Wales – West Germany: No way through for either side in busy and physical stalemate
Wales were already facing an uphill battle two matches into the qualification, having only mustered a draw at home to Finland last time around, in what had been a must win game. Therefore, nothing but two points was on the agenda for the meeting with hitherto undefeated West Germany, who had by now concluded their double header against the Netherlands, the other group favourites. On a night when the Dutch themselves were away on travel (in Finland), there did appear to be a slight table advantage with the West Germans, as this was already their third and final away tie of the qualification. However, Wales away was a daunting task, the Welsh unbeaten at home in qualifications throughout the 80s (14 matches). The match would be played at Cardiff Arms Park, a stadium predominantly used for rugby, in order to be able to accommodate a higher number of spectators. In fact, only seated tickets had been on sale, and the match was the first ever international in the United Kingdom to be played in front of a seated-only crowd. An estimated 700 had travelled from West Germany.
Wales team news
Since the disappointing home draw with the Finns, Wales had had two friendlies: an away draw with Israel and a home defeat against Sweden. For the latter, played out five weeks earlier, Wales boss Yorath had seemingly opted for a 3-4-3, facilitating the use of star strikers Saunders, Rush and Hughes in front roles at the same time. There would be two changes in the starting line-up for the clash with the West Germans, with Blackmore coming back into the side again at the expence of Bowen, thus seeing Coventry’s dependable Phillips, appearing in the Italia ’90 qualification for the first time, switch from wide right to left.
Also, Aizlewood would step into a central defensive role for the absent Van Den Hauwe, who was injured at the end of the 1988/89 season. There was no place in the squad for Chelsea teenage defender Gareth Hall, who had started both qualifiers so far.
In this new system that Yorath had taken a liking to, there was still only room for two central midfielders. Horne, who had late in March made a controversial switch from Portsmouth to their south coast rivals Southampton, was a foregone conclusion. Alongside him would be the workmanlike Williams, who had not participated in the Welsh’ last qualifier. A possible debutant sat on the bench in the shape of Oldham centre-back Andy Holden. Another substitute was forward Malcolm Allen, who had so far not appeared in a qualifier. He had been among the scorers in the 3-3 draw in Israel. This 3-4-3 formation, uncharacteristical for teams from The British Isles, would be used in a telling game by Wales for the first time.
Yorath had originally called up 19 men to his squad, and the three players who were not included on the match day were Neil Slatter, Iwan Roberts and Gareth Hall.
Also, it is worth noticing that the English league season, where all of the Welsh players were featuring, had finished nearly three weeks prior to this fixture, whereas the West German Bundesliga was still in operation.
West Germany team news
Like the hosts, the visitors had twice been in action since the turn of the year: a 2-1 friendly win in Bulgaria had been followed by that fine 1-1 draw in Rotterdam. They would keep their 5-3-2 formation, and with Berthold excelling in the libero position in the Netherlands, the Verona player would continue to sweep for the trip to Cardiff. However, originally Bayern Munich’s Klaus Augenthaler, 31, had been nominated for the trip, although he would ultimately fail to appear. He had not played at international level since a 2-2 friendly home draw with Spain back in October ’86. And on the topic of not appearing: The same applied for Borussia Dortmund striker Frank Mill, who was something of a manager’s favourite. The 30 year old had also pulled out of the original squad.
Teamchef Beckenbauer would have to make do without suspended captain Matthäus, though, whose two (somewhat silly) bookings from their three qualifiers so far had earned him a rest. Matthäus had still travelled with the squad, and was seen in the stands. Into his place came Fach, who had not featured against the Dutch, but who had played as libero for the West Germans’ first two qualifiers. The central defensive midfield role was a position he was familiar with from his club side Bayer Uerdingen, and it had been where he had played in the first half of the 2-1 friendly win in Bulgaria.
The West Germans had also been riddled with two minor injuries, something which saw both man marker Kohler and midfielder Thon retrieved from the matchday squad, both having travelled to Cardiff.
This made sure Alois Reinhardt of Bayer Leverkusen won his first cap in the heart of the defence, whereas Möller continued in midfield at the expense of Littbarski, with the seasoned Cologne man again taking to the bench. There was no place in the squad for Bayern Munich’s leading scorer Wohlfarth, who had scored a hat-trick against Cologne (and Kohler!) in a 3-1 away win the previous weekend.
We should also add that the Teamchef himself was nursing an injury having fallen off his bicycle (!) and fractured a collarbone prior to departure Wales.
The rain which was pouring down over in the Finnish capital of Helsinki at the time was nowhere to be seen in Cardiff. Conditions seemed ideal for football, and the 30 000 seats were all occupied in time for kick-off. Behind both goals were terraces, and despite the match officially being announced as an all-seated event, there were a few people scattered around in the open section behind the goal guarded by Illgner for the first half. It is, however, unlikely that these people were supporters.
