Home » Teams » Borussia Monchengladbach » Liverpool v Borussia Monchengladbach – A Unique European Rivalry That Lasted Almost A Decade

Liverpool v Borussia Monchengladbach – A Unique European Rivalry That Lasted Almost A Decade

When people talk about European club football in the 70’s they will often talk about Bayern Munich and Ajax but two clubs were to dominate both domestically and in Europe and met 5 times during the decade.  It was a rivalry which lasted almost a decade, as these two clubs found themselves at the pinnacle of European football meeting many times towards the final stages of the continent’s most prestigious club tournaments.  But it is a rivalry which forged friendships lasting to this day.

Liverpool v Borussia Monchengladbach


‘Gladbach’ was formed in 1900 but didn’t enter the Bundesliga until 1965 when they won promotion from West Germany’s second tier, the Regionaliga West.  Interestingly, the other team who won promotion that season was none other than Bayern Munich.  These two would go onto dominate West German football for the next 15 years.  Bayern won their first title in 1969 but then Borussia took over and won the next two in 1970 and 1971 with Bayern finishing 2nd each time.  During the 70’s the club earned the nickname ‘Die Fohlen, meaning The Foals, on account of having a young team with a fast aggressive style of play.  Their first European Cup campaign in 1971 saw them knocked out at the Second Round stage by Everton.  When they finished 3rd in 1972 they qualified for the UEFA Cup (now Europa League) for the following season.  Thus began their acquaintance with Liverpool.

At that time, Liverpool were managed by Bill Shankly.  Shankly took over at Anfield in 1959 when the club was languishing mid-table in the Second Division (now The Championship).  Liverpool finished 3rd that season and the next but in 1962 Shankly lead the club to the Second Division title.  Within two years they were English League Champions.  1965 brought their first European campaign where they were controversially knocked out at the Semi-Final stage by Inter.  After winning that FA Cup that season they entered the European Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1966 where they were beaten in the Final by Borussia Dortmund.

 They won the League again in 1966, and their subsequent European Cup challenge in 1967 was ended by a young Cruyff-inspired Ajax side.  Liverpool then had three successive season competing in the Inter-City Fairs Cup (the forerunner to the UEFA Cup) where they failed to get past the Third Round until 1971 when they were beaten in the Semi-Finals by Leeds United.  In 1971 the Inter-City Fairs Cup became the UEFA Cup.  Liverpool missed the inaugural season, but qualified for the 1972-73 season where they would come up against Borussia Monchengladbach to begin a remarkable rivalry.

UEFA Cup 1972-73


On their way to the Final, Liverpool had to beat two East German sides, Dynamo Berlin and Dynamo Dresden conceding just 4 goals in their 10 matches.  Two of those goals came in their Semi-Final win over the holders, Tottenham.

Borussia beat two West German clubs, Cologne and Kaiserslautern, on the way.  They’d scored 34 in 10 games and were in good form.  Their league form saw them finish a disappointing 5th, despite being 2nd top scorers with Jupp Heynckes finishing 2nd in the scoring charts with 28 goals.  Heynckes was to become an important player in the club success during the decade having scored 19 goals in each of the previous two seasons.

10th May 1973


LIVERPOOL  (2) 3  (Keegan 21, 32, Lloyd 60)

Clemence; Lawler, Lloyd, Hughes, Lindsay; Cormack, Smith, Callaghan; Toshack, Keegan, Heighway (Hall)


Kleff; Michallik, Netzer, Bonhof, Vogts; Wimmer, Danner, Kulik; Jensen, Rupp (Simonsen), Heynckes

The game was scheduled for 9th May but heavy rain in Liverpool the week before and made the conditions unplayable.  The referee decided to let the game go ahead but abandoned it after just 27 minutes to try again 24 hours later.  This delay allowed Shankly to make a vital decision.  He had noticed how Borussia defender, Gunter Netzer struggled in the air so he altered his team to replace Brian Hall with John Toshack.  This would prove a masterstroke and one which played a vital part in the destination of the trophy.  21 minutes into the replayed 1st leg saw Toshack rise above Netzer to meet Chris Lawler’s cross and head the ball to Kevin Keegan who himself headed the ball past Kleff.

Four minutes later and under pressure from Toshack, Rainer Bonhof handled the ball in the area and Liverpool were awarded a penalty.  Keegan stepped up but his penalty was poor and easily saved by the German keeper.  33 minutes in and Emlyn Hughes headed the ball into the box where Toshack was again dominant and his header again found Keegan who volleyed Liverpool into a 2-goal lead.  On the hour, Keegan’s corner was met by Larry Lloyd and Liverpool were 3 goals to the good.  5 minutes later the visitors was awarded a rather dubious penalty when Steve Heighway was adjudged to have brought down Henning Jensen.  Heynckes stepped up but Clemence guessed right and the shot was saved.  Advantage Liverpool

23rd May 1973


BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH  (2)  2  (Heynckes 29, 40)

Kleff; Surau, Netzer, Bonhof, Vogts; Wimmer, Danner, Kulik; Jensen, Rupp, Heynckes


Clemence; Lawler, Lloyd, Hughes, Lindsay; Cormack, Smith, Callaghan; Toshack, Keegan, Heighway (Boersma)

Rain again affected the match with the pitch being very slippery.  Borussia needed to come at Liverpool who set their stall out to defend.  Netzer was far more at home and influential in this game.  It took the home side 30 minutes to get the breakthrough as Rupp, ran clear on the right of the area, drew Clemence towards him and passed to his right where Heynckes had the easy task of passing into the net.  10 minutes later, Bonhof’s pass from the back found Rupp in the area.  He twisted and turned, was forced back where his layoff found Heynckes and he curled the ball perfectly around Tommy Smith and Ray Clemence and now the home side were 2-up at the break.

