Borussia Dortmund have been regular contenders for the German title in recent years, but it hasn't always been that way. Back in the 1994/95 season, they played some brilliant football, overcame some serious injuries – and got some help from their arch rivals – to be crowned Bundesliga champions for the first time.
bundesliga.com looks back on a dramatic campaign…
Dortmund were German champions three times prior to their famous breakthrough, with the last of those titles coming in 1963 – the year before the inaugural Bundesliga season. BVB lifted the DFB Cup in 1964/65 and the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup a year later, but silverware was hard to come by in the professional era.
So much so that Dortmund – captained by current club sporting director Michael Zorc – had to wait until 1989 to win their next trophy. In 1986 they had needed an injury-time goal to avoid relegation. Three years later Norbert Dickel – these days operating as Dortmund's stadium announcer – scored twice as they beat Werder Bremen 4-1 in the DFB Cup final.
The league title, however, continued to elude them. BVB were runners-up in 1965/66, before going desperately close in 1991/92 in what was Ottmar Hitzfeld's first year in charge. Then, they went into the last day locked on 50 points alongside VfB Stuttgart and Eintracht Frankfurt. While Dortmund won at MSV Duisburg, the Eagles lost at Hansa Rostock. Stuttgart snatched the title on goal difference, however, after defender Guido Buchwald headed home inside the final five minutes of a 2-1 win in Leverkusen.
Building a winning team
A run to the 1992/93 UEFA Cup final would significantly boost the Dortmund coffers, though, and two fourth-place finishes after their near-miss suggested that – with the right investment – they could be Bundesliga contenders again. With Germany international Andreas Möller returning to the club that summer – along with experienced Brazilian centre-back Julio Cesar – the 1994/95 season promised to be different.
Both players had been part of the Juventus side that had bested Dortmund in the UEFA Cup final, with attacking midfielder Möller getting a goal and three assists over the two legs. Möller had previously won the DFB Cup in his first spell with Dortmund. Five years later – approaching his 27th birthday and the peak of his powers – he was coaxed back to the club.
Hitzfeld's team got off to a flying start in the league. Key forwards Karl-Heinz Riedle and Stephane Chapuisat both scored in a 4-0 opening victory over 1860 Munich, while Möller grabbed the first three goals in a 6-1 win at Cologne three days later.
All three players netted in a 5-0 hammering over Stuttgart on Matchday 6, with Chapuisat and Möller getting two each. Visiting coach Jürgen Röber said BVB were playing "football from another galaxy."
One major reason for that was Matthias Sammer, whose nine goals with Stuttgart had helped deny Dortmund in 1991/92. Since returning from Italy to join Dortmund in 1993, however, he had dropped back to the sweeper role, with centre-backs Cesar and Bodo Schmidt playing either side of him in a back three.
Roaming forward when he fancied, the outstanding former East Germany international quickly drew comparisons with the legendary Franz Beckenbauer. Möller told kicker that Sammer's positioning was key to the club’s success that year – allowing the team to be ultra creative and flexible.
"Matthias always joined the attack at the right time," Möller said.
Chapuisat and Riedle’s form meant that Flemming Povlsen, a UEFA Euro 1992 winner with Denmark, was a high-quality third-choice striker. In September 1994, though, mere days before the Stuttgart game, the former Cologne player suffered a cruciate ligament injury in a cup match.
That setback did not shake Dortmund off course, however, and any doubts about their title credentials were swept away on Matchday 10. Riedle got a late winner in a 1-0 home victory over defending champions Bayern Munich.
Die Schwarzgelben passed another big test two weeks later. . Goals in the final 20 minutes from Steffen Freund and Möller gave Hitzfeld’s side a 2-0 win over Werder Bremen, and a three-point lead over the visitors at the top of the table.
Draws with high-flying Freiburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach did little to check BVB’s progress, and they finished the year – thanks to a Zorc hat-trick – with a crushing 4-0 success at Hamburg. They went into the winter break on a 13-game unbeaten run, having won 12, drawn four and lost only one of their matches in the first half of the season.
Watch: Chapuisat and Hitzfeld - the dream duo
The 1994/95 Bundesliga season was the final year that two rather than three points were awarded for a win, meaning that Dortmund’s four-point lead over Bremen was a sizeable one. Hitzfeld admitted that it was a great position to be in, but warned that to become champions his team would need to avoid a sustained dip in form.
The league resumed in mid-February, and Dortmund immediately signalled their intent as Zorc, Sammer, Riedle, Chapuisat, and Möller all netted in a 5-1 rout at 1680 Munich. Another win against Cologne followed, but March would prove difficult.
A rocky road
The leaders first lost at Kaiserslautern before being held at home by struggling Eintracht Frankfurt, but the biggest blow of all came shortly after one of the high points of the season. Two days after scoring in a memorable victory over Lazio that sent his side into the UEFA Cup semi-finals, Chapuisat became the second Dortmund forward to rupture cruciate ligaments.