The man in the middle was Portuguese Valente, making his sixth international appearance since his debut in the Mexico World Cup in ’86, where he had overseen France’s 3-0 group stage win against Hungary. The 42 year old was making his second appearance of the ’90 qualification, having previously officiated in Northern Ireland’s 3-0 home win against Malta, the only qualification match in the UEFA section which had been played prior to the 1988 European Championships.
Meetings in the past
This was the seventh meeting between the two countries, with West Germany having won three times; the remaining three had ended in draws. The last two encounters had taken place ten years earlier, in 1979, with West Germany winning comfortably in both qualifying ties, 2-0 away and 5-1 at home, ahead of the 1980 European Championships. Peter Nicholas, the player on the pitch with the highest number of caps (59 – Völler’s appearance was his 58th international), was the only survivor from that last meeting between the two.
|1 Neville Southall||30||Everton|
|2 Clayton Blackmore||39′, sub 81′||24||Manchester United|
|3 Dave Phillips||25||Coventry|
|4 Peter Nicholas||29||Chelsea|
|5 Mark Aizlewood||29||Leeds|
|6 Kevin Ratcliffe (c)||28||Everton|
|7 Dean Saunders||24||Derby|
|8 Geraint Williams||sub 81′||27||Derby|
|9 Ian Rush||66′||27||Liverpool|
|10 Mark Hughes||55′||25||Manchester United|
|11 Barry Horne||88′||27||Southampton|
|12 Tony Norman||31||Sunderland|
|13 Andy Holden||26||Oldham|
|14 Mark Bowen||on 81′||25||Norwich|
|15 Colin Pascoe||on 81′||24||Sunderland|
|16 Malcolm Allen||22||Norwich|
West Germany (5-3-2)
|1 Bodo Illgner||22||Köln|
|2 Thomas Berthold||66′||24||Verona|
|3 Andreas Brehme||50′||28||Internazionale|
|4 Alois Reinhardt||27||Bayer Leverkusen|
|5 Stefan Reuter||22||Bayern München|
|6 Guido Buchwald||28||Stuttgart|
|7 Karl-Heinz Riedle||sub 78′||23||Werder Bremen|
|8 Holger Fach||26||Bayer Uerdingen|
|9 Rudi Völler||29||Roma|
|10 Andreas Möller||21||Borussia Dortmund|
|11 Thomas Häßler||23||Köln|
|12 Raimond Aumann||25||Bayern München|
|13 Wolfgang Rolff||29||Bayer Leverkusen|
|14 Günter Hermann||28||Werder Bremen|
|15 Pierre Littbarski||29||Köln|
|16 Jürgen Klinsmann||on 78′||24||Stuttgart|
Wales wish to accommodate all their three star strikers, and so opt for a 3-4-3 formation. Ratcliffe sits at the heart of their defensive trio, and according to modern terminology, he would be classified as a libero (or ‘sweeper’, as is more common in The British Isles). He’s got Aizlewood (left) and Nicholas just ahead of him, not designatedly following each their opponent, but looking to dent whomever of the two West German strikers who cross their respective paths. Blackmore and Phillips have the freedom to go forward from the flanks.
In the home midfield, Williams sits slightly deeper than Horne, who is more prone to joining in attack. Among the forward three, Rush seems to be in the centre, though they will invariably interchange positions. Saunders appears to begin the game as the right-sided of the three, with Hughes somewhat towards the left. However, this is very loose throughout the course of the game. Hughes and Rush are more or less man-marked, by Buchwald and Reinhardt respectively.
The visitors have Berthold again performing in the spare role in defence, and Reinhardt and Buchwald are the two man markers. However, Reuter does have a tendency on several occasion to come into a far more central position than his right wing-back role initially would assume. Brehme along the opposite flank does stick to his side.
The West German midfield sees Fach sit at the deep end, and with Häßler (right) and Möller as the two inside halfs. As the match progresses, the former has a tendency to drop somewhat deeper than the latter, seeing Häßler fall into a playmaking kind of role, with Möller trying to take more responsibility higher up in the pitch. Among the two forwards, it is again a clear pattern to whom is operating where, with Völler, in the continued absence of Klinsmann, moving into right-sided areas, Riedle more towards the left of centre.
It is the visitors who kick off this all important clash in South Wales, where there’s a great anticipation in the air: Both teams are in need of a good result. This is, in practice, the Welsh’ last chance of clutching qualification straws, so they desperately need a win, something which is reflected in manager Yorath’s attacking formation: 3-4-3 is the way forward. The visitors, without their talismanic skipper Matthäus, out through suspension, have again given the energetic duo of Häßler and Möller responsibility in the centre of the park, this time just ahead of the solid Fach, who had been omitted from the matchday squad due to an injury as the West Germans had managed a 1-1 draw in Rotterdam five weeks earlier. Also deprived of the solid Kohler at the back, the visitors might have sweated at the fact of being up against three such strikers as Rush, Hughes and Saunders.
