Hosts strike late twice to keep their hopes of reaching the World Cup alive
East Germany had given themselves a fighting chance to reach the World Cup through that precious win in Iceland, but they knew they had to continue winning in order to topple Austria. In fact, they had fallen to the bottom of the group since Iceland’s 2-1 win against Turkey, though they knew that a win against the group leaders would bring them up to seven points, the same amount as the second-placed Austrians.
The Soviet Union were undefeated so far, and they were well aware that a point in Karl-Marx-Stadt would go a long way to securing their World Cup participation. They had perhaps not been firing on all cylinders so far in the qualification, though Valery Lobanovsky had stuck with by and large the same crop of players from one game to the next. They had comprehensively won against the East Germans at home, but away from home the USSR had only won once in three attempts thus far. Against a team in need of both points, they knew they were facing a difficult trip westwards.
The table before the game read as follows:
East Germany team news
The 3-0 win in Reykjavik four and a half weeks earlier had been an uplifting experience for the East German side, which had come in for a lot of criticism domestically on the back of their disappointing campaign until then. However, with Eduard Geyer (and assistant Eberhard Vogel) coming in to steady ship, it had seemed as if belief all of a sudden was back. Once the goals started coming in Iceland, they were a transformed team. Now, though, they were up against an opponent of a much stronger calibre, so it would be interesting to see how the East Germans would approach the visit of the USSR.
In both of Geyer’s first two matches in charge of the national team, had GDR been in 5-3-2. Would this be the choice once again? Last time around, Andreas Thom had had to pull out of the squad not long before the game due to sickness. He was obviously back among the 16, and so too was fair-haired midfielder Uwe Weidemann of Rot-Weiß Erfurt, who were 12th out of the 14 teams which made up the Oberliga at the time. Giving way were Magdeburg players Heiko Bonan and Marcus Wuckel, midfielder and forward respectively. However, both had been pre-selected in a 18 man strong squad, but would eventually miss out on the day. Another player who could’ve made the matchday squad was Hallescher Chemie’s midfielder Dariusz Wosz, who was also struggling with an injury.
In letting goalkeeper Dirk Heyne and central defender Burkhard Reich start in Reykjavik, GDR had seen no less than 29 players in action during their first six qualifiers. This was hardly the hallmark of selection consistency. In fact, no player had started each and every one of their opening six fixtures, with Matthias Lindner, Jörg Stübner, Ulf Kirsten and Andreas Thom kicking off five matches each. There was still a flurry of experienced internationals who were either no longer considered good enough at international level or who did not wish to play in the GDR jersey anymore: goalkeepers René Müller and Jörg Weißflog, defenders Frank Rohde and Andreas Trautmann, as well as midfielders Hans-Uwe Pilz, Ralf Minge and Jürgen Raab. Between them, they had a lot of continental know-how.
Since the game against Iceland, there had been some uncertainty in East German media regarding the availability of midfielder Rainer Ernst, who had been booked in Reykjavik. Ernst had already served a suspension for two yellow cards, so his warning in Iceland had been his third of the qualification. The country’s football weekly, newspaper “Fußballwoche”, admitted that there had been some confusion, but with Ernst included in the squad for the visit of the USSR, they had learnt that the next suspension would follow only after four yellow cards.
On the domestic scene, Magdeburg and reigning champions Dynamo Dresden were the early pacesetters, both with ten points from the opening six sets of fixtures. Torsten Gütschow from Dynamo Berlin and uncapped Jens Pfahl of Stahl Brandenburg were leading goalscorers with five each.
Soviet Union team news
On the same night as GDR had triumphed in Iceland, the Soviet Union had been held to a goalless draw in Vienna. A point against the Austrians, currently second, had gone a long way to making sure that the USSR would keep them on arm’s length by the time the qualification was completed. Therefore, it had been seen as a point which more or less carried them across the finishing line, albeit there were still points at stake. Like tonight, where the USSR knew they were up against an opponent almost at gun point: GDR could not afford to toss away any more points if they wanted to have a bite of next year’s World Cup cherry.
In Vienna, Lobanovsky had been without the decade’s leading Soviet ‘keeper Rinat Dasayev. The manager had installed his goalkeeper at club level, Dinamo Kiev’s Viktor Chanov, though it is fair to say that Dasayev’s replacement was far from at the same level. Dasayev had indeed been picked for the original squad to travel to East Germany, but he would not go. On the same day as the qualifier in Karl-Marx-Stadt, Sevilla were playing Valencia away in the league. It is likely that Dasayev had been denied joining up with his national team mates by his club team. Sevilla had 4-0-1 5-2 from their opening five fixtures, with Dasayev first choice between the sticks. They were to hold Valencia to a 1-1 draw at Mestalla that afternoon. Chanov was again his likely replacement, with the 20 year young Dmitry Kharin most likely Chanov’s understudy.
