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Season 1995-96



The only change to the format for the 1995-96 Champions League was that there would now be three points awarded for a win in the group stage. Before that, however, the qualifying round saw IFK Gothenburg, who had finished ahead of both Barcelona and Manchester United a year earlier, go out to Legia Warsaw 3-1 on aggregate. Unsurprisingly, Dynamo Kiev beat Aalborg of Denmark 4-1 and proceeded to the group stage where they were drawn with Nantes, Porto and Panathinaikos. In their opening match, Dynamo beat Panathinaikos 1-0 in Kiev, but afterwards the referee, Lopez Nieto of Spain, alleged that he had been offered $30,000 and two fur coats by two Dynamo officials before the game. The club claimed that the referee had wanted to buy the coats but had refused to pay for them when they were delivered to his hotel. As a result, Dynamo were thrown out of the tournament and banned from European competition for three years by UEFA (the ban was lifted the following April ‘to avoid hindering the development of football in Ukraine'). Aalborg were then reinstated and the result of the Dynamo-Panathinaikos match annulled, although the Greeks ended up losing away to Aalborg anyway. Thanks to taking 4 points off both Nantes and Porto, Panathinaikos finished top of the group, and a goalless draw at home to the Greeks in their last game was enough to see Nantes squeeze home in second.


Nantes v Panathinaikos


There had been surprise champions in England in 1995 as Blackburn Rovers had pipped Manchester United to the title, but they were unable to make a great impression on the Champions League. After losing their first three games, their only memorable contribution to the competition saw two of their players squaring up to each other in Moscow while another was sent off. They finally won a match when they defeated Rosenborg which meant that Legia Warsaw qualified behind the only team to emerge from the groups with a 100% record, Spartak Moscow.


Rosenborg v Spartak Moscow


Holders Ajax may have lost Rijkaard and Seedorf, but they started the competition in much the same way as they had finished the previous season. In their first game Real Madrid were outclassed and beaten by an early Overmars goal. Ajax went on to comfortably top their group conceding only one goal – in a 5-1 win away to Ferencvaros – and dropping only two points – a goalless draw with Grasshoppers in Zurich. Despite losing twice to the holders, Real had no trouble in qualifying in second place.

Back in Europe’s premier competition for the first time in nearly ten years were Juventus. With strong Italian defenders like Porrini and Torricelli protected by Didier Deschamps and with forwards like Del Piero, Ravanelli and Vialli, Juve were one of the favourites to win the competition. That status was not affected by them winning their first four matches which included a 3-1 win away to Borussia Dortmund and a 4-0 thrashing of Rangers in Glasgow. Only when their qualification was assured did they drop points, losing their penultimate game to Dortmund who finished runners-up.


Rangers v Juventus


The quarter-final draw pitted two of the favourites together in Real Madrid and Juventus. Real were struggling in their domestic league and had recently sacked their manager, but they were still able to take a 1-0 first leg lead from the Bernabeu thanks to a 20th minute goal from Raul. But the Italians hit back in Turin. First a 25 yard free kick from Del Piero went through the Real wall and into the bottom corner of the net, and then on 53 minutes, Padovano beat the Spanish offside trap and slotted the ball home to take Juventus through to the last four.

Ajax looked to have a tough tie ahead of them as they were paired with Borussia Dortmund, but they continued their impressive form as they went to Germany and played their hosts off the park. Davids combined brilliantly with Kluivert after just 8 minutes before firing Ajax ahead, and he returned the compliment as he fed Kluivert on 83 minutes to make it 2-0 and virtually end the tie. In Amsterdam Dortmunds Sammer was sent off in the second half for fouling Musampa, who went on to score the only goal of the second leg as he latched onto a Kanu pass to seal victory for Ajax.

In freezing temperatures on an awful pitch, Legia Warsaw and Panathinaikos played out an uneventful 0-0 draw. In front of over 70,000 fans in Athens, Panathinaikos went ahead when a shot from their Polish forward Krzysztof Warzycha was diverted into the net by a Legia defender. Just before the hour, Warzycha made it 2-0. On 71 minutes the Argentinian Borelli took a free kick for Panathinaikos on the edge of the Legia penalty area. His kick hit the defensive wall, but when the ball rebounded to him he dribbled past three defenders before curling a shot inside the far post to seal a famous 3-0 win for the Greek champions.

Spartak Moscow had cruised through their group without dropping a single point, but since then they had lost their manager and several important players and they were now emerging from a winter break. As a result they struggled in the first leg of their quarter-final against Nantes and were beaten 2-0 in France. But two first half goals in Moscow saw Spartak back level on aggregate. In the second half they had two penalty claims, but the referee Serge Muhmenthaler from Switzerland was unmoved, and Nantes went on to score twice through Ouedec and reach the semi-finals.

The first leg of the semi-final between Ajax and Panathinaikos marked the last game at the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium which had witnessed so many famous European Cup nights over the years. With a 20 match unbeaten European record behind them, Ajax were expected to take a significant lead into the second leg, but Panathinaikos produced a performance which shocked the football world. Having frustrated the Ajax forwards all night, and having created their fair share of chances, Panathinaikos broke away in the dying minutes of the match. Georgis Donis ploughed through the midfield before sliding the ball through to the hero of the quarter-finals, Polish striker Krzystof Warzycha who calmly chipped the ball over Edwin Van der Saar in the Ajax goal to give the Greek side a first leg lead that no-one had predicted.

