• Andriy Shevchenko announced himself with a goal on his full UEFA Champions League debut though the 18-year-old could not prevent his FC Dynamo Kyiv team slipping to a 4-1 defeat by FC Bayern München.
• Celestine Babayaro became the youngest player in UEFA Champions League history when he started for RSC Anderlecht against FC Steaua Bucureşti – on 37 minutes he also became the youngest to be sent off.
• SL Benfica defender Paulo Madeira made an unwanted piece of UEFA Champions League history when he scored the revamped competition's first own goal in a 3-1 victory against Anderlecht in September.
AFC Ajax's youthful attacking juggernaut had wowed everybody in cruising to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals but surely this, an encounter with classy, well-oiled FC Bayern München, would be a stretch too far? The Amsterdam outfit proved otherwise, leaving the German giants back on the grid as they raced away – they were soon out of sight.
A goalless first leg draw a fortnight earlier demonstrated that the Dutch side could be kept in check, but nothing would hold them back after Jari Litmanen broke the deadlock with an 11th-minute header. Marcel Witeczek surprisingly levelled on 36 minutes, climbing above Danny Blind and Frank Rijkaard, the only members of the home side over 25, to nod in, yet by half-time cavalier Ajax were disappearing into the distance.
Finidi George's thunderous strike raised the noise levels among the 45,000 fans at Ajax's European home, the Olympisch Stadion (these were pre-Amsterdam ArenA days). When Ronald de Boer made it 3-1 just before the interval it was deafening. "The equaliser was a setback, showing Bayern's strength," said Ajax coach Louis van Gaal. "But it is a measure of the class in this Ajax side that the team did not lose confidence, but just kept on going. By half-time the match was done."
If there was any doubt Litmanen vanquished it within seconds of the restart as he converted his second of the night and sixth of the campaign. Bayern battled gamely, and Mehmet Scholl pulled one back from the penalty spot, but fittingly Ajax had the last word two minutes from time as Patrick Kluivert teed up Marc Overmars to seal a famous 5-2 triumph. "Ajax were like a Porsche," rued Bayern chairman Franz Beckenbauer, "we were like a Tin Snail [Citroën 2CV]."
Dutchman Overmars was an eminently watchable winger, his goalscoring prowess, trickery and pace making him a firm fan favourite – it was effective, too; FC Barcelona shelled out €39.6m to secure his services in 2000. He endured a trophy-less four years in Spain before his troublesome knees forced a premature end to his career in earnest, but there was no shortage of success at Arsenal FC or AFC Ajax, where he won the 1995 UEFA Champions League.
Scholl was a technically-gifted playmaker who had a decisive role in FC Bayern München's 1995/96 UEFA Cup victory; scoring in the quarter-final, semi-final and in both legs of the final. That summer he added EURO '96 success and five years later he won the UEFA Champions League, but arguably his biggest claim to fame is that eight Bundesliga titles means he is the most decorated player in German top-flight history with Oliver Kahn.
Finland's finest export, Litmanen made his name at AFC Ajax. The 1995 UEFA Champions League was the classy forward's finest hour, though five Eredivisie titles are testament to his enduring class. Less prolific at FC Barcelona and Liverpool FC and a host of other clubs, the evergreen Litmanen was nevertheless still going strong – back at HJK Helsinki – after his 40th birthday. His record of 137 caps for Finland may never be broken.
• Substitute Patrick Kluivert struck six minutes from time as AFC Ajax's talented tyros defeated AC Milan 1-0 in the Vienna final to become European champions for the fourth time.
• Despite losing Michael Reiziger (to Milan), Clarence Seedorf (UC Sampdoria) and Frank Rijkaard (retired), Ajax reached the 1996 final, where they lost on penalties to Juventus.
• Ronaldo struck 30 goals for PSV Eindhoven but title holders Ajax nevertheless eased to the Eredivisie championship unbeaten, winning 27 times and drawing seven. They made it three in a row in 1996.
• FC Bayern München finished sixth in the Bundesliga but inspired by new signing Jürgen Klinsmann won the 1996 UEFA Cup to become only the third club to lift all three major European titles.
• Bayern were seconds from UEFA Champions League glory in 1999 before a famous Manchester United FC comeback; two years later, against Valencia CF, they would not be denied.
To leave a comment, please log in using any of these accounts: