14 April 1976
European Cup Winners' Cup semi-final second leg.
West Ham United 3-1 Eintracht Frankfurt (West Ham United win 4-3 on aggregate)
The 1975 FA Cup final victory over Fulham had again earned West Ham United the right to represent England in the European Cup Winners' Cup having won it memorably in 1965.
After eliminating Finnish hopefuls Reipas Lahden, Georgian contenders Ararat Erevan and Dutch challengers Den Haag, John Lyall's side were pitched against West German outfit Eintracht Frankfurt in the last four. In the first leg, the late Graham Paddon had given United a spectacular ninth-minute lead before Eintracht fought back to bring a slender 2-1 advantage to the Boleyn Ground, thanks to goals from Willi Neuberger and Wolfgang Kraus.
"Graham's left-foot special in Germany had given us an away goal that kept us in the tie," recalled Sir Trevor Brooking, who both bagged a destructive double and also helped to engineer Keith Robson's wonder-goal, during an unforgettable second-leg victory in an East End monsoon. Indeed, 39,202 saturated supporters had ignored the torrential rain and crammed on to the terraces to see if they could roar West Ham United into their second European final.
From the moment the Germans stepped on to English turf they were faced with a deafening barrage of sound as the loyal Hammers' fans willed the East Enders to net the vital goal required. The game opened at a breathtaking pace and Frank Lampard twice went close while Robson had an effort disallowed on the quarter-hour mark. For all their hard graft, however, it seemed that frustrated West Ham would never break the deadlock as the teams left the pitch goalless at half-time.
But John Lyall's half-time pep-talk worked wonders. Just four minutes after the interval, the crucial breakthrough came, when Frank Lampard surged past the Chicken Run on one of his trademark bulldozing runs before inviting Brooking to outjump Klaus Beverungen. The cultured midfielder met his left-wing cross with a header that looped over Peter Kunter and into the South Bank net.
Despite being level on aggregate, Paddon's away goal meant that Eintracht were now staring at the exit signs and suddenly the West Germans produced a spell of free-flowing attacking play. Mervyn Day, the hitherto redundant home goalkeeper, found rampant Rudiger Wenzel stretching him to his limits and West Ham United also had an upright and a Robson goalline clearance to thank for keeping the visitors at bay.
With the heroic home defence somehow out-trumping every card the German side could play and, aided and abetted by a midfield of Paddon, Brooking, Pat Holland and the inspirational Billy Bonds, West Ham fought for every ball on the sea of mud to create chances for the tireless Robson and Billy Jennings. Midway through the second half, United's efforts were rewarded when Brooking conjured up a superb defence-splitting through-ball from the half-way line, which Robson gathered before momentarily losing control. The initial groans turned to cheers when 'Robbo' regained his composure to curl a 25-yard shot over the helpless Kunter.
Man-of-the-match Brooking then collected his second to an hysterical roar of approval which threatened to lift the roofing off the Boleyn Ground stands with just ten minutes remaining. With two minutes left on referee Walter Hungerbuhler's Swiss watch, however, Beverungen snatched a late consolation to set up a frantic finale that West Ham United thankfully survived.
"To score twice and set one up for 'Mad Robbo' in such a key match was fantastic," added Brooking. "Eintracht were a very good side and it all got a bit gritty in the end."
Looking back on that rain-soaked win, the relieved Robson said: "Our great crowd was worth a goal start to us and although we coped better with the really muddy conditions, the Germans just never let their heads drop and when they pulled it back to 3-1, we were just so elated to hear the final whistle before they could get another away goal. That was the greatest night of my career."
West Ham United: Day, McDowell, Lampard, Taylor, Coleman, Holland, Brooking, Bonds, Paddon, Robson, Jennings.