At the back, libero Vagiz Khidiatullin had returned in Vienna after being absent for the last three qualifiers, something which had freed up Sergey Gorlukovich to take over at left-back for the still injured Anatoly Demyanenko. Gorlukovich appeared to be a growing favourite with Lobanovsky, who had even dropped Vasily Rats to accommodate him. There had also been a return for Aleksey Mikhailichenko in Austria, after the roving midfielder had missed out on that dreary home draw with Iceland, when Vladimir Bessonov had taken his midfield role. Bessonov had had to switch back to right-back in Vienna. Indeed, in that same 0-0 fixture, there had been a rare telling match for the hugely talented Fedor Cherenkov, who was held in high regard domestically, but who had been continuously overlooked by the national team since he had sprung to prominence. Cherenkov had done enough in Vienna to earn another chance, and so was in the squad again. The same went for his Spartak colleague Sergey Rodionov, who had remained on the substitutes’ bench throughout during USSR’s previous outing. Both Cherenkov and Rodionov had, incidentally, been on target for their club team as Spartak Moscow had impressively set aside Serie A outfit Atalanta in the first round of the UEFA Cup a week and a half earlier (0-0 away, 2-0 at home).
Three Soviet players had started each of their six qualifiers hitherto: midfielders Gennady Litovchenko and Aleksandr Zavarov, and striker Oleg Protasov. Whereas the latter had been substituted three times, both of the two former had completed the full 90 on each occasion. When Cherenkov appeared in Austria, he was the 22nd player that the USSR had used so far in the qualification, with a further five missing one match only: Dasayev, Kuznetsov, Rats, Aleinikov and Mikhailichenko. Aleinikov would indeed make a second half appearance in Vienna, and so had participated in each of the Soviets’ six fixtures, albeit just five of them from kick-off. Note how both of the goals which they had so far conceded had come against Iceland.
With the arrival of match day, it became evident that neither of the two Spartak players were among the 16: both Fedor Cherenkov and Sergey Rodionov were, for whatever reason, absent. Filling in for the duo were Dinamo Minsk’s elegant defender cum midfielder Andrey Zygmantovich and Dinamo Kiev’s wide midfielder Ivan Yaremchuk. There had been no striker replacement for Rodionov.
46 year old Swede Bo Helén had been chosen as the referee for this crucial fixture, which certainly was also not without political undertones. Both countries were obviously members of the Eastern Europe alliance called the Warsaw Pact, and both were currently experiencing how the political climate was beginning to have a very odd feeling of change about it. Referee Helén was not a hugely experienced man for similar occasions: This was his fifth international since his inaugural game in charge back in 1981, when he had overseen Poland’s 6-0 home win against Malta in qualification ahead of the 1982 World Cup. He had subsequently officiated in a match in each of the following two calendar years, though after his ruling of the 1983 Olympic qualifying game between Finland and Denmark (0-0) in Helsinki, he had not been in action until Iceland’s home friendly with Hungary (0-3) in September ’88.
This was the 14th encounter over all between East Germany and the Soviet Union. Today’s visitors had won comfortably 3-0 when they had met in Kiev back in April. In fact, the USSR had won five of their last six clashes, and statistics in their favour read 6-4-3. The two were paired in a qualification for the second time running, but also only for the second time in history. The Soviets had managed a draw (1-1) in East Berlin in the qualification ahead of the 1988 European Championships. Six former head to heads in GDR had only seen the visitors win once: 3-1 in a Leipzig friendly in ’83. Only one player who had featured that day was still among the 32 players in both squads: East Germany’s Rainer Ernst.
East Germany (4-4-2)
|1 Dirk Heyne||31||Magdeburg|
|2 Ronald Kreer (c)||29||Lokomotive Leipzig|
|3 Dirk Stahmann||31||Magdeburg|
|4 Matthias Lindner||24||Lokomotive Leipzig|
|5 Matthias Döschner||31||Dynamo Dresden|
|6 Matthias Sammer||22||Dynamo Dresden|
|7 Jörg Stübner||24||Dynamo Dresden|
|8 Rico Steinmann||sub 90′||21||Karl-Marx-Stadt|
|9 Ulf Kirsten||23||Dynamo Dresden|
|10 Rainer Ernst||sub 75′||27||Dynamo Berlin|
|11 Andreas Thom||24||Dynamo Berlin|
|12 Detlef Schößler||27||Dynamo Dresden|
|13 Burkhard Reich||24||Dynamo Berlin|
|14 Uwe Weidemann||on 90′||26||Rot-Weiß Erfurt|
|15 Thomas Doll||on 75′||23||Dynamo Berlin|
|16 Perry Bräutigam||26||Carl Zeiss Jena|
Soviet Union (4-5-1)
|1 Viktor Chanov||30||Dinamo Kiev|
|2 Vladimir Bessonov||33′||31||Dinamo Kiev|
|3 Vagiz Khidiatullin||30||Toulouse|
|4 Oleg Kuznetsov||54′||26||Dinamo Kiev|
|5 Sergey Gorlukovich||27||Lokomotiv Moskva|
|6 Sergey Aleinikov||27||Juventus|
|7 Aleksey Mikhailichenko (c)||26||Dinamo Kiev|
|8 Gennady Litovchenko||26||Dinamo Kiev|
|9 Aleksandr Zavarov||28||Juventus|
|10 Oleg Protasov||25||Dinamo Kiev|
|11 Igor Dobrovolsky||22||Dinamo Moskva|
|12 Vasily Rats||28||Dinamo Kiev|
|13 Oleg Luzhny||21||Dinamo Kiev|
|14 Andrey Zygmantovich||26||Dinamo Minsk|
|15 Ivan Yaremchuk||27||Dinamo Kiev|
|16 Dmitry Kharin||21||Dinamo Moskva|
Situated just over 20 miles from the border to Czechoslovakia in the south of East Germany, the industrial city of Karl-Marx-Stadt hosted its eighth ever GDR international, and a third qualifier since November ’85. It was a rare weekend event with an early afternoon kick-off. Weather appeared to be dull and grey, though with no downpour by the time of initiation. The hosts had been selected to kick-off, and they would so do through two of their midfielders Matthias Sammer and Rainer Ernst.
