The 4 December 1963 is one of the biggest days in Borussia Dortmund's history. In the European Champion Clubs' Cup round of 16 return leg, BVB swept aside the Portuguese champions and reigning holders Benfica with a 5-0 win at Stadion Rote Erde.

A month earlier, on 3 November 1963, the BVB team had boarded a southbound flight for what experts considered to be a hopeless European venture. Their opponents were Benfica, the 1961 European Cup winners courtesy of a rousing 5-3 final win over the clear favourites Real, whose ranks included the world-class players Puskas, Gento and di Stefano. Wonderkid Eusebio led the charge as Benfica repeated the success a year later. And now these Germans were set to be the next "victims" of the Portuguese footballing artists.

Borussia's playmaker Alfred "Aki" Schmidt made the journey from Stockholm, where the German national team had suffered their traditional defeat. It had ended 2-1 – and coach Hermann Eppenhoff and his players were hoping for a similar scoreline in Lisbon.

And that's exactly how it turned out. However, the pilot of the DC 8 misunderstood the situation somewhat. On the return flight, he greeted his passengers by saying: "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. The Borussia Dortmund team is also on board and we would like to congratulate them on their great 2-1 victory against Benfica." He didn't seem to be much of a football expert, but more of a clairvoyant. Borussia could live with the result though; the 2-1 loss to Portugal's champions gave them hope.

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Then came 4 December 1963, a day that Dortmund's fans – and the utterly disappointed players of coach Lajos Czeisler – will never forget. He was confident of the victory beforehand: "We'll reach the next round, even via a third game in Bordeaux if we have to." That, of course, did not happen.

In the first leg, Eppenhoff was faced with the choice of possibly playing Gerd Cyliax at centre-forward. This position had needed filling ever since "Charly" Schütz's transfer to Italy – not an easy task. But Cyliax was unavailable due to a stomach muscle inflammation. And so Franz Brungs, an arrival from Mönchengladbach, came in. He proved to be a great discovery, especially in the return leg, delivering the kind of centre-forward display the Rote Erde had not witnessed in a long time.

But Borussia had to wait until the 33rd minute for Timo Konietzka, who was still called Friedhelm at the time, to finally make it 1-0 after Emmerich and Wosab had been denied by the crossbar and post respectively. And then came the kind of debacle that Benfica had never experienced before. The Portuguese champions found themselves already staring down the barrel of elimination after goals from "Golden Boy" Brungs in the 35th and 37th minutes had made it 3-0. 

The game had barely resumed by the time Brungs completed his job of dismantling Europe's best team, with the lead increasing to 4-0 following another headed goal by the lively centre-forward, whom the opponents got under about as little control as they did Wosab, Schmidt, Konietzka and Emmerich. Wosab rounded off the scoring by making it 5-0 in the 58th minute.

The aforementioned quintet were backed up by a defence that could be relied on. If there had been any concerns that Willi Burgsmüller would not be able to cope with the tricky, quick-as-an-arrow Simoes, or that Augusto might leave Theo Redder trailing in his wake, they were dispelled after just a few moments. There was no sign of the Benfica attack and so – in contrast to the reverse fixture – Hans Tilkowski was able to enjoy a peaceful evening.

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Lothar Geisler, who was deputising for the injured Wolfgang Paul, proved to be a calming influence. Geisler not only acted as a sweeper, but also served as the defensive organiser. "Hoppy" Kurrat and Willi Sturm completed a team for whom everything came together on this memorable evening.

It would have been a pointless question to ask whether Benfica would have stood a chance with Eusebio, who was forced to watch on from the sidelines due to injury. Eusebio commented: "Borussia played as well as we did in our best era." Later, at a banquet in the "Römischer Kaiser", he proclaimed "Three cheers for Borussia". And Lajos Czeisler paid tribute to the opponents too: "In this form, Borussia are among Europe's elite. I have faith in the team that they can still progress far in the European Cup." And that proved to be the case – until they were eliminated by eventual European Cup winners Inter Milan in the semi-final.

Even Sepp Herberger was impressed, saying: "A really great game by Dortmund." The national coach said goodbye to every player with a handshake, but he lingered a few moments longer to speak to Hans Tilkowski, who had held a grudge against him since the 1962 World Cup in Chile – because the "Flyer" Fahrian had been given the nod at the time: "Let's not talk about it here, Hans, I'll give you a call." It signalled the start of his comeback as national team goalkeeper.

Borussia had broken a curse that had consistently seen representatives of the German Football Federation fail against clubs from the Iberian Peninsula: Schalke 04 against Atlético Madrid in 1958/59, Eintracht Frankfurt in the final against Real Madrid a year later, Hamburger SV against Barcelona, 1. FC Nürnberg against Benfica (6-0 defeat) and finally Werder Bremen against Atlético.
Alfred Heymann

TEAMS & GOALS

4 December 1963
European Champions Cup, Round of 16

Borussia Dortmund 5-0 (3-0) Benfica

Stadion Rote Erde (Dortmund)
Attendance: 42,000
Referee: McCabe (England)

Borussia Dortmund: Hans Tilkowski, Wilhelm Burgsmüller, Theodor Redder, Dieter Kurrat, Lothar Geisler, Wilhelm Sturm, Reinhold Wosab, Alfred Schmidt, Franz Brungs, Friedhelm Konietzka, Lothar Emmerich
Benfica: Rita, Cavem, Cruz, Coluna, Luciano, Humberto, Augusto, Santana, Yauca, Serafim, Simoes
Goals: 1-0 Konietzka (34), 2-0 Brungs (35), 3-0 Brungs (36), 4-0 Brungs (47), 5-0 Wosab (59)

THE AUTHOR

Alfred Heymann was the head of the sports desk at the Westfälische Rundschau from 1958 to 1982, and a long-time follower of BVB. He reported, among other things, on the five German Championship finals and a highlight: the European Cup Winners' Cup triumph at Hampden Park in Glasgow on 5 May 1966 when BVB beat Liverpool 2-1 after extra-time. The Dorstfeld native, who was born on 27 September 1923, maintained friendly relations with Lothar Emmerich and the Borussia players, and continued to be a regular visitor in the media section even after his retirement. His expertise and his kind, constantly friendly manner were appreciated by everyone who had the honour of working with him. Alfred Heymann died in January 2007 at the age of 83 following a long and severe illness.