stadion in Cologne. Allan Simonsen put the visitors in front just before half-time and they looked as if they were going to pull off a vital win, but then Heinz Flohe scored with just minutes to go. The game was tied, 1-1, and Cologne were still 4pts clear of Gladbach at the top.
Gladbach reached the Semi-Finals of the European Cup where they were again beaten by Liverpool after winning the home leg, 2-1 but losing 0-3 at Anfield. Just after that Cologne won the German Cup when they beat Fortuna Dusseldorf, 2-0. Their record in the competition was 26 scored to 2 conceded in their 7 matches.
There were just 2 matches to go in the season and both teams were locked together on 44pts. Cologne had a superior goal difference to Gladbach of 13 goals. Cologne beat Stuttgart, 2-1 in their penultimate game and Gladbach went to Hamburg and came from a goal down to win 6-2 against a side which included Kevin Keegan and Felix Magath. The gap was now 10 goals.
On the final day, Cologne travelled to St. Pauli, who they’d beaten 4-1 back in December. Gladbach were at home to Borussia Dortmund, who they’d drawn 3-3 with in their earlier meeting. It appeared a mere formality for Cologne to be crowned Champions, but the day almost didn’t go to plan. Remember, Cologne began the day 10 goals to the good.
Both games kicked off on Saturday 29th April 1978 at 15:30
At the break Cologne were just a goal to the good, but were still in a position to win the League. Gladbach had reduced the arrears to 5 goals but surely they couldn’t get any closer, could they?
Gladbach were now just 3 goals adrift of Cologne. The Dortmund players had clearly given up and there was still 24 minutes to go.
Japanese international, Yasuhiko Okudera endeared himself to the Cologne supporters by grabbing his 2nd of the game, and his 4th in 3 games, which surely put the title beyond reach for Gladbach.
A remarkable day in the Bundesliga and 12-0 remains the biggest win in the competitions history. Gladbach’s legendary striker, Jupp Heynckes who was almost 33, scored 5 on the day. It gave him 18 for the season and when he finally hung up his boots he was 3rd in the all-time list with 220, just behind Gerd Muller (365) and Klaus Fischer (268). His 195 goals for Gladbach remains a club record.
It was a memorable game to bow out for Herbert Wimmer, who was playing his 366th Bundesliga match for Gladbach and he had won 5 titles during that time.
Cologne were furious that Dortmund appeared to have given up, although there was no suggestion of match-fixing, but they just had nothing more to play for. I must admit watching the footage it does appear there are far too many goals scored by players unchallenged. One of Del’Haye’s goals sees him run virtually the whole of Dortmund’s half as all the defenders just watch him, as if wanting to make sure he can anything except play a cross-field pass to the other wing. Del’Haye just seemed to keep going, still disbelieving his luck. Dortmund sacked their coach at the end of the game, although he would rise again later on in his career – Otto Rehhagel.
It remains the last time Cologne won the Bundesliga and they had Dieter Muller’s 24 goals to thank and he was joint top scorer with Bayern’s Gerd Muller.
This was also the end of the great Gladbach side of the 1970’s, known as The Foals, as they struggled to finish higher than mid-table for the next few years, although in 1984 they finished 3rd when the top three all ended on the same points. Then they were inspired by a young Lothar Matthaus.