The opening ten minutes show little in terms of attacking enterprise from either team, though it clearly plays in the consciousness of the visitors that a point would be a welcome result. It is the hosts who wish to take the game to the away team, naturally so, as they seek to get that elusive win which will ensure their interest in the qualification right through to their final game in Austria. The USSR do what they can to slow proceedings down, whilst the home team appear to have their tails up after that fine win in Reykjavik. However, this is a much different proposition, and they can not expose themselves defensively, as the Soviet Union most definitely have the counter-attacking credentials to harm anyone who do not tread with care.
East Germany had appeared in 5-3-2 in Iceland, probably to build a solid defensive base from which they could lay the foundations for a win. This proved fruitful and effective, especially once they had moved in front. Now, though, one suspected from reading their line-up pre-match that Geyer had abandoned the five man defensive line, and could this perhaps not have been seen as something of a bold move? Both yes and no. They were at home and they needed to go chasing a win, and so this could be the explanation for the manager’s more attacking approach this time around. As for the Soviet Union, few had expected anything but their by now customary 4-5-1, where their most forward midfielder, Aleksandr Zavarov, had been something of a second striker early in the qualification, but who had since retracted back into a more defined midfield role. This seemed to be the case once again. The USSR had a cautious first few minutes in Karl-Marx-Stadt, where their first foray into opposition territory sees Sergey Gorlukovich have a feeble attempt with his right foot from around 18 yards out, left in front of Dirk Heyne’s goal. It had been the often probing Igor Dobrovolsky who had laid the ball off for the left-back, but Gorlukovich’ effort had been so poor it had struggled even to cross the goal line, way to the right of Heyne’s goal.
A closer look at the hosts
As the game progressed past the somewhat ruffled initial stages, it was easy to spot GDR’s formational turn-around. They were clearly in 4-4-2 on this occasion, although their version of this combination under Geyer certainly demands some explanation. They had dropped tall BFC centre-back Burkhard Reich for the visit of the Soviets, and rather added another midfielder in Karl-Marx-Stadt’s own footballing promise in 21 year old Rico Steinmann. It must have been a grand occasion for the wide midfielder to appear in a game of this magnitude in familiar surroundings, in front of ‘his own’. Any signs of early nerves from Steinmann, perhaps? Not so much. Steinmann based his play on endeavour and also a certain amount of skill in possession. He had taken up a role along the right hand side, and he was clearly the only wide player in their starting line-up, as there was no designated left-sided midfielder in Geyer’s eleven. He went about his task with fervour and passion, and he seemed to relish the occasion. Rico Steinmann would predominantly be up against Soviet left-back Gorlukovich.
The inclusion of the young Karl-Marx-Stadt midfielder had not been the only change since Reykjavik. In Iceland, striker Thomas Doll had delievered a ‘man of the match’ performance, but now, with potential world class forward Andreas Thom available again, Doll had had to return to a place in the shadow among the substitutes. They were a fine duo at club level, but on this occasion, the more praised among the two Dynamo Berlin players had taken up his customary forward role next to Ulf Kirsten. These had been the two changes in personnel which Geyer had done.
Between the sticks, the new regime seemed to have faith in solid Magdeburg goalkeeper Heyne, who had hardly been put to the test in Reykjavik, but who had nevertheless built himself something of a reputation domestically as one of the better custodians in the Oberliga. He would also profit from having Magdeburg team mate Dirk Stahmann directly ahead of him in central defence, as Stahmann was again the choice for the libero position. This was hardly a controversial decision, as there was no other clear candidate for this role among the 16. Partnering Stahmann in central defence on this occasion was Lokomotive Leipzig’s hard man Matthias Lindner, who had had a bit of an indifferent start to the league campaign, where an early sending off in a disappointing 2-1 home defeat against early pace setters Magdeburg had not aided his team’s cause. This afternoon, Lindner, who was quite versatile as a defender and could play in a number of positions, was GDR’s only Vorstopper.
Speaking of Lokomotive Leipzig: Their highly experienced right-back Ronald Kreer had been chosen by the Geyer regime as the country’s new captain, and he clearly seemed to thrive on this new level of trust that he had been given. He had performed well last time around, and he was about as committed as a full-back got. Winning his 63rd cap, far more than any other player in their squad, the choice of him as captain seemed a good one. Opposite of Kreer, who seemed somewhat limited in his forward approach, was left-back Matthias Döschner, another highly dependable character within East German football. The 31 year old Dynamo Dresden stalwart was making his 38th international appearance, and he would enjoy a high level of attacking freedom along the GDR left, as there was no designated wide midfielder ahead of him.