The second half was much more comfortable for Liverpool as Borussia were unable to match the intensity of their first half play despite needing just 1 goal to force extra-time.  The game ended 2-0 to Borussia but Liverpool had won 3-2 on aggregate to become the first English team to win a European trophy and League Championship in the same season.

Liverpool went out in the Second Round of the European Cup in 1973-74 whilst Borussia had qualified for the Cup-Winners’ Cup, where they reached the Semi-Finals.  The Anglo-German domination of European football continued as Bayern Munich won the European Cup, Tottenham were beaten finalists in the UEFA Cup, and even East German side, Magdeburg, won the Cup-Winners’ Cup.

During the 1973-74 season, Borussia finished 2nd to Bayern in the Bundesliga where Heynckes and Muller again topped the scoring charts with 30 goals each, to then qualify for the UEFA Cup again.  Liverpool also finished 2nd in the First Division, won by Leeds United, but their FA Cup win over Newcastle meant they would enter the Cup-Winners’ Cup.

1974-75 saw Borussia do what Liverpool had done in 1972-73 when they won the League title at the same time as winning the UEFA Cup.  Heynckes was again the top scorer with 27 goals.  In the UEFA Cup Final they beat FC Twente, 5-1 after a 0-0 draw with Heynckes scoring a hat-trick.  The other 2 goals were scored by Alan Simonsen who was rapidly becoming a more and more important player for the club.  In the Twente side that day were two Dutchman who would later become favourites in English football, Frans Thijssen and Arnold Muhren.

Liverpool finished 2nd to Derby County in the League and went out in the Second Round of the Cup-Winners’ Cup to eventual runners-up, Ferencvaros.

1975-76 saw Liverpool win their first League title under Bob Paisley, whilst also winning the UEFA Cup against Bruges.  Borussia, now managed by former Bayern boss Udo Lattek, won their 2nd successive Bundesliga and reached the Quarter-Finals of the European Cup, again won by Bayern Munich.

European Cup 1976-77


1976-77 and round three of this rivalry.  Liverpool won their 2nd successive League title and were on a unique treble only to lose in the FA Cup Final to Manchester United.  Four days later they were in their first European Cup Final.  They’d beaten Crusaders, Trabzonspor and a famous win over St. Etienne and then FC Zurich on their way to the Final in Rome.

Borussia won their 3rd successive Bundesliga whilst at the same time reaching the Final of the European Cup.  They beat Austria Vienna, Torino, Bruges and Dinamo Kiev to get there.

25th May 1977


LIVERPOOL   (1)  3  (McDermott 28, Smith 64, Neal 82(pen))

Clemence; Neal, Smith, Hughes, Jones; Case, McDermott, Callaghan, Kennedy; Keegan, Heighway


Kneig; Vogts, Wittkamp, Kilnkhammer Stielike; Bonhof, Wohlers (Hannes), Schafer, Wimmer (Kulik); Simonsen, Heynckes

Borussia manager, Udo Lattek, had a masterplan to combat the threat from Kevin Keegan.  He got captain, Berti Vogts, to man-mark him.  Vogts stuck close to Keegan all game, although KK was to have the final incisive word.  The Germans seemed to settle first and Stielike had a wild shot over the bar.  Liverpool eventually created some pressure and Kennedy forced Kneib to tip the ball over the bar.  Borussia defended the resulting corner and gradually made progress upfield where Bonhof shot from 30 yards came back off the post.  Liverpool started to gain some sort of control on the match, snuffing out many Germans attacks in midfield.  One such attack saw Callaghan win the ball in midfield and find Heighway on the right.

As he moved inside, Keegan stayed on the far side of the area forcing Vogts to stick with him.  A gap opened up in the middle and Terry McDermott exploited it beautifully with a trademark late run from midfield.  Heighway slotted the ball through to him and McDermott hit it first time past Kneib.  Liverpool managed to keep control of the rest of the half and went in 1-0 up.  In the second half the Germans were soon into their stride and looking dangerous. A misplaced pass from Jimmy Case fell to Allan Simonsen who took the ball into the area and fired a left foot shot past Clemence’s left hand for the equaliser.

Within minutes Simonsen was involved again as he found some space in the area to meet Schafer’s right-wing cross, but his header went wide.  The battle between Keegan and Vogts was really starting to take centre-stage with the Liverpool man gradually getting the better of his marker.  Then Borussia had another chance as Simonsen crossed from the right to find Stielike ahead of the defence but Clemence was decisive in coming out and blocking the shot.

