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Euro soccer prepares for a historic night May 23, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Football.
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Athens hosts Europe’s best for a third time > Milan lifted the trophy at the Olympic Stadium in 1994

AC Milan are likely to have mixed feelings about playing tonight’s Champions League final in Athens as the Olympic Stadium has hosted one of their most glorious victories but was also the scene of one of only two defeats they suffered in the present tournament.

The Italians lost 1-0 to AEK Athens on a chilly night last November but the defeat did little to halt their progress in the Champions League. That result certainly pales into insignificance when compared with a much warmer night in Athens on May 18, 1994, when Milan thrashed Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona 4-0 to lift the European Cup.

Milan dominated Italian soccer in the late 1980s and early 1990s and had won the European Cup in 1989 and 1990. They lost to French side Marseille in the 1993 final. But in Athens they were up against a talented Barcelona side, which included the deadly strikeforce of Brazilian Romario and Bulgarian Hristo Stoichkov.

And to make matters worse, AC Milan went into the game without their central defense pairing of Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta. As it turned out, Barcelona were the ones that should have been more concerned.

Italian forward Daniele Massaro opened the scoring for Milan in the 22nd minute after a pass from Dejan Savicevic. Massaro doubled the lead just before halftime. Savicevic killed off the game two minutes after the restart when he lobbed Barcelona goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta. French defender Marcel Dessaily completed the rout in the 58th minute in what was turning out to be a very one-sided game.

The result was a triumph for Milan’s coach Fabio Capello over Barcelona’s tactician, Cruyff. “We knew what Barcelona’s strengths were and we found the right solutions to deal with them. And we created a few problems of our own for Barcelona, too. It was a victory of tactics and speed. We were the quicker team,” said Capello after the game.

Italian side Juventus did not fare so well in the first final in Athens in 1983, less than a year after the then newly built Olympic Stadium was officially opened. The Italians were beaten 1-0 by German team Hamburger SV (Hamburg) in a shock result.

The only goal of the game was scored by German international midfielder Felix Magath who struck a long-range shot passed legendary Juventus goalkeeper Dino Zoff. Zoff remained motionless as the ball flew past him with less than 10 minutes on the clock.

Despite the efforts of French midfield genius Michel Platini, now president of UEFA, Juventus were unable to get back into the game. As a result, Hamburg flew home from Athens with their first European Cup.

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