East Germany’s three man midfield had worked a treat in Iceland, where all of Rainer Ernst, Matthias Sammer and Jörg Stübner had played very well. The two former had even got their opening two goals. Now, it appeared that their midfield was of a slightly different nature, with just Ernst and Sammer working in a creative tandem in the centre. It is probably correct also to define Stübner as a central midfielder for this fixture, but his tasks were clearly of a more destructive character, as he had set about to break up as much play as he possibly could for the visitors’ perhaps most creative outlet in attacking midfielder Zavarov. One were perhaps a little surprised to see that Ernst appeared as the more defensively minded of the two in the centre, with Sammer working ahead of him, although the tall, blonde BFC man was hardly equipped with rigid instructions: He was allowed to dart forward if the situation allowed for it to happen. Sammer would then be the holding man, but the flame haired Dresden ace was clearly more relishing the attacking responsibility about his role.
With Andreas Thom back in the side, Ulf Kirsten had got his usual partner back. The two seemed to have almost a telepathic understanding between them in how to execute their respective duties. However, as a rough guide, Kirsten was usually the one moving towards the right hand side, with Thom either dropping a little deep or moving out towards the left. Now, though, with Steinmann playing as a wide right midfielder, it did seem as Kirsten could focus more on central duties, something which had not often been the case earlier in the qualification. Kirsten had seemed to develope already a less impressive side to his game: He’d been seen on a few occasions already going to the ground too easily, and he would give an insight into this particular ‘talent’ during the course of this tie, too. As for Thom, he probably felt pressure to deliever after Doll’s highly impressive performance last time around, and after a disappointing 1988/89 season, he had started better this time around. It was time to show again in the national team jersey that he was more than qualified to hold down a starting berth.
This was a solid, if not highly spectacular, East German side. They could mix things up: They were capable of playing it among themselves along the ground, and they had the ability to fight for aerial balls, although this was probably not the greatest asset of either forward. However, they were up against another team which had few shortcomings in the physical aspects of the game. GDR probably were aware that they ought to keep the ball moving in order to gain much luck from the visitors.
The first 20 minutes pass without East Germany managing to put Soviet ‘keeper Viktor Chanov to the test. The Dinamo Kiev stopper does arrive for the game with a somewhat disputable reputation, as he is hardly the most convincing of goalkeepers on the circuit, and surely not when coming out to try and claim crosses into the box. When the hosts have a right wing corner by left-back Döschner with almost 17 minutes on the clock, there’s an opportunity for Chanov to prove his doubters wrong, but he fails to deal convincingly with the high ball into the centre. However, he does get enough conviction behind his punch to see the ball exit the 18 yard box, although it gives Steinmann an opportunity to have a first time attempt which ends up well over target.
What about the visitors?
Chanov had kept a clean sheet in Vienna a month earlier, but he’d perhaps not been exposed to a high number of delicate issues. With Geyer clearly an astute tactician in the home dug-out, did his pre-match words include such as ‘do what you can to put pressure on Chanov; he’s got it in him to fail’? The goalie, making his 17th international since his debut even before the ’82 World Cup, was one of nine Dinamo Kiev players in the 16 man squad. Six of them were starters, and two of them were playing in the four man defensive line just in front of Chanov. They were seasoned pros Vladimir Bessonov, again at right-back, and Oleg Kuznetsov, the curly-haired central defender who so often brought the ball out of defence even if his role was more that of a traditional centre-back rather than a libero. This task had, again, gone to France based Vagiz Khidiatullin, who himself had racked up a fine number of internationals by now: this was the Toulouse man’s 51st cap. Indeed, between them, the trio of Bessonov, Kuznetsov and Khidiatullin had an impressive 169 appearances in national team colours. The back four was completed through left-back Sergey Gorlukovich, one of two Moscow based players in their eleven. Gorlukovich also proved to be a versatile man, and he had given a sound, if conservative, interpretation of the libero job in the absence of Khidiatullin earlier in the qualification.
Early Soviet tactics had clearly been sitting deep and then trying to catch the hosts on the break. Their formation was evidently a 4-5-1, with neither full-back in highly attacking roles, although one would see Bessonov making a few strides across the halfway line. On one such occasion, after 18 minutes, he makes it level with the East German penalty area before he delievers his ball into the centre. He gets a little more on it than he had probably expected, and the ball eventually drifts harmlessly out of play opposite. However, there had been potential in his cross, as it had been directed into the space between Heyne and the GDR back four. Oleg Protasov, their most forward player, had not sniffed the danger, and the hosts had not been exposed to a higher level of threat. Other opportunities to finish had come through Gorlukovich’ early shot and then when Kuznetsov, of all people, had popped up in a central position outside the penalty area to sky an effort on eleven minutes.
In midfield, the Soviets had found out early that the home side’s Stübner had been assigned as a man marker for Aleksandr Zavarov. It was hardly a surprising idea, as Zavarov’s vast talent was a well known quantity throughout the footballing world. However, that GDR would sacrifice a player in order to put a dent in Soviet play showed just how much respect they had for the Juventus star. Zavarov appeared clearly unhappy with some of the treatment that he was exposed to, as Stübner was fully committed to the task of shadowing him throughout the game.