The initial pace is at times overwhelming; challenges rife. Aizlewood, one of three home central defenders, lets Riedle know he’s there with just over a minute and a half on the clock. The Leeds man, one of only two players in the Wales line-up from the second tier of English football, is known for his no-nonsense style, and he follows through as Riedle has come just inside his own half to collect the ball. The Werder Bremen striker, whose perfectly executioned header had given West Germany the lead in the Netherlands, needed treatment. Referee Valente will have his work cut out. The home side would be hoping that the Portuguese official could maintain a certain flow, not punishing hard but fair tackles. Not that West German footballers were unknown to a physical nature; they were certainly not. Their Bundesliga was clearly known for its rough style. It all added to shaping up this match perfectly.
It is the hosts who will arrive at the first opportunity, as one of their three strikers will capitalize from a poor headed clearance at the heart of the West Germany defence. Predatory-like, Rush seizes on the ball, but he can only drag his shot well wide of the upright from a decent position inside the area. Rush, whose first season back at Liverpool after his stint with Juventus had perhaps been a disappointing one on a personal level, with a return of only seven league goals, and certainly suffering from the horrific events at Hillsborough a month and a half earlier, was as much at the heart of the Welsh three-pronged attack line as Hughes. Rush would have the rugged Reinhardt, the visitors’ debutant, as his guardian. The couple would enjoy some fine tussles throughout.
The West Germans are not intimidated
The opening stages are free-flowing; the referee lets football take centre stage. It must be said that both sets of players are in fine mood, not resorting to ill tackling. Wales have a great desire to take the game to the visitors, but West Germany admirably stand up to the challenge, in fact mounting some inroads of their own. The Welsh had been hoping that the new surroundings of the Cardiff Arms Park, with an added capacity, could help boosting the noise and intimidation levels, but with a host of experienced campaigners throughout their team, it was no way that the visitors would cave in. Having suffered that late blow by van Basten’s 87th minute equalizer in Rotterdam, they were aware that they could not afford to slip up tonight: Both points were in demand. The very fact that so much was at stake saw to that the crowd had an epic battle on their hands.
The visiting defence
The stylish Berthold had been selected as the libero in the Netherlands, and he was again given this duty for a second successive difficult away fixture. He sat just behind the two man-markers, where Reinhardt, as we’ve established, was keeping an eye on Rush, and with the even stronger Buchwald looking after Hughes.
The two latter had also crossed paths during the Welshman’s season in West German football, coming head to head in the two Bayern v Stuttgart clashes. This was a particularly mouthwatering battle. Brehme, again featuring as the left-sided defender/wing-back, would often be up against the third Welsh forward, with Saunders looking to exploit possible gaps between the visitors’ central defence and the recently crowned Italian league champion with Internazionale. You would certainly need to be at the peak of your performance to get anything out of Brehme, though Saunders gave it a good go, also prone to roaming into more central positions. The final defender in the West German line-up was Bayern’s solid 22 year old Reuter along the right, a player comfortable on the ball, and someone who would at times even be looking to come on the ball in central defensive areas.
Wales’ wide two
The home side, equipped with only two players in central midfield, are looking for the quickest route to goal, often aiming direct balls for either of their three strikers, who are all quite good at moving about. In addition, the Welsh make use of their two wide men: Blackmore is particularly active inside the visitors’ half early on, finding space to hit crosses and also forcing corners from his opponents. The versatile Manchester United performer is possibly an underrated player, and he seems to thrive in a wing-back role. Along the opposite flank, the dependable Phillips is having his first bite during this qualification, and he too is not shy to crossing the halfway line. Combined, the pair will give Welsh added options in the final half of the pitch. Phillips will be the next home player to have a pop, as he takes on a free-kick almost 30 yards out, a rehearsed move which unfortunately does not go so well. Williams pushes the ball a yard on for Aizlewood, who is supposed to stop the ball for Phillips to take aim, but the central defender gets a mal touch, and Phillips has to change his strategy as he can not fire a direct effort. Instead, the left-sided player takes it past the on-rushing Möller before he shoots from a good 25 yards out, unfortunately high and wide to the left of Illgner’s goal.
West Germany’s frontmen
So far in the qualification we’ve seen a somewhat muted West German attacking pair. Völler, captain in the absence of Matthäus, makes his fourth consecutive qualification start, and for the second match running he has Riedle alongside him, with Klinsmann again taking to the bench, despite being deemed more fit than he had been in Rotterdam, where he had just returned from injury. Whereas Völler would typically be the more left-sided striker when having Klinsmann by his side, he would instead be towards the right of centre when playing next to Riedle. The latter was famously known for his aerial strength, and it was clearly a point for the visitors to have him come back inside their own area when they were faced with Welsh set-pieces. At the other end, Völler did seem boosted by the captaincy, and he was moving about freely, seeking to give Aizlewood a run for his money. Riedle seemed more stationary inside the home side’s half, often engaged in tussles with the sturdy Nicholas.
Wales’ defensive trio
Probably not all too familiar with a sweeper (libero) position, the home captain is again the excellent Ratcliffe. The Everton player has a lot of admirers, and he possesses an excellent long foot which is often seeking out either of Wales’ three strikers. In addition to being a fine reader of the game, Ratcliffe also has a lot of pace, and through his years of top flight and international experience, he did seem the perfect option for a spare man role.
