Everton 3 Bayern Munich 1
In the long, illustrious history of Everton Football Club, there is one night of nights that stands above all others.
The period between 1984 and 1987 during Howard Kendall’s first spell as manager was arguably the most glorious Goodison has ever known, with scintillating football and silverware flowing in equal measure but the spring evening in 1985 when Bayern Munich were despatched to send the Blues to their first ever European final is revered by many Evertonians even more than when the trophy itself was lifted.
From the dark days of December 1983 when Kendall’s side languished perilously close to the relegation zone and leaflets were distributed on the terraces urging the manager and the chairman to quit, Everton had risen pheonix-like to become, by the spring of 1985, indisputably the best team in the country and feared throughout Europe.
The previous season had seen the Blues reach Wembley twice, beating Watford in the FA Cup Final to secure the club’s first trophy in fourteen years, while finishing a respectable seventh in the First Division.
The summer addition of midfielder Paul Bracewell did not pay immediate dividends with the Blues losing their first two league games to Tottenham and West Brom but, as the leaves began to turn golden on the trees, so did Everton’s prospects of a successful season.
Left-back Pat van den Hauwe joined from Birmingham and the last week of October saw two results that acted a statement of intent as to the capabilities and potential of Kendall’s emerging team.
On October 20th, they made the short trip across Stanley Park to face League and European champions Liverpool in the Merseyside derby, a fixture they had not won at Anfield since 1970, where Graeme Sharp’s unforgettable 25-yard volley gave the Blues the points and cemented their growing reputation as a force to be reckoned with.
A week later, Manchester United were annihilated 5-0 at Goodison with the Blues travelling to Old Trafford a few days later to knock their Lancashire neighbours out of the Milk Cup as well just for good measure.
Leicester City were comfortably beaten at Goodison the following weekend to send Everton to the top of the the league for the first time that season, a position they rarely looked like relinquishing from that point on.
Grimsby Town pulled off an upset in the Milk Cup, with future-Blue Paul Wilkinson scoring a last-minute goal after they had been pummelled for ninety minutes, but progress in the other Cup competitions had gone smoothly, meaning Everton entered April 1985 with genuine prospects of a unique treble.
On April 3rd, the Blues pitched up at White Hart Lane to take on their only other serious contenders for the First Division title, Tottenham Hotspur.
UEFA Cup winners the previous season, Spurs had stunned Goodison on the opening day of the season, recovering from an early Adrian Heath penalty to record a 4-1 victory on Merseyside but goals from Andy Gray and Trevor Steven set the record straight in London, to leave Everton, barring a Devon Loch-like collapse, dead certs to win their first League Championship since 1970.
In the FA Cup, wins over Leeds United, Doncaster Rovers, non-league Telford United and Ipswich Town (after a Portman Road replay) meant holders Everton were to face David Pleat’s Luton Town at Villa Park for a place at Wembley, with Manchester United and Liverpool facing off in the other semi final at Goodison Park.
Three days before that semi-final however, the Blues faced arguably their biggest test so far in what was shaping up to be one of the most monumental seasons in the club’s history.
Everton’s first European campaign for five seasons had seen them labour past Irish part-timers University College Dublin in the first round of the Cup Winners Cup by virtue of a solitary Graeme Sharp goal in the second leg at Goodison but comfortable wins over Czech side Inter Bratislava and Fortuna Sittard of Holland, thanks in part to an Andy Gray hat-trick, saw them drawn to face German giants Bayern Munich in the semi-finals, with the first leg to take place at the iconic Olympiastadion, venue to the World Cup Final only eleven years previously.
With Rapid Vienna and Dynamo Moscow competing in the other semi, to many Bayern versus Everton felt like the real Final and the Blues travelled to Germany knowing a decent result would give them an excellent chance of getting one step nearer to the club’s first ever European trophy.
A resolute performance in Munich, characterised by the Liverpool Echo’s Ken Rogers as ‘a shrewd exhibition of patience and controlled football that paid off handsomely’, secured a valuable goalless draw to take into the second leg and three days later, a gruelling two hours on a boggy pitch at Villa Park saw Luton Town finally beaten after extra time to clinch a second successive FA Cup Final for Howard Kendall’s men.
After comfortable league wins over West Brom and Stoke, Goodison’s big night finally arrived with over 49,000 – the vast majority of them Evertonians – packed inside to witness what they hoped would be the Blues’ date with destiny.
The home side started brightly, Kevin Sheedy going close three times – including a trademark curling free-kick – in the early stages, with no quarter being asked or given in the physical exchanges between the sides, that Ken Rogers described as “a full-blooded, no-holds-barred affair that bubbled like a volcano at times as the Munich outfit tried to stem the Everton charge.”
The Blues were well on top as the half drew on but hopes for Rotterdam took a serious blow when, against the run of play, the Germans took the lead, and grabbed a vital away goal eight minutes before the interval.
Wunderkid Ludwig Kogl broke the offside trap to find himself one-on-one with Neville Southall and when the Blues keeper managed to block his initial effort, veteran striker Dieter Hoeness was able to thread a shot through the covering defenders on the line to strike first blood for the Germans.
It was the first goal Everton had conceded in Europe all season and meant, as the Blues began the second half attacking their favoured Gwladys Street end, that the tie must be decided by the end of the ninety minutes, Bayern’s away goal eliminating the possibility of extra-time and a repeat of British football’s first ever penalty shoot-out, when Germans Borussia Moenchengladbach had been knocked out of the European Cup in 1971.
Howard Kendall famously told his men at the interval to keep on playing and the fans would ‘suck one in’ and the equaliser duly arrived only three minutes into the second period.
Gary Stevens’ long-throw was knocked on by Andy Gray at the near post and met deftly at the far by Graeme Sharp whose header crept past Belgian keeper Jean-Marie Pfaff to light the fuse for a second half no-one who witnessed it will ever forget.
The momentum that had been building for the previous fifteen months propelled the Goodison crowd and team into their opponents with a sound and fury Bayern simply could not cope with, the only surprise being it took until a quarter of an hour before the end before they finally took lead, Andy Gray finding the net from close range after Pfaff had been impeded by his own defenders at another long Stevens throw.
The Germans made much of Everton’s physical approach after the match – manager Udo Lattek, who had steered Bayern to their first European Cup triumph in 1974, protesting, “That was not football, Mr Kendall!” and recommending Andy Gray to take up rugby – but Everton’s triumph received the coup de grace it deserved with four minutes remaining when Sheedy and Gray combined to put Trevor Steven clear, who slotted home to send Goodison into ecstasy.
Everton manager Howard Kendall admitted after the match, “We decided before the game to bomb them.
“I felt the best way to approach the tie was to put them under immediate pressure.. the Germans were never able to settle with the strikers challenging for everything.
“With the tackles flying in, Bayern were never going to be able to clear decisively around the box and the key factor was picking up the second ball – it was a superb team display.”
It was a unique night for Merseyside football, with Liverpool reaching the European Cup Final after victory over Greek champions Panathinaikos, and Ken Rogers summed the mood up at Goodison perfectly, “The final whistle came with the Everton fans roaring out a deafening salute on a night when the city had two teams to be proud of in Europe.”
An estimated 25,000 Evertonians travelled to Rotterdam for the Final where goals from Gray, Steven and Sheedy ensured a comfortable 3-1 win over Rapid Vienna to put seal on an incredible turnaround in the Blues fortunes.