Twenty five years on from Panathinaikos’s defeat by Ajax in the European Cup Final, 74000 fans arrived in the Athens Olympic Stadium to see if that defeat would finally be avenged. But the intimidating atmosphere was quickly quietened as Panathinaikos failed to clear a 4th minute corner and Limanen pounced to level the aggregate scores. Ajax continued to impress, but it was not until the 77th minute that they pulled ahead when Litmanen brilliantly controlled a cross from Kanu before slotting the ball home for his and Ajax’s second. With just four minutes remaining substitute Nordin Wooter scored the third to complete a remarkable comeback and keep Ajax on the road to retaining their European title.


Panathinaikos v Ajax


In Turin, Juventus task was made easier when Nantes midfielder Bruni Carotti received two first half yellow cards. Early in the second half, Juve captain Gianluca Vialli headed home a corner to record his first European goal of the season. With 25 minutes remaining, a 25 yard shot from Vladimir Jugovic rocketed into the top corner to give the Italians a 2-0 lead which they would take to France a fortnight later. Vialli scored early in the second leg to effectively kill the tie, but Nantes showed immense character to repeatedly fight back and in the end win the match 3-2, but it was not enough and it was Juventus who would reach the final, eleven years on from their last appearance on that fateful night in Brussels.

The final was held in Rome’s Olympic Stadium which gave Juventus an obvious advantage, but with eight players starting their second successive Champions League final, Ajax had the benefit of big match experience. The game was only twelve minutes old when Juventus took the lead. Ajax defender Frank de Boer attempted to head a long ball away, but his clearance only looped up in the air and as goalkeeper Van der Saar came out, the grey haired Fabrizio Ravanelli stole in to nip the ball away before scoring from an almost impossible angle. But on the stroke of half time, Ajax hit back. Frank de Boer was involved again. This time it was his free kick which Juve goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi could only parry, and in the ensuing scramble, Litmanen held his nerve to steer the ball home. The game then swung backwards and forwards with both goalkeepers being forced to make impressive saves. The closest either team came to scoring during the remainder of the 90 minutes and extra time was when Vialli hit the crossbar for Juventus. But there were no further goals and so the game was decided on a penalty shootout.

Davids took the first penalty for Ajax, but it was a tame effort and Peruzzi saved with some ease. Ferrara, Pessotto and Padovano all scored for Juventus while Litmanen and Scholten were successful for Ajax, but when Peruzzi dived to his left to beat away Silooy’s spot kick, it just needed Jugovic to score for Juventus to take the trophy. The Serbian midfielder duly drilled the ball low into corner and Juventus were European champions. The majority of the Olympic Stadium erupted with joy as they were finally able to celebrate a Juventus European Cup victory untainted by tragedy. As their former striker Roberto Bettega said after the game: ‘This is for real. We could never celebrate winning in 1985. We have waited a long time for this.’

1996 European Cup Final (Rome)
Juventus 1 Ajax 1 (4-2 penalties)
Juventus:
Peruzzi, Ferrara, Torricelli, Vierchowod, Pessotto, Conte (Jugovic), Sousa (Di Livio), Deschamps, Del Piero, Vialli, Ravanelli (Padovano)
Scorer: Ravanelli (Penalty Scorers: Ferrara, Pessotto, Padovano, Jugovic)
Ajax: Van der Saar, Silooy, Blind, Davids, F de Boer (Scholten), R de Boer (Wooter), Litmanen, Musampa, Kluivert, Finidi, Kanu, Bogarde
Scorer: Litmanen (Penalty Scorers: Litmanen, Scholten)


Postcript

In later years, however, some doubts were raised as to the fairness of Juventus methods. In 1998 Lecce coach Zdenek Zeman made comments about the use of drugs in Italian football and pointed to the muscularity of some of the Juventus players. A susequent search of the Turin club’s training complex revealed 281 different kinds of drugs, including five prohibited anti-inflammatories. As a result, the club doctor Riccardo Agricola was tried on charges of administering banned drugs to players. During the trial, which started in January 2002, Gianmartino Benzi, professor of pharmacology at Pavia University, said: “Stocks resembled the quantity you would find in a small hospital.” In 2004 Agricola was fined 2000 euros and sentenced to 1year and 10 months in prison for injecting players with substances including EPO - which increases the number of red blood cells - between 1994 and 1998. On appeal,Agricola was acquited after the court ruled that the sporting fraud laws which he had been convicted of could not be used in this instance. All the players who were called before the investigation denied drug use and none ever failed a doping test. In the spring of 2005, however, the head of the World AntiDoping Agency, Dick Pound, demanded that Juventus be stripped of all the titles they had won between 1994 and 1998, including the 1996 Champions League. On April 26,2005 the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, declared that "the use of pharmacological substances that are not expressly prohibited by law, and that can not be considered as similar substances or associated to those specifically prohibited may not be sanctioned with disciplinary measures.'

A Dutch documentary in July, 2013 investigated this issue and concluded that there was overriding evidence that Juventus used EPO. You can see that documentary here:





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