He was used to playing with Southall, as the Everton pair had been together at club and international level for years. This brought a solidity to the home side’s rear lines, where also the two markers Nicholas and Aizlewood were going about their tasks with solidity. Nicholas, the recently crowned second division champion with Chelsea, had also performed in midfield earlier in the qualification, and was another whose precise foot could find a team mate higher up the pitch. In fact, all three central defenders were equipped with good passing abilities, as Aizlewood, just as left-footed as Ratcliffe, was also quite useful in this department.
Hard man Horne
Among the two in the centre of the home midfield, it was Horne who was the more comfortable when in possession. He was just in front of the somewhat more defensive Williams, a player capable of running all evening: Williams would do a job anywhere across the midfield, as he had shown when played in a defensive right-sided role during the defeat in the Netherlands in their qualification opener. Horne was, if not a top class creative midfielder, someone who was capable of threading a pass ahead to either of the forward three, and he did well to make it past Fach and push the ball wide for Phillips to eventually gain a left wing corner off Häßler. The home side were certainly not over-awed by their opponents, and nor by the occasion, and were giving as good as they were getting in these first 20 minutes. Horne was putting himself about, and seemed very much fired up. He was up against some top class performers, though perhaps Möller was not appreciating so much the physical nature of the game so far, not being highly visible.
Riedle makes a wrong decision
Counters were something which the West Germans knew about, even if it might not have been their utmost prolific feature. We saw Berthold on a couple of occasions trying to catch the hosts by surprise in striding across the halfway line ball at feet, but whenever either of Häßler or Möller decided to speed things up, there were tendencies that the home midfield struggled to cope. However, this was not a prominent first half feature. On one occasion, though, with Möller already twice dropping deep to be fed the ball just inside his own half, the Dortmund ace found midfield colleague Häßler with a short pass, and moving quickly into the Welsh final third, he in turn found Völler, who proceeded to search out Riedle free to his left.
Had the Bremen hit man shot first time, he could’ve presented Southall with a lot of trouble, but instead Riedle opted to try and take the ball inside to gain a better angle. This eventually saw him lose possession, and the opportunity was spurned. Midway through the first half, the teams were still locked nil apiece.
West Germany centre, again
There are passages of play which are of lesser quality, though the pace never vanishes completely from the game. The Welsh are doing a lot of pressing when the opponents are in possession, and the hosts never allow the visitors to build patiently. We see Berthold with a wish to participate in going forward, and whenever he does so, his central defensive duties will be taken over by Fach, who is about to establish himself as a fine performer in not just one but two different central defensive roles within the West German eleven. Berthold even sees fit to galop forward along the right hand touchline on a couple of occasions, and his libero game does seem to be of a more attacking build than that of Fach.
Wales threaten Illgner
Within a minute, around 27-28 minutes into the game, the home side arrive at successive opportunities, firstly when Hughes gets a shooting chance from just outside the area. However, the ball’s bounced somewhat awkwardly in front of him, and he slices his effort high and wide from an ok position. Next to have a go is left-back Phillips, who pounces on a loose ball inside the West German penalty area after a poor defensive header by Reinhardt. The Welsh would have wanted either of their three strikers in Phillips’ shoes on that occasion, as the Coventry man can only aim his effort straight at Illgner. He even got the ball on his favoured right foot, but with a rush of blood to the head can not fire a killer shot. It was probably the best opportunity of the match yet.
Attacking set-piece for the guests
The visitors look to Brehme when they are awarded a free-kick on the right corner of the Welsh penalty area. Häßler had been halted in his run by Williams, and the referee felt the need to demonstrate his whistle. However, Brehme’s initial effort goes straight into the defensive wall, which has moved forward too quickly for the Portugal official’s liking: The visitors get a second chance. With the element of surprise, if there had been one, gone, Möller this time chose to push the free-kick into the path of Häßler, for the Cologne man to have a pop.
His effort’s hit into the ground, though, and the chance’s gone. So far, Southall had not had an awful lot to do between the home side’s sticks. Wales were doing a terrific job in keeping the visitors at bay.
Poorly aimed set-pieces
Young Dortmund midfielder Möller’s become known for his deep runs into enemy territory through his rise to prominence during the Bundesliga season, though this does not seem something which the West Germans base their play on much. However, he’s found on a rare such occasion ten minutes from half time, only to be felled by Nicholas on the left corner of the area. You’d have thought that the visitors would be looking for Riedle in the centre given the opportunity to swing a free-kick into the box, but again their effort to find a team mate in the air had failed. Brehme and Häßler had both had earlier efforts headed away by the Welsh defence, and this was again the case. So far, the Werder Bremen front man had not been given the chance to replicate his excellent goal in Rotterdam.