The centre of midfield was so often a stronghold for the Soviets, and with a complimentary duo of such highly calibred players as Sergey Aleinikov, now Zavarov’s team mate at Juventus, and Aleksey Mikhailichenko, again chosen as the team captain, their strength was easily identified. However, they failed to gel properly as a unit so far, with only sporadic forays into GDR’s half of the pitch. Aleinikov had won back his place in the starting eleven as there was no Cherenkov to challenge him on this occasion, but few doubted his capacity. He would fail to impress much in his defensive role, though, acting somewhat one-paced in front of his central defenders, and not offering much in terms of assistance to the rest of his midfield. The Soviet wide positions were once again occupied by Gennady Litovchenko, right, and Igor Dobrovolsky, the second Moscow based player in their select, to the left. This was Litovchenko’s 49th cap, and he was a steady feature under Lobanovsky both at club and international level.
Dobrovolsky was a young player at 22, and one with plenty of creative talent, even if instructions made sure he had to perform a lot of defensive duties in Karl-Marx-Stadt. This would often leave Oleg Protasov, the team’s only recognized striker, isolated up top, where the Dinamo Kiev sharp shooter was facing constant battle with GDR central defender Lindner. In fact, the battle between the two was as prominent as that between Stübner and Zavarov in midfield. In cutting the Soviets’ main supply line for Protasov, and indeed also in silencing the striker, the hosts felt they had done much to keep the Soviet offensive quiet.
A muted Soviet Union
In all honesty, the game is a drab affair. Both teams appear content just cancelling each other out. This seems an even greater wish for the visitors, who do have the opportunity to push men forward on the counter, but who are reluctant to do so. The Soviet Union’s safety first approach can be understood, but it makes for poor entertainment value. They manage to keep possession inside their own half, but once across the halfway line, it is as if they are void of ideas. This may stem from the fact that there is little movement ahead of the player in possession, and rarely any initiatives from either wide player. Both Litovchenko and Dobrovolsky are sitting fairly deep, and if they do get on the ball, they are quickly closed down by either GDR full-back. Doubling up along the flanks has previously been something that the USSR have been good at, but with both Bessonov and Gorlukovich having restrictions in their respective instructions, they are rarely allowed to aid either wide midfielder. And with Zavarov stifled by Stübner, it leaves a whole lot to the imagination of Mikhailichenko. Problem is, though, that the Soviet captain does far from have one of his better games.
…though it is not as if GDR are much better
It is not as if the hosts are setting the game alight either. They do find the limited areas of space in central midfield difficult to cope with at times, though the many initiatives from attacking left-back Döschner helps them finding wide options. Döschner seems to relish his attacking role, and his opportunities are fuelled by the fact that the visitors show little intent on exploiting any space which he leaves behind. With Thom typically the one among the two strikers to come into wide left positions, potential is there for Döschner and the former country captain to establish some fine moments between them. The former, though, often appears bent on delievering crosses rather than trying to bring Thom into play. Crossing balls against a potentially erratic goalkeeper may not seem the stupidest thing to do, but few of Döschner’s balls in from wide positions are telling. Chanov again shows his punching tendencies from a Kreer cross delievered deep from the right hand side, but on this occasion the ‘keeper does get sufficient air beneath it. Chanov also has to deal with a rasping effort from Rainer Ernst, but the GDR midfielder is too far out, around 32 yards, to pose much of a threat. Even if his shot hits the target, it is a routine catch for the goalkeeper to make.
Bessonov has his name taken
There is one booking during the opening 45 minutes, and it comes when Soviet right-back Bessonov sends Kirsten to the floor for a second time within the space of a minute. On the first occasion, the referee had let it pass as the home side had maintained possession, but there’s no way Helén can avoid retribution when Bessonov is far too late in his effort to tackle the thrifty Dynamo Dresden star. The yellow card is well deserved. On this occasion Kirsten had not needed to draw on his antics.
Uneventful end to half
Through until half time, the visitors do have time to show that they can muster something once they let a full-back enter GDR territory. For only the third time during the first 45 minutes, Bessonov is allowed to participate in attack. On the first occasion he had delievered a fine cross which no one had been able to get on the end of, whereas his second foray had been ajudged offside. Now, he’s set up by Mikhailichenko to have a cross from a somewhat deep position, and he manages to search out Dobrovolsky on the far side of the penalty area. The wide player has got in behind Stübner, who had for once left his marking job of Zavarov in order to help out in defence, though Dobrovolsky is unable to get the ball under control, and he is off balance as he prods the ball harmlessly to the left of the upright with the tip of his right boot. At the other end, the increasingly influental Sammer had swung a half volley well wide to the left of Chanov’s goal from a huge distance, while the hosts are probably fortunate to see Lindner escape a booking when he fells an advancing Protasov who is trying to make ground along the right. Even Stübner could have picked up a yellow when he had brought Zavarov down just inside the Soviet half on 37 minutes.
As it is, there’s no score after the opening half, and it is all still to play for in the final 45 minutes.
When the teams came back out onto the pitch for the start of the second half, there had been no changes in personnel at either side. If there was any level of wind to take into consideration, then it would be behind the visitors for the second half, as shown by the flags blowing atop the far side stand, though it did not appear to be something which would affect proceedings. The Soviet Union kicked the match back into life through Protasov and Zavarov.
