The political changes that had swept across Eastern Europe meant that whereas the first European Cup competition had featured just 16 teams, there were now 42 clubs aiming to reach the final in Athens. The tournament had expanded to include the champions of countries such as Estonia, Lithuania, Croatia, Slovakia, Georgia, Moldova, Latvia, Ukraine and Belarus. This meant that an extra preliminary round would see 20 teams battling it out to join Europe’s big names in the 1st Round. The most notable result in this preliminary round saw Skonto Riga of Latvia beat the Slovenians of Olimpija Ljublana 11-10 in a penalty -shootout. Dinamo Tbilisi squeezed past Linfield 3-2 on aggregate, but it was later alleged that they had attempted to bribe the match officials with $45,000. As a result Dinamo were thrown out of the competition and Linfield went through in their place.
Having reached the second round, Linfield were drawn to play FC Copenhagen and were on course for a famous victory as they won the home leg 3-0. The Danes struck back with two goals within the first 30 minutes in the return, but needed a 90th minute equaliser to take the tie into extra time where they scored again to win 4-3 on aggregate. The other notable comeback saw Barcelona recover from losing 3-1 in the Ukraine to Dynamo Kiev to win 4-1 in the Nou Camp and keep their dream of another European title alive.
Due to the scandal that had befallen Marseille since their European Cup triumph the previous May (MarseilleBribery Scandal) the holders were, for the first time in the competitions history, banned from defending their title. Paris St Germain had finished second in the French League, but they preferred to stay in the Cup-Winners Cup, so 3rd placed Monaco were promoted to the European Cup. AEK Athens had originally been drawn to play Marseille before their opponents were thrown out. Believing that they should receive a bye rather than have to play a different French team, the Greeks appealed to UEFA, but their request was denied and they went on to lose 2-1 on aggregate as Monaco progressed to the second round.
Monaco then beat Steaua Bucharest 4-1 on the way to a 4-2 aggregate win that saw them into the group stage. There were also comfortable wins for Milan (7-0 v Copenhagen) and Barcelona (5-1 v Austria Vienna.)It was a different story, however, for Manchester United who were making their first European Cup appearance for 25 years. Playing Galatasaray at home they stormed to an early 2-0 lead which gave no hint of the problems that lay ahead. The Turks came back so strongly that it needed a late equaliser for United to escape with a 3-3 draw. An ill tempered second leg failed to produce any further goals and so Galatasaray knocked out the English champions.
In an attempt to reduce the number of ‘dead’ matches at the end of the group stage, UEFA had changed the league stage of the competition with the two leading teams in each group qualifying for the semi-finals with the group winners having home advantage in the last four. Group A provided few surprises with Galatasaray and Spartak Moscow struggling against more illustrious opponents. Barcelona were unbeaten in their six games and qualified comfortably as group winners. Behind them came Monaco who were twice beaten by the Spanish champions but won three and drew one against the other group members.
Group B was much more interesting with most of the excitement coming courtesy of Werder Bremen. The Germans had given notice of their comeback abilities in their opening game away to Porto when the hosts were given a fright despite leading 3-0 as they eventually had to hang on for a 3-2 win. That, however, was nothing compared to Werder’s feat in their next match. At home to Anderlecht, Werder Bremen were 3-0 down at half-time and were still trailing by the same score with 25 minutes remaining. But they then produced one of the most amazing comebacks in the history of the European Cup. Thanks to two goals from Rufer (66 & 69 minutes) and further strikes from Bratsesth (72), Hobsch(81) and Bode(83), the Germans pulled off an incredible 5-3 win which catapulted them back into contention in Group B. The favourites in the group were Milan who remained unbeaten throughout their six games, although they only won two and scored six. Without dominating, Milan managed to do just enough to stay ahead of the other three teams with just their 3-0 at home to Porto seeing them win with any comfort. After three matches Porto had only two points to their name, but their next two games saw them beat Anderlecht 2-0 and impressively thrash Werder Bremen 5-0 in Germany to effectively guarantee them a place in the semi-finals. All that needed to be decided was who would finish top of the group. Porto hosted Milan in the final match needing a win to qualify as group winners. Despite having Carbone sent off just after the hour, Milan played out a 0-0 draw that left them top of the group with Porto going through as runners-up.
Both semi-finals were one-sided affairs. Managed by former England boss Bobby Robson, Porto had reached this stage with a policy of attacking football, but they rarely threatened in the Nou Camp. Barcelona soon imposed themselves and they took an early lead. Romario and Sergi combined to find Stoichkov who opened the scoring on 10 minutes, and another move involving the same three men saw Stoichkov double Barca’s lead after 35 minutes. When Porto captain Joao Pinto was sent off on the hour, Barcelona were as good as through to the final, a fact confirmed by Koeman when he added a third after 72 minutes to the delight of most of the 98,000 present.