Wales so close to scoring right on the stroke of h-t
Some of the intensity in the home side’s play had gradually vanished as the game was approaching its halfway stage, but though the West Germans seemed more and more confident as they enjoyed a greater share of possession, there was no way that the supposedly best team could take anything for granted. Möller was having a spell in midfield where he had been more daring, and Häßler would have a poor left-foot shot from 25 yards way wide of target. However, by far the greatest opportunity for breaking the deadlock falls to the hosts just before the break. With just over a minute on the clock until half time, Horne works out a shooting opportunity from just outside the penalty area. His effort’s partially blocked by Berthold, but the ball ricochets into the path of Saunders, who can however not get to it before Illgner attempts to make a claim.
The goalkeeper fails to hold on to the ball, and so Rush is presented with an opportunity to finish from five yards out, only to see Illgner make a wonderful recovery save with his right palm to deny the striker from opening the scoring. And moments later Illgner’s again in the thick of the action as he comes to punch Phillips’ huge left wing throw.
The crowd had been fired up by the great goal opportunity from the home side, and shortly in the aftermath, they had wanted a penalty given for a handball against Buchwald. However, the referee would have none of it: He probably deemed Hughes to push the big defender into the path of the ball, and so the handball was accidental. Replays clearly give the official the benefit of the doubt, if there had ever been any. The teams enter the dressing rooms after a rather intense opening 45 minutes. There had been one booking: For home right defender Blackmore for kicking Völler to the ground. The second half would surely make for a great spectacle.
It is the home side which kicks the match back into action through strikers Hughes and Rush, and neither side has registered any changes in personnel. The opening 45 minutes had been a physical, intense battle, though it had never been nasty. Wales were fired up at the opportunity to give a formidable opponent such as the West Germans a great fight, and they never shirked from any tackle. With a mere eight seconds on the clock in the second half, however, the innocence will temporarily depart the scene as the combative Horne makes a two-footed lunge at visiting defender Reinhardt when challenging for the ball inside the West German half. Horne loses his left boot in the challenge, which is poorly timed, and which leaves Reinhardt in great agony on the floor. It is the type of brutality that any official of today would have deemed a red card offence, but on this occasion Mr Valente only gives Horne a stern talking to: The Southampton man even escapes a booking. Reinhardt is in need of treatment, and is clearly in pain as play resumes, his right leg having taken the brunt of the hit. The visitors impressively keep their discipline, and they refuse to enter verbal war with the home side’s players. The tone’s been set for an intriguing final 45 minutes.
Frantic opening minutes of final period
With the visitors again showing a greater level of possession, it is the direct style of the home side at times causing West Germany problems. Wales look to attack through Hughes along the right as the forward has his heels clipped by Brehme, who is probably somewhat unfortunate to see yellow for his efforts. The challenge had been clumsy, but there was little of bad intent; Brehme had just been a tad late. The ensuing set-piece does not cause much problems to the visiting defence, but moments later they fail to deal with the tricky Saunders, who feeds Rush a ball at chest-height for the number 9 to take down and fire a half volley at goal. The Liverpool star does not get a lot of power behind his shot, and Illgner can make a comfortable save at the near post. Down the other end, it is captain Ratcliffe to the rescue for the Welsh as he heads away a Riedle near post flick, which possibly came off the head of Aizlewood, after a Brehme left wing corner from under his own crossbar. Had Ratcliffe not been on hand, though, it is likely that Phillips, who had positioned himself on the far post for the flag kick, would have cleared the ball anyway. Then, another minute later, before the second half’s ten minutes old, it is the increasingly busy Häßler who sees a right foot volley from just outside the area slice off his boot and end up a yard and a half wide to the right of Southall’s goal frame.
Völler had done well to get in behind Blackmore and deliever the cross, and with some luck, Häßler would have scored. It is the visitors’ best attempt so far.
We could be seeing Rolff
The stricken Reinhardt’s still in some pain following that awful Horne tackle upon second half resumption. This sees substitute Rolff go through some warm-up along the touchline, as it is around the ten minute mark unclear as to whether the debutant defender will be able to see the game through. Rolff had come on for the injured Kohler during the 1-1 in the Netherlands, and it had been him who had failed to deny van Basten the late equalizer. There has been another booking, this time for home striker Hughes, as the forward unnecessarily clipped the heels of Häßler inside the West German half. With the hectic nature of the game perhaps showing signs of wearing off somewhat, there’s still 35 minutes remaining for either team to put their mark on the game. Do the visitors have what it takes to be the first team to win on Welsh soil for 15 qualifying matches?
Wales force the away team into mistakes
Did I say wear off? Nah. Hardly. The Welsh still have a lot in their locker, and they are stressing the West Germans in their pressure high up the field. Both Rush, Saunders and, in particular, Hughes are doing terrifically in putting the defensive players of the visitors under pressure, and so to deny them the chance to constantly build level-headedly from the back. On one occasion it is Buchwald who makes a bad mistake inside his own half in picking out Blackmore rather than a team mate, and with the home side always finding one of the quicker route towards goal, the away team will need a sliced clearance away for a Wales corner from libero Berthold to keep Rush at bay. It had been an uncharacteristical error by Buchwald, though it has to be said that the big Stuttgart man may at times appear somewhat erratic, despite his generally low failure rate.