If the first half had been something of a disappointment according to expectations, then what would the second 45 minutes have in store for the 16 000 or so who were surrounding the Ernst-Thälmann-Stadion? If the opening exchanges were much to go by, then it seemed that they would be in for more of the same. It had been a failure on behalf of either party to put into effect their flanks, and perhaps could this be something which had been addressed in the dressing rooms during the break? Along the right, GDR had effectively closed down the avenue of approach for Dobrovolsky, who had at times been a spectator during the first half. Right-back Kreer and right-sided midfielder Steinmann had both worked hard to ensure that the Soviets did not enjoy much luck down their defensive side, but at the same time, little had happened from this side once the East Germans had crossed into Soviet territory. With just two minutes of the second half gone, Steinmann works himself into a fine position from which he delievers a cross into the centre. Kirsten connects, but his headed effort is a feeble one, and it never threatens to hit the target.
Both defences had been well marshalled by their respective liberos: Stahmann had rarely been put to the test in the home team’s rear lines, whilst Khidiatullin had lived a fairly comfortable existence down the other end. Neither had been prone to taking any chances whatsoever, so with all this cautiousness on display, it was clear what the match meant, and not just to the hosts, but also to the visitors, who were more or less guaranteed a ticket to Italia ’90 were they to return home with a point. There had been little movement in forward direction also from Kuznetsov, the central defender who was rarely shy in crossing the halfway line as he would seek to instigate another Soviet attack. And with Aleinikov almost acting as a third central defender, typically sitting so deep in front of Khidiatullin and Kuznetsov, there seemed to be little manoeuvring space for the hosts to exploit in the centre.
The game had been played in a relatively fine spirit among the players thus far, although there had been some challenges which could have caused the referee to take stricter action. For example when Zavarov had been hacked down by Stübner in the first half. And Protasov had been held back by his marker Lindner without other retribution than a free-kick as he had threatened to break down the right during the first 45 minutes. Now, the lone Soviet striker was again brought down unceremoniously by the big defender, and yet again, Helén did little but console Protasov with a mere free-kick. Kuznetsov felt like having a word, asking why these GDR fouls went about almost unanswered. Helén was clearly someone who did not accept any level of mutiny, and so he made sure to nip any such approach right in the bud. Perhaps did the official have Kuznetsov’s questioning on his mind as he made sure to give the Soviet defender a booking nine minutes into the second half, after a seemingly innoccuous foul on Ernst almost near the halfway line. Kuznetsov was making gestures as if to say “this was nothing, ref”, and he was promptly showed the yellow card. No time for fuss, then.
The Soviet offensive had been almost absent since the start of the game, and the tactics of taking Zavarov out of the plot seemed to work the hosts a treat. However, the little Turin based magician made some space for himself in the centre, enough for him to spot a run from Dobrovolsky along the left just after five minutes of the second half. Zavarov’s pass for the Moscow man had been of fine precision, and for once it seemed as if the visitors had been willing to push men forward to join the attack. However, Dobrovolsky’s ball into the centre failed to pick out a team mate, and Sammer, whose influence was beginning to show, could clear the host side’s lines as he transported the ball out from his penalty area, only to be bundled over by Zavarov and gain a free-kick. Heyne had yet to be tested with an effort on target.
GDR in charge
One can not help but having a feeling of the Soviets’ game as being somewhat cramped. They concede possession even inside their own half, and the amount of times their usually technically adept players lose the ball to an opponent before they can cross the halfway line is at times astonishing. Having said that, a certain level of credit should clearly go to the hosts, who are more aggressive in this phase of the game, approaching the hour mark. In involving Steinmann more as an attacking outlet along the right, and definitely in having Sammer dictate attacking play in a more advanced central position, they are able to put pressure on the visiting defence, and the Soviets show that they are far from unbreachable. Indeed, it is Sammer who comes the closest yet when he, on 56 minutes, has an effort with the tip of his right boot going just to the right of goal with Chanov rooted to his spot. The situation had arose from Steinmann’s probing cross, and Khidiatullin had only managed to head the ball out into dangerous territory, where Sammer had reacted the quickest. Sammer will arrive in the box to get his head to a Kirsten cross five minutes later, as he wins against Kuznetsov in the air, although his header lacks power and is easy to collect for Chanov. Only a minute later, Kirsten, who is also having a fine start to the second period, and who is clearly the more active of the two front-runners, is able to make a turn on the ball and have a shot on target, only to see it partly blocked by Khidiatullin for the ball to trickle harmlessly into the grasp of Chanov. The signs are there for all to see: The home side are in the ascendancy.
Contemplating a change
Even if East Germany are taking the game to the Soviet Union, they do not manage to stretch the visitors’ defence enough to create clear-cut openings in front of goalkeeper Chanov. And where is Thom, who is supposed to be such an outlet attack-wise with his intelligent use of the ball and clever runs into the channels? He has not been able to give a display which can defend Geyer’s use of him in place of a Thomas Doll who had been so good in their previous match. However, when Andreas Thom was available for selection, he was not someone you’d leave out of your team. As GDR realize that the clock is ticking away, though, there is some activity on the bench, and one sees Doll tie his laces in order to make himself ready to come on. But where? Who would go off in his place? Surely not Steinmann, who has lifted his attacking game since the break and proved to be something of a threat along the right hand side?
