Eleven years on from the ‘Cup of death’, Juventus were able to oust Ajax to win their second Champions League title.
Forza Italian Football recap all seven Bianconeri finals leading up to the 2015 Champions League final in Berlin where Juve are due to face Barcelona.
“They’re a team of Flemish painters; us? we hope that we’re a tough side from Piedmont” said longtime Juventus president Gianni Agnelli prior to his side’s Champions League final against Ajax in 1995-96.
Don’t let the current state of Dutch football trick you into believing that the Lancers were an ordinary side back then, because they were anything but. Louis van Gaal’s men were reigning champions and were basically the side to beat the following season.
The Amsterdam-based club had plethora of talent such as Edwin van der Sar, Jari Litmanen, Patrick Kluivert, Nwankwo Kanu, Edgar Davids, Danny Blind, Frank and Ronaldo De Boer amongst others. They were a side Europe both loved and envied.
The Bianconeri on the other hand were the ‘rookies’ in the tie, to some extent. After all, the domestic league and cup double they won in the previous season ended a nine year drought in which La Vecchia Signora had failed to win the Serie A title. Just like the previous season, the trio of Fabrizio