West Germany have players capable of breaking with pace, and after a left wing Phillips corner which had been headed away by Völler back in defence, Möller managed to get on the ball and dart away across the halfway line. The tenacious Williams tried to track him down, but he was unable to get near enough to Möller in order to put a tackle in, and so the young Dortmund ace was able to bring the ball all the way into the final third. Völler had made an almost likewise impressive run off the ball from the centre of his own penalty area and deep into Welsh territory, something which Möller had spotted. Surrounded by Williams and Ratcliffe, Möller still managed to pick Völler out with a low pass.
However, the pass sideways had not held a lot of momentum, and the backtracking Williams was able to throw himself in front of Völler as the Roma striker attempted to shoot from the edge of the area. Had Völler decided to prolongue to his right with a pass into the direction of Häßler, it could have spelt greater danger for the hosts, but true to his role as a striker, Völler only had eye for goal.
Hosts pinned back
Approaching the hour mark, the West German midfield was getting a certain grip on proceedings, and they were able to hold on to the ball inside the Wales half for spells. Fach kept them tick through his deep role, where he was giving an assured display, also showing his battling skills when needed. The visitors’ midfielders were up against two tough opponents in Horne and Williams, but the visiting trio seemed to make their numerical advantage count as Möller and Häßler were both beginning to assert a certain mark on the game. With the visitors extremely confident in possession, Wales would at times find it difficult to break out from their own half, though the hosts knew that in aiming direct balls for either of their front three, they could relieve themselves, and at the same time mount attacks of their own. Despite West Germany’s growing dominance, they knew there was always a level of threat from the home side if they allowed themselves any complacency.
Reuter’s new task
Both sides are clearly looking for the win, and there is little holding back from the home team when they have the chance to break forward. West Germany do at times expose the centre of the pitch due to a hint of arrogance when both Möller and Häßler have been caught too high up in the pitch simultaneously, and Horne does rarely need a second invitation when there are gaps opening up ahead of him: He’ll drive forward ball at feet, looking up to see which one of the forward three is available. As we’ve established, Hughes and Rush are marked by their designated defender throughout, and since the break, it has also appeared that Saunders, who had been enjoying a lot of first half freedom, would often be accompanied by Reuter when breaking forward. Reuter was still the visiting right-back, but he would with increasing frequency be seen abandoning his position to keep up with Saunders, even moving across to the opposite flank in his efforts to battle the Derby forward for the ball. Potentially, this could have seen Phillips with a lot of space to make use of, but he’s more restrictive going forward in the second half, is the Coventry player. Little Wales threat is posed from their left flank.
West Germany libero role
Berthold may be relatively new to the libero role in the national side, but prior to moving to Italian football and Verona, he had spent the first half of the 1986/87 Bundesliga season at libero for Eintracht Frankfurt. Fach had been in this for the West Germans vital position in their first two qualification ties against Finland and the Netherlands, and though he had acquitted himself well, he had on a couple of occasions against the Dutch seemed a bit hesitant when the chance to advance with the ball had been there. It was almost a case of “ok, I am the libero, it is expected of me that I show decisiveness, so I will look to participate from the deep”, something which made his approach at times look unnatural and him feeling slightly awkward. There appeared to be no such hesitancy about Berthold whenever he had the chance to mount from the back, and though you can not rule out different tactical instructions from the sidelines, the difference in their comfortability was obvious. And this despite Berthold probably being more associated with a right flank job. At the same time, Fach seemed at home in the defensive midfield role, so it did appear to be a win-win situation for the visitors.
Two further cautions
Having seen both Buchwald, Brehme and, lastly, Reuter all concede possession inside their own half, it is Berthold who is next to display some arrogance, as he is caught unaware by Hughes on the edge of the centre circle. With the visitors in possession, Berthold had been the last line of defence, and so Hughes would have had a clear path to goal had he managed to wriggle free from the libero. However, Berthold, surprised to see Hughes nip in to steal the ball off him, tugs the striker back, and he could perhaps consider himself somewhat fortunate not to be sent off. The Portuguese referee issues a booking. Hughes’ forward partner Rush is livid at the decision not to send Berthold off, and so demonstrates his displeasure in front of Mr Valente. This earns Rush a yellow card as well. The defender nearest to Berthold had been Reinhardt, and though the Leverkusen man by now seemed to have shaken off the impact from Horne’s vicious tackle, it is dubious that he would have been able to catch Hughes and block the striker’s path to goal.
The free-kick caused by Berthold’s tugging back of Hughes will see a similar set-piece variety as witnessed during the first half, where Wales had wanted Phillips to have a go from distance.