Surprise goal for USSR
Before the East Germany management has had the opportunity to introduce their first substitution, they find themselves behind. It comes out of the blue as the Soviets break with conviction for more or less the first time in the game on 74 minutes. There had been a moment two minutes before when Aleinikov had made a very rare forward foray and played a one-two with Dobrovolsky, which had set the latter up for a shot from around 30 yards. However, Dobrovolsky’s right foot was hardly famous for bursting nets with its hits, and as he had drifted inside and found himself somewhat to the right of centre, it was impossible for him to call upon his favoured left boot. The shot was hardly something which would take Heyne’s sleep away, as the ball rolled along the deck way to the left of the ‘keeper’s goal frame. However, as Protasov managed to wriggle free of Stahmann’s attention along the right, having been fed by Litovchenko, the striker could advance uninterrupted. As he got inside the 18 yard box, he crossed the ball towards the centre, where Litovchenko connected with an exquisite right-footed volley to smash the ball home high into the net from inside the penalty area D. His effort was struck with such venom that Heyne did not have time to raise his arms to get to the ball, and in unexpected, yet wonderful, fashion, the visitors found themselves a goal ahead. It was a lead they barely deserved. Litovchenko’s goal was his third of the on-going qualification; he had also scored in the earlier fixture against GDR. It was his twelvth international goal over all.
Doll on and continued home pressure
Losing a goal when you’ve hardly had any opportunities against, and especially when up against an opponent of such calibre after all, could knock the stuffing out of the best of teams. GDR could have been forgiven if they had crumbled, especially as they now not just needed to score once, as a draw would not aid their plight much. The East Germany team which we had seen under Stange early in the qualification or during Zapf’s short tenure might have done just that: crumbled. This edition, though, with Geyer and Vogel pulling the strings on the sidelines, did not operate according to such scripts. They kept plucking away, and they would soon enough return to their siege of the Soviet half of the pitch. They had brought Doll on in the moments after Litovchenko’s goal, and the player who had had to give way was central midfielder Ernst, who had been much less of a dominant figure than his compatriot Sammer. Ernst had also taken a knock to his right ankle earlier in the half, and perhaps was his exit also sped up by injury.
Chanov’s less than impressive first half moments had been mentioned, and he would come under severe scrutiny once again as the home side upped the ante. Three minutes after the goal, the Dinamo Kiev ‘keeper completely makes a meal of a punch after a Lindner throw from the right. This almost gifts Sammer a headed goal, although the midfielder’s header at no point appears to have sufficient power to beat several Soviet players between him and the goal line. Bessonov manages to head it away for a right wing GDR corner kick. This set-piece will also make Chanov work, and once again the goalkeeper decides to punch when coming for Döschner’s high ball. Again, it is far from a convincing action, as the ball ends up a yard outside the area in a central position, where the robust Lindner connects, only to see the ball go way over goal from his wild volley. East Germany are tightening the screw, though, and their pressure will soon tell.
With Doll on, East Germany had gone 4-3-3. They would stick Stübner and Sammer right and left respectively of Steinmann in midfield, whilst Doll took up a forward role to accompany Kirsten, now in the centre, and Thom. The Soviets fail to shake off their sluggishness, and it seems that something has to give at one point or another. And the goal arrives nine minutes from time as Chanov yet again makes a meal of a high ball. Dobrovolsky had headed a teasing Döschner cross out for another right wing GDR corner, and when the full-back swung the flag-kick into the centre, Chanov had decided to come for another punch, but failed to recognize Stahmann and Mikhailichenko’s aerial battle in front of him. The ‘keeper again flaps at it when he’s being crowded out, and as the ball comes down in a clustre of players only a couple of yards out from the goalline, Kirsten is able to get his head to it and direct it towards the unguarded goal. Thom prolongues it and makes sure it goes into the back of the net, and he is awarded the equalizer, something which is his fourth goal of the qualification. But what on earth was Chanov thinking?
A quick-fire second
A draw would not suffice, and the hosts immediately set about their search for a winner. They had realized how putting high balls into the Soviet penalty area had managed to cause confusion, and so they continued with these tactics. It is just a minute and a half since the equalizer when GDR move in front, and it happens as Stübner puts a hopefull cross in from the right. Thom gets to it ahead of Bessonov in the centre, though he is with his back to the goal, and he decides to chest it down to whomever of Sammer and Doll who can get to it first. It is the flame haired midfield man who gets there before his team mate, and he connects with a low left-footed shot which finds its way into the back of the net just inside the right hand post. Sammer had scored for the second successive qualifier, and this could prove to be a really big goal for his country. Should East Germany hang on to claim both points against the USSR, it would mean that they were still in with a chance of reaching the World Cup.
The question is naturally what the Soviets can do to muster a comeback. Defeat will see them possibly depend on getting something from their final match, which is at home to Turkey, but so far they have been unable to assert any level of pressure on the hosts, whose defence has lead a quiet existence this afternoon. Their idea appears to be setting Bessonov up along the right for crosses into the box, and on one occasion the full-back manages to find his captain Mikhailichenko, who is in a decent position ten yards out. However, his header is stopped in its track by the tall Stahmann, who is stood between Mikhailichenko and goal. Rather than create openings for an equalizer, the Soviets almost see the hosts snatch a third as they counter with pace, and when Thom feeds Doll to easily round Kuznetsov to set himself up for a one on one with Chanov, the ‘keeper has to intervene in order to prevent another GDR goal. Having performed so lethargically until now, he finally makes a fine stop as he denies Doll’s attempt at lifting it over him.