Milan had already sewn up the Italian league title before they took on Monaco. With Marcel Desailly, signed from Marseille after helping the French side to beat Milan a year earlier, now marshalling the Milan defence, they conceded just 15 goals in 34 league games - an Italian record - and had so far let in only two goals in ten European Cup matches. Monaco were led by young manager Arsene Wenger. They boasted German World Cup winner Jurgen Klinsmann in attack and skilful Belgian midfielder Enzo Scifo as well as young French stars Lillian Thuram and Youri Djorkaeff. Milan struck early on with Desailly heading home on 14 minutes, but they received a setback just before half-time when Costacurta fouled Klinsmann and the referee, apparently swayed by the Germans exaggerated reaction, sent the defender off. Milan, however, merely stepped up their game and spectacular second half goals by Albertini and Massaro set up a dream final with Barcelona, although a booking for Baresi meant that he, as well as Costacurta, would miss the game in Athens.
The final was hit by controversy when UEFA decided that the referee would be Dutchman John Blankenstein. With Barcelona being managed by Johan Cruyff and with one of their most influential players being Ronald Koeman, there were concerns raised as to the appropriateness of the appointment, and when Blankenstein received death threats he was replaced by England’s Philip Don.
The game itself was billed as a battle between attack and defence. While Milan had won their league title and reached the European Cup Final on the back of a miserly defence, Barcelona had done the same with an exciting brand of attacking football. They had won their league title with 91 goals compared with Milan’s 36, and had struck 13 times in their Champions League group, more than double Milan’s total. With Milan’s first choice central defensive partnership suspended, Romario and Hristo Stoichkov were expected to torment their opposing defenders as they had done all season. With Barcelona having cruised through their group and their semi-final, they were very much considered to be favourites to win the European Cup for the second time in three years.
But to the surprise of everyone, Fabio Capello did not send his team out to defend but to attack and Johan Cruyff’s team seemed to be taken totally by surprise. Savicevic and Massaro in attack ran the Barcelona defence ragged, Albertini dominated the midfield, and the central defensive pairing of Maldini and Galli coped comfortably with Romario and Stoichkov. Milan set out to press Barcelona back, and halfway through the first half, having already had one goal disallowed for offside, they took the lead as Savicevic’s scooped cut back from the by-line found Massaro who stroked the bouncing ball home. On the stroke of half-time it was 2-0. This time it was Donadoni who pulled the ball across for Massaro, and his clinical finish saw the Italians take a two goal lead into the interval.
Early on in the second period the game was effectively finished by a sublime piece of skill by Savicevic. The Milan forward beat Sergi to a bouncing ball out on the right wing and, as the Barcelona players appealed for a foul that was not given, he cut inside and lobbed the ball impudently over Zubizarretta in the Barcelona goal from 20 yards out. Savicevic turned and ran towards the jubilant Milan fans, leaping triumphantly into the air. The trophy was as good as won, but Milan still had time for a fourth as, moments after Savicevic had struck the post, Desailly curled in a shot from 12 yards out just before the hour. Savicevic would hit the woodwork again before the game was finished.
Two years earlier Barcelona had enjoyed their greatest triumph. One year on Milan had lost a final that they had expected to win. Now the tables were turned with Milan triumphant and Barcelona humbled. Most fans of football had hoped that attacking football would emerge the winner from this final, but few had expected Milan to supply it. Fabio Capello and his Milan side had turned perceived football wisdom on its head by producing a thrilling and masterful display of attacking football which had embarrassed a Barcelona team at the height of its powers. The writing was on the wall when their ten men brilliantly dispatched Monaco in the semi-finals, but few had foreseen that they could produce an even more emphatic performance against even more illustrious opponents. In the end they produced a performance that was arguably the best in a European Cup Final since Real Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in 1960. There were no complaints from Barcelona, they were just beaten by the better team, and no-one could argue that Milan were now the best team in Europe.
1994 European Cup Final (Athens)
Milan 4 Barcelona 0
Milan: Rossi, Tassotti (capt), Panucci, Albertini, Galli, Maldini (Nova), Donadoni, Desailly, Boban, Savicevic, Massaro
Scorers: Massaro (2), Savicevic, Desailly
Barcelona: Zubizarreta (capt), Ferrer, Guardiola, Koeman, Nadal, Bakero, Sergi (Quique), Stoichkov, Amor, Romario, Beguiristain (Eusebio)
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