Williams had then touched the ball for Aizlewood, who in turn was meant to stop it for the left-sided player to take aim with his prefered right foot. Aizlewood’s touch had been sloppy in that first half effort, so he demonstratedly made sure to leave the ball in the wanted spot this time around, as Williams again pushed it sideways for him. Phillips could on this occasion hit it first time, but the effort was wasted. Wales had demonstrated some wayward shooting, and had been unable to threaten Illgner from distance. The West Germany stopper had yet to be tested apart from that last gasp stop he had made just before the half time whistle had sounded. On 70 minutes the Köln ‘keeper makes a poor punch from a huge Phillips throw-in, and had the ball landed at the feet of someone other than Williams on the edge of the area, it could have meant danger for the visitors’ goal: Rather than direct a big effort on target, the tenacious midfield man can only poke it back into the arms of the relieved West Germany goal tender.
Approaching the final quarter of an hour, the match is an open affair, almost a bit see-saw like, as the visitors counter-attack the home side through their quick midfield players. There is also a great deal of energy in Völler this evening. The Roma forward seems to have switched sides with Riedle since the break, with the latter now operating more towards the right, and with Völler ditto towards his more usual left. Riedle does not enjoy a particularly fruitful night, and his best contributions may have come inside his own penalty area, defending Welsh set-pieces. However, on one of the visitors’ bursts forward, he manages to play a one-two with his team captain, something which sees Völler with a shooting opportunity from inside the penalty area. The angle is somewhat unkind to the Roma ace, and he can only hit the side netting high where the crossbar and the post connect. The pace of the game is relentless, and it is another opportunity for the away side, who have possibly come the closest to breaking the deadlock so far. Wales had enjoyed a fine ten minute spell where they had been on the front foot, but would this most recent Völler opportunity signal a strong West Germany finish to the match?
Southall called into action
The match does seem to be swinging back into West Germany’s favour, as they appear to be allowed even more space inside the home side’s half. This could be due to Wales sensing the opportunity to run away with both points, and perhaps an element of too much belief had come into their players’ minds, making them ease up in some of their previously strict discipline. Reuter is allowed by Phillips to cut inside from his right hand side, and he is not tracked down until he’s 20 yards away from goal. However, the right wing back can only fire a low left-footed attempt weakly into the arms of Southall, though the goalkeeper has to earn his wages when going out in full stretch on 80 minutes: Häßler, side-stepping Williams, had given his left foot air time from around 25 yards, and with the ball curling away from the centre of the goal, it took an impressive leap from the stopper to prevent the ball from whistling into the back of the net.
However, Southall had originally positioned himself very well, and he had not needed to dive despairingly to his right; it was more a controlled save, even if it had looked spectacular. The West Germany midfielder sportingly applauded Southall’s save.
Inside the final quarter, both teams make changes. The visitors are first when they take the rather anonymous Riedle off and replace him with Klinsmann, and so restore the Völler/Klinsmann tandem. Wales, on the other hand, make a double substitution in withdrawing Blackmore and Williams for Bowen and Pascoe. Both changes are straight swaps, something which may appear surprising, given the latter’s tendency to feature in a wide role rather than in the centre.
Pascoe will, indeed, see the game out in Williams’ midfield position. Bowen, a left-back at Norwich, comes on in Blackmore’s right-sided position. Like current left-back Phillips, Bowen also prefers to use his right foot. Three different players, Blackmore, Bowen and Phillips, had so far in the Welsh Italia ’90 qualification campaign featured at left-back, and all of them were of right foot preference.
More shots fired
In a game of few breathing points, there is another chance for Reuter to test his shooting prowess as he makes another foray into Welsh territory, and this time he sets himself up on his stronger right foot, but entering the penalty area from the right, the angle does not favour a right-footed effort. His powerful attempt ends up half a yard over Southall’s crossbar, and the ‘keeper has it covered anyway.
Just prior to that, Möller had done well in another forward burst on the ball to feed Klinsmann just outside the area, but like Riedle in the first half, the West German substitute had failed to make the most of the opportunity, taking the ball back inside rather than hitting it first time. The chance was gone. At the other end, Wales will have a third shot from the right angle of the penalty area. Blackmore had been the first to have a go, and Hughes had later seen his diagonal effort clear the post by a yard and a half. In what was beginning to resemble a rehearsed move by the Welsh, the third and final go from this range came from Pascoe, who sees his attempt clear Illgner’s diagonal upright by the same fractional margin as Blackmore had previously.
Horne finally booked
There is time for a sixth and final yellow card late on, when Horne finally gets his booking. The all-action midfielder had enjoyed a fine performance, and though he could be criticized for the way he had clattered into Reinhardt early in the second half, he had also shown his quality in bossing the central area with the Welsh in command for a ten minute spell in the second half. Again he had committed a foul against Reinhardt, this time trying to redeem himself after letting the ball run too far from his feet. It was his levels of adrenaline rather than any mal intent which had brought the booking about. It was, however, fair to say that he deserved it after the earlier assault, and he would now miss the trip to Finland for Wales’ next qualifier. This is just about the last piece of action, as the referee signals the end to the match having added an extra minute to the original 45.
