Marco van Basten’s one-man show

Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan – 25/11/1992 – Group stage
Van Basten 33, 53 (P), 61, 62
4 - 0
Touch of genius

"I would rate Van Basten as a 9.5 tonight but only because I don't think perfection exists." Fabio Capello


• French striker Frank Sauzée finished the inaugural UEFA Champions League as top scorer with five goals, including a hat-trick in Olympique de Marseille's 6-0 group stage win against PFC CSKA Moskva.

• Marseille became the first French European Cup winners when they defeated AC Milan 1-0 at Munich's Olympiastadion, defender Basile Boli heading in the only goal from a corner just before half-time.

• Rangers FC went through the campaign unbeaten but Marseille pipped them to the place in the final after the Scottish champions were held to a goalless draw by CSKA Moskva in their final group game.

Every good book should have a memorable opening line and Marco van Basten provided it for the inaugural UEFA Champions League group stage. Swedish titleholders IFK Göteborg resisted until just after the half-hour mark, but once an unbalanced Van Basten had somehow squeezed the opening goal in with his left foot they were merely privileged spectators in a remarkable one-man show.

A recurrent ankle injury meant this season would prove the Dutch international's last and, a month after his 28th birthday, he left an unforgettable calling card. It brought some reward for Fabio Capello's attacking intentions – he fielded forward Daniele Massaro at left-back in place of the injured Paolo Maldini – but in the initial stages the ploy had threatened to backfire as Peter Eriksson twice went close.

Yet with Gianluigi Lentini and Stefano Eranio busy on the flanks the Rossoneri took control and almost forged ahead when Jean-Pierre Papin rifled a shot against the upright from distance. Three minutes later the France striker turned provider, teeing up Van Basten to break the deadlock and from then on it was all the hosts. And Van Basten.

The mercurial No9 doubled the advantage from the penalty spot soon after half-time before sending an acrobatic bicycle kick into the bottom left corner. Within 60 seconds it was 4-0 as Van Basten burst through the heart of a beleaguered IFK back line, took the ball past Thomas Ravelli with his right foot before finishing with his left.

Ravelli was remonstrating with his defence before the ball had hit the back of the net, but sometimes there is simply nothing you can do. Even Capello, not renowned for the generosity of his compliments, was humbled. "I would rate Van Basten as a 9.5 tonight," he said, "but only because I don't think perfection exists."

Star players

  • Van Basten

    Van Basten was destined for greatness from the moment he made his AFC Ajax debut as a replacement for Johan Cruyff. The 17-year-old marked the occasion with a goal, the first of 128 in 133 league games before joining AC Milan in 1987. After a starring role in the Netherlands' UEFA European Championship triumph the following year, Van Basten received the first of three Ballon d'Or awards – he might have won more but a chronic ankle injury forced his retirement aged 30.

  • Baresi

    The foundation upon which AC Milan's success of the 1980s and 1990s was established, Baresi's nickname 'El Picinin' (the little one) belied his enormous presence. Mostly utilised as a sweeper, he won six Serie A titles with the Rossoneri and three European Champion Clubs' Cups. It could all have been very different – Baresi was turned down by FC Internazionale Milano before joining Milan.

  • Ravelli

    Goalkeeper Ravelli racked up 143 international appearances between 1981 and 1997, the high point of a fine career coming at the 1994 FIFA World Cup as crucial penalty saves helped Sweden to the semi-finals. A stalwart at Östers IF and then IFK Göteborg, the son of an Austrian immigrant won nine Swedish titles in a career spanned across three decades.

What happened next?

• AC Milan won all six group games to reach the final where they surprisingly lost 1-0 to Olympique de Marseille, Basile Boli scoring the only goal just before half-time at Munich's Olympiastadion.

• Milan bounced back to lift the UEFA Champions League the following season after another 4-0 win, Daniele Massaro scoring twice against FC Barcelona at Athens' OACA Spiros Louis Stadium.

• The 1993 final proved Marco van Basten's last match at a time when he was FIFA World Player of the Year and held the Ballon d'Or for a third time. He scored 20 goals in 22 games that season.

• IFK Göteborg recovered to finish second in the group ahead of PSV Eindhoven and FC Porto, and would become UEFA Champions League regulars as they dominated the scene in Sweden.

• It was over seven years before Simone Inzaghi became the second man to score four goals in a UEFA Champions League match, leading S.S. Lazio to a 5-1 victory over Marseille in March 2000.

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