Juventus hold their nerve to seal the real deal

Stadio Olimpico, Rome – 22/05/1996 – Final
Litmanen 40
1 - 1
  • Ravanelli 12
Edge of the seat

"I get goose bumps all over thinking back to that goal. It is part of Champions League history." Fabrizio Ravanelli


• AFC Ajax's 19-game unbeaten start to life in the UEFA Champions League ended against Panathinaikos FC in March 1996 as Krzysztof Warzycha's late goal consigned them to a semi-final first-leg defeat.

• Mike Newell scored a nine-minute hat-trick, the fastest in UEFA Champions League history, as Blackburn Rovers FC beat Rosenborg BK 4-1, though the English title holders still ended bottom of Group B.

• FC Spartak Moskva won the group by a record margin, six wins helping the Russian side finish 11 points clear of runners-up Legia Warszawa. FC Nantes proved too strong in the quarter-finals, however.

"We have waited a long time. We never really considered 1985 as a victory because of Heysel." Juventus official Roberto Bettega was in no doubt as to the significance of the club's UEFA Champions League success of 1995/96. Their win against AFC Ajax in Rome was a "real" European Cup triumph, but it did not come easily.

It started well enough for the Italian side as Ajax suffered an attack of nerves more befitting their youthfulness than their status as holders. On 12 minutes they made one mistake too many when Frank de Boer misjudged a header. As he sought to undo his error and Edwin van der Sar scrambled off his line, quick as a flash Fabrizio Ravanelli was between them, poking the ball away before sweeping it into the net from the acutest of angles.

If anything, it calmed an Ajax side that had lost just once in their last 20 games in this competition. They began to push on, looking particularly dangerous from set pieces. It took a brilliant scrambling stop from Angelo Peruzzi to deny Nwankwo Kanu following a scrappy corner, but five minutes before half-time Juve's failure to clear their lines was punished.

With Danny Blind shaping to take a free-kick with his right foot, Frank de Boer surprisingly struck it with his left and the unsighted Peruzzi could only palm it back into the crowded box. The ball eventually fell to Jari Litmanen, who poked into the net. Juve regained the initiative, and ought to have won in regulation time when Gianluca Vialli found the side netting when it looked easier to score.

Extra time came and went with few alarms, and it was a similar case for the Bianconeri in the penalty shoot-out. While Edgar Davids and Sonny Silooy both had unconvincing efforts repelled by Peruzzi, Marcelo Lippi's men scored all four of theirs, substitute Vladimir Jugović, a European Champion Clubs' Cup winner with FK Crvena zvezda in 1991, sealing a 4-2 triumph. The celebrations could at last begin for Juventus.

Star players

  • Ravanelli

    Ravanelli's nickname the 'White Feather' is a reference to his hair not any light scoring touch. He started and finished his 20-year career at home-town club AC Perugia and of the nine sides in between the former Italian international is best associated with Juventus, winning the 1993 UEFA Cup and scoring against AFC Ajax in their victorious UEFA Champions League final three years later. Ever an aerial threat, he helped both Juve and S.S. Lazio to league and cup doubles.

  • Peruzzi

    Injury and Italy's rich crop of goalkeepers throughout the 1990s and 2000s limited Peruzzi's international playing ambitions, but he won every conceivable honour with Juventus. Small and stocky, his excellent positioning marked him out and he played a significant role as the club won three Scudettos, the Coppa Italia, the 1993 UEFA Cup and, of course, the 1996 UEFA Champions League. Peruzzi excelled himself in the final, saving two AFC Ajax penalties in the shoot-out.

  • Litmanen

    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.

What happened next?

• This began a sequence of three successive UEFA Champions League final appearances for Juventus, but the next two ended in defeat. Back-to-back Scudettos provided some consolation.

• Juventus made two major signings in summer 1996: Christian Vieri and, in a €5m move from FC Girondins de Bordeaux, Zinédine Zidane. He departed five years later for 15 times that figure.

• Juventus were convincing 6-2 aggregate winners when the teams were paired in the 1996/97 semi-finals but lost the showpiece to a Borussia Dortmund side now including Paulo Sousa.

• AFC Ajax endured their worst league campaign in 32 years in 1996/97, finishing fourth in the Eredivisie having been eliminated in the first round of the Dutch Cup by second tier Heracles Almelo.

• Edwin van der Sar joined Juventus in 1999, replacing Angelo Peruzzi as first-choice goalkeeper and following in the footsteps of Edgar Davids, who arrived from Ajax two years earlier.

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