What made it worse was that the Swiss international, who had 12 goals and six assists in the Bundesliga that season, was hurt in a training-ground tackle with assistant coach Michael Henke.
Dortmund lost their next game, 3-0 at home to Bayer Leverkusen, part of a run of just one win in four matches that also coincided with in-form Bremen moving level on points at the top.
Later to be named German Footballer of the Year for 1995, Sammer scored a late winner against Karlsruher on Matchday 26, but even that success came at a cost. Möller was given a retrospective two-game ban for a dive that led to Dortmund’s equalising penalty and – like the injured Sammer – he missed the following week’s 2-1 defeat at Bayern.
A crucial showdown in Bremen followed with six games left. Dortmund lost it 3-1 and – for the first time since the end of Matchday 7 – a team wearing Green and White, rather than Black and Yellow, was leading the standings.
Hitzfeld’s team recovered – even without both Cesar and Sammer – to beat Bochum. Incredibly, though, he then lost a third striker to a cruciate ligament injury – and the second to a collision at training. Riedle’s season was ended in mid-May, leaving Hitzfeld to rely on 17-year-old Ibrahim Tanko and 18-year-old Lars Ricken for the four-game title run-in.
Against all odds
Referred to by Hitzfeld as "unsere Babysturm" – our baby strikeforce – neither player found the net in back-to-back draws against third-placed Freiburg – a game in which Sammer scored a freak own goal – and fourth-placed Gladbach. Crucially, though, Bremen had also dropped points during that time – beaten 4-2 by Dortmund’s local rivals Schalke on Matchday 32.
One point separated the top two going into the penultimate day as second-placed Dortmund travelled to Duisburg, who were scrapping hard to avoid relegation. The visitors found themselves 2-0 down early in the second half – with goalkeeper Stefan Klos making a costly error – at which point Bremen looked set to be crowned champions with a game to spare.
“What’s the use of complaining?” Sammer said afterwards, when describing what the team were thinking when the title looked beyond them. “Either we lose 2-0 anyway or we fight. So let’s fight.”
Zorc hit back from the penalty spot within a minute – with his team-high 15th goal of the campaign – and a stunning double from wing-back Reuter sealed an unlikely win.
Interviewed pitchside right after the final whistle, midfielder Freund said the comeback had given Dortmund belief that they would clinch the title, even though Bremen – inspired by 20-goal attacker Mario Basler – had also won their game.
“We won and that’s the most important thing,” Freund said. “Now Bremen have to go to Bayern, and I think they'll be nervous."
The final drama
It came down to the final day on 17 June. Bremen faced a tricky trip to face sixth-placed Bayern, the club their long-serving coach Otto Rehhagel had announced he would be moving to later that summer.
Still trailing Bremen by a point, Dortmund, needed to win their home game against midtable Hamburg. Around 43,000 crammed into the old Westfalenstadion, and at least the same again attended a broadcast of the game in the city centre.
They erupted with joy when Möller curled a clever free-kick low around the wall after eight minutes. Just before the half hour, it was Ricken’s turn to celebrate – the teenager straining every sinew to steer home a brilliant header from Reuter’s cross. That meant Dortmund had a two-goal advantage at half-time, and at the interval the players learned that Bayern led 2-1 against Bremen.
Hitzfeld’s team avoided many scares after the restart, and then a roar went up when a score flashed up on the stadium’s big screen: Bayern München 3-1 Werder Bremen. Alexander Zickler’s powerful header in the 78th minute in Munich had a ripple effect in Dortmund. Cries – and tears – of joy began long before the final whistle.
“Once it was 3-1 in Munich we felt like celebrating right there and then, but we still had to keep playing,” Dortmund native Zorc said, describing the title win as a childhood dream come true.
The greatest days
The final whistle signalled the start of a huge pitch invasion by fans, as everyone involved savoured the club’s maiden Bundesliga title. For the first time in 32 years, Dortmund were German champions.
Möller, who finished the campaign with 14 goals and 10 assists, was emotional afterwards.
“This tops everything,” the 1990 FIFA World Cup winner told reporters. “It’s the best day of my life – I can really say that. Today is the day.”
Speaking to kicker 25 years later, Hitzfeld said that game against Hamburg – rather than UEFA Champions League wins with Dortmund in 1997 and Bayern in 2001 – was the most significant of his coaching career.
“They had been waiting so long to be champions in Dortmund,” he explained. “The joy and euphoria in the stadium reflected this.
“The 1994/95 season – with its unpredictable setbacks and the injuries to Povlsen, Chapuisat and Riedle – was the craziest that I ever experienced.”
Given the excitement around him at the time, Hitzfeld said he couldn’t help but cry. There were more waterworks a day later, when up to half a million supporters partied as the team parade made its way to Friedensplatz in the city centre.
It had been a long time coming, but this was only the start. Winning the Bundesliga gave Hitzfeld & Co. the confidence to defend their title a year later. Twelve months after that, they become kings of Europe as well.
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