This is it, though. This is what the visitors have to ‘throw’ at the home team. It is hardly kitchen sink material. The Soviets do not appear to have a plan B, and they do not even bring on anyone from a substitutes’ bench which appears bereft of front liners anyway. A minute and a half into time added on, the Swedish referee decides that enough’s enough, and the signal for full time sounds. The hosts have just had time to bring midfielder Uwe Weidemann on for his second substitute appearance of the qualification, replacing Steinmann as the clock is only seconds away from 90 minutes. It is immaterial, though, as what matters is that East Germany have won both points to take them level with Austria in the table.
It is a surprisingly lack-lustre first half in which neither team manages to cause much in terms of danger in front of either goal. They appear to cancel each other out in the centre of the pitch, where the Soviets’ three central midfielders rarely manages to get the upper hand on East Germany’s duo of Ernst and Sammer. With chances at a minimum, a raise in standards is expected for the final 45 minutes, although there are few early indications that this will happen. As the half progresses, the hosts take control of proceedings, and it is the increasingly impressive Sammer who directs their operations in what is now an advanced midfield position. However, in a rare Soviet counter, the visitors move in front when Litovchenko smashes an impressive first time volley into the roof of the net from Protasov’s cross. GDR’s dominance seems to have yielded little, but they will claw their way back, and their switch to 4-3-3 immediately after going down will just see them cement their authority. They equalize after another poor Chanov action in the area, and then go ahead with a low shot from Sammer. They are closer to scoring a third than the visitors are to equalizing. Eventually, it is a well deserved win.
1 Heyne 6.9
rarely worked. Seemed confident when claiming crosses. The goal he conceded came with such force it was difficult to even get his arms up in time
2 Kreer 7.1
sturdy performance in which he concentrated on consolidating against Dobrovolsky. Appears to relish being captain. Keeping things elementary key to another good game
3 Stahmann 7.2
part of a solid defence, and even if he rarely took any risks, he always positioned himself well to be present before danger arose
4 Lindner 7.6
a tremendous performance against Protasov, where he hardly put a foot wrong. A couple of long throws caused havoc in the Soviet penalty area
5 Döschner 7.1
too high in the pitch when the Soviets scored, but so often a threat along the left, where he gave an attacking display previously unseen during this qualification
6 Sammer 7.8
a masterful and dominant game in the centre of the pitch, where he grew in importance as the clock ticked. A threat when appearing in front of goal, and could’ve got more than ‘just’ the one, match-winning, goal
7 Stübner 7.0
important contribution in the way he kept Zavarov quiet, whereas possession-wise this was not Stübner’s game. Not that it needed to be
8 Steinmann 7.2
a real hard worker along the right hand side, which he helped keping fuss free defensively. Also better in the attacking half after the break
(14 Weidemann –
provided fresh legs in the dying seconds)
9 Kirsten 7.4
always on the move, and on this occasion more often found himself through the middle than previously. Also broke free along the right a couple of times, and won the all important header for Thom to tuck it over the line
10 Ernst 7.1
gives a fine display with his reading of the game from the deeper central midfield position. Important with his physique. Probably forced off due to an earlier heavy challenge from Mikhailichenko
(15 Doll –
came on with energy and enthusiasm, something which definitely helped GDR turning the game around. Foiled by Chanov late on when he could’ve wrapped things up)
11 Thom 7.0
got the equalizer and assisted for 2-1, but not Thom’s best game. Seemed to drift out of it for periods, and was less of an inspiration up top than his partner
1 Chanov 6.0
despite a late stop one on one with Doll: This was an abysmal performance from the ‘keeper, who was a liability with his dodgy aerial play. At fault for 1-1, could’ve been at fault for more
2 Bessonov 6.9
not the worst among the Soviet players, and indeed he got into some crossing positions. Alright defensively, though his side was not typically where GDR threatened, even if Döschner approached this avenue a few times. A couple of technically foul throws went unpunished
3 Khidiatullin 6.8
a low risk game. Kept himself at the back, where he sweeped well until East Germany’s final periods of pressure. Typically composed, but not above the ordinary
4 Kuznetsov 6.8
some good tussles with Kirsten, and unlucky to be booked. Rarely participated in building from the back this time around
5 Gorlukovich 6.7
failed to win in the air against Kirsten for 1-1, but was ok defensively against the energetic Steinmann
6 Aleinikov 6.6
lacked his stealthy tigerishness, and rarely broke out of first gear in front of his central defenders
7 Mikhailichenko 6.5
disappointingly anonymous. Seemed to lack desire, and was usually second best in midfield battles. Pushed further forward late on when the visitors were chasing a goal, and got into a couple of good positions in the area without being too much of a threat
8 Litovchenko 6.7
a tremendous goal to give visitors the lead, but too often workless along the right, where he perhaps also ought to have kept more of an eye on the advancing Döschner
9 Zavarov 6.4
shackled by Stübner, and only in brief glimpses had the desire to try and run himself free. When he did, he showed he could pose a threat with his vision
10 Protasov 6.4
too isolated up front, where he kept losing duels with the robust Lindner. Bonus for his part in the goal
11 Dobrovolsky 6.3
way too deep along his left hand side to prove any level of attacking threat