The match was a very hard fought battle between two sides who both desperately wanted the win. In a fairly tight first half, it had probably been the hosts who had enjoyed the best opportunities, with Phillips and Saunders/Rush being denied by Illgner.
The visitors enjoyed greater possession in a more open match after the break, apart from a spell midway through the half where Wales were on top, but despite a speculative effort from Häßler, they can not threaten the solid Southall a great deal. Knowing what a difficult away fixture this is, the West Germans might well have seen it as a point won rather than one lost, knowing that the Dutch yet have to visit Wales. The Netherlands win 1-0 in Helsinki this very evening.
Next up for Wales is a trip to Finland, whereas West Germany will host the same Finns. These fixtures will take place in September and October respectively.
1 Southall 7.2
does what he needs to do with conviction, and has an excellent save from Häßler’s second half shot
2 Blackmore 6.9
sound going forward first half, more restricted after the break, though was not far off with a diagonal shot from the corner of the penalty area. Coped well defensively even if he did concede some crosses from his side. Tactically brought off
(14 Bowen –
on for the final few minutes, and plays his part in setting fellow sub Pascoe up for a shooting opportunity)
3 Phillips 6.8
mainly focused on the job inside his own half, and did ok, even if Häßler gave him some worry after the break. Two rather poor efforts from free-kicks
4 Nicholas 7.1
very combative, and had some good tussles with both Riedle and Völler. Strong in the air, and with fine distribution from the back
5 Aizlewood 7.1
solid in the air, kept it simple on the deck. Never let the West German forwards get past. Decent distribution with his classy left foot
6 Ratcliffe 7.0
took a solely defensive focus in his sweeper’s role, and saw to that whatever got past Nicholas and Aizlewood was taken care of. Never needed to use his immense pace
7 Saunders 6.9
always a livewire, but not hugely successful over the 90 minutes, despite trying himself both right, left and centre. Found it difficult when up against Reuter in the second half, and saw a couple of wayward shots
8 Williams 7.0
combative and whole-hearted display in the centre of the pitch, where he never stopped running and giving chase. Wisely let others do the job on the ball. Might have been exhausted towards the end, and was replaced for the final eight minutes
(15 Pascoe –
gives a fine account of himself in the centre of midfield after coming on, and has a diagonal shot from the corner of the area just wide)
9 Rush 6.7
no lack of effort, but it just wasn’t his night as he struggled to wrestle free from the shackles of Reinhardt
10 Hughes 7.0
always did a job as first line of defence, and had a massive battle with Buchwald throughout. Gave himself to the cause, and saw yellow for an unnecessary foul on Häßler. Not enough of a goal threat
11 Horne 7.4
such an all-action midfield display! Maybe not the most technically gifter player, but with heart and desire enough to compensate. Lucky not to be sent off for vicious lunge at Reinhardt early in the second half (wasn’t even booked!), and eventually saw yellow for a much milder tackle on the same player late on. Easily the best home player
1 Illgner 7.1
wisely elects to box on a few occasions, and is comfortable in what he’s given to do. Lovely fist save late in the first half to deny Rush
2 Berthold 7.0
interpreted the libero role with a tad greater risk level than Fach had been doing before, but gave the ball away nonchalantly on a couple of occasions, and was maybe even fortunate to escape with a yellow card when tugging Hughes back on 65 minutes
3 Brehme 6.8
does a job defensively, but his crossing and even set-pieces are lacking in quality. Uncharacteristical foul for a second half yellow card, though he might have been somewhat unfortunate
4 Reinhardt 7.0
good debut, kept Rush quiet for most of the match. Impressive to last the full 90 given the heavy tackle by Horne from which he was an early second half victim. In agony for a while after that, but came through with gritted teeth. Really good in the air
5 Reuter 6.9
nothing spectacular about his display, where he’s twice given shooting opportunities after the break. The second half is also where he’ll keep a watchful eye on Saunders. Not always tied down to his original right-sided position
6 Buchwald 7.0
coped well with the strong Hughes both in the air and along the ground, and even crossed the halfway line on a few occasions, yet without instigating any trouble for the Welsh defence
7 Riedle 6.3
very disappointing in an attacking sense, and his main contribution came from heading away Welsh set-pieces inside his own penalty area
(16 Klinsmann –
had one burst on the ball from the deep, but off balance as he finished well wide)
8 Fach 7.2
a measured, controlled display at the back of the West German midfield, where he collected and distributed well. Always with his confident swagger, and also made some good runs off the ball
9 Völler 7.1
clearly up for the game, and was rich in initiative throughout, yet had not enough end product to draw a save from Southall. Good movement, and kept his composure well despite being handled roughly by the Welsh defenders
10 Möller 7.0
also with an improved second half display, and he had two interesting runs from inside his own half. Very difficult to stop in his track when he decides to break at pace. No luck in his shooting, and a couple of passes were stray. Looked uneasy whenever Horne approached
11 Häßler 7.3
particularly visible after the break, and brought the best out of Southall with a speculative left-foot shot from 25 yards. Draw some luck from Phillips as he positioned himself in an attacking right-sided position