Just after the hour Liverpool had a corner on the left.  Heighway took it right footed and Tommy Smith, met it perfectly and his header hit the back of the net and Liverpool were back in front. Case then had a 25 yard free-kick saved by Kneib.  Into the final 10 minutes and Keegan, playing his final game for Liverpool, picked up the ball in midfield and immediately ran at Vogts and then past him.  As he got into the area he forced the German captain to bring him down and Liverpool were awarded a penalty. Up stepped Phil Neal.  His favourite side was to the keeper’s left, but inexplicably he changed his mind and put it to the right as the keeper went the other way.  Liverpool had won their first European Cup.

European Cup 1977-78

1977-78 and both clubs were back in the European Cup and both reached the Semi-Finals where they were to meet again.  At the time of the 1st leg, Liverpool were 10pts behind leaders, Nottingham Forest and back in 9th.  Borussia were about to be pipped to a 4th successive Bundesliga by Cologne, on goal difference.

29th March 1978


BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH  (1)  2  (Hannes 28, Bonhof 90)

Kleff; Vogts, Wohlers, Nielsen, Hannes; Del’Haye, Wimmer, Bonhof, Kulik; Heynckes, Lienen (Danner)

LIVERPOOL  (0)  1  (Johnson 89)

Clemence; Neal, Thompson, Hughes, Smith; Case, McDermott (Johnson), Callaghan, Kennedy; Dalglish, Heighway (Souness)

Early in the first half, Emlyn Hughes made a good run forward and his shot was parried by Kleff, only for McDermott to put his header over.  Heynckes then bought a good save out of Clemence.  Then good work down the right by Del’Haye and his cross was met by Heynckes but this time his header went over.  As the game approached the half-hour mark, the home side had a corner which was swung in from the left.  Del’Haye, at the far post, knocked the ball back for Hannes to fire in from the 6 yards.  Borussia lead at the break and then early in the second half, Heynckes again went close as his header hit the outside of the post.  Hannes long range shot then went narrowly past the post as the Germans flooded forward.  Then Liverpool pushed forward searching for an equaliser and Dalglish’s cross from the left was headed in by 2nd half-substitute, David Johnson.  It was a precious away goal with only a minute to go.  Almost immediately, Borussia had a free-kick 25 yards out and Rainer Bonhof thundered in into the roof of the net and the home side at least had a lead to take to Anfield.

12th April 1978


LIVERPOOL  (2)  3  (Kennedy 6, Dalglish 35, Case 56)

Clemence; Neal, Thompson, Hughes, Smith; Case, McDermott, Souness, Kennedy; Dalglish, Heighway


Kleff; Vogts, Wohlers (Schafer), Nielsen, Hannes; Del’Haye, Wimmer (Lienen), Bonhof, Kulik; Heynckes, Lienen (Danner)

Liverpool, with an away goal, came at the Germans from the start and Souness found Dalglish on the right.  He got to the bye-line and crossed to the far post where Ray Kennedy arrived unmarked and headed home.  35 minutes in and Emlyn Hughes joined the attack wide on the left, halfway into the Germans half.  He crossed into the box where Kennedy headed back for Dalglish to volley the ball past Kleff and Liverpool were now 2-up and the Germans now needed to score twice.  10 minutes into the second half and Liverpool were all over Borussia.  Heighway crossed from the left but Kulik headed away, only to find Kennedy in midfield.  He controlled the ball on his chest and played it right to Jimmy Case.  Case turned inside Klinkhammer and then fired a left foot shot past Kleff.  Liverpool were now clear of their rivals and found it easy to see out the game to reach their second successive European Cup Final.  Liverpool went onto retain their trophy with a 1-0 win over Bruges at Wembley.

That was the last time these two met in a competitive match but there was a hint of irony with what happened the following season.  Back in those days only the Champions qualified for the European Cup but as holders, Liverpool automatically qualified.  As Nottingham Forest had won the League in 1978, England had two clubs in the draw for the First Round.  With no seedings, the two clubs were drawn against each other with Forest winning over 2 legs.  If todays rules were in place this would mean Liverpool would’ve been entered into the UEFA Cup.  Who won the UEFA Cup that season?  Yes, you’ve guessed it, Borussia Monchengladbach.  So the two could well have met in the final again to round off a decade of dominance for the two.

But this rivalry is far from fierce.  When Borussia were considering opponents for their 110th anniversary celebrations they had no hesitation in calling Anfield.  Sets of fans from both clubs take it in turns to make the journey to their respective opposing clubs to watch a game.  In Borussia Park there is a corporate hospitality lounge called the ‘Liverpool FC Suite’.  When Liverpool fans visit Germany they are invited onto the pitch before kick-off to unveil specially commissioned friendship flags.  In 1991 Borussia donated 21,000 German Marks (approximately £7,000) to the Hillsborough Disaster Fund.

It is a friendship between clubs from different countries probably unrivalled throughout football, forged for over 30 years.

Published in permission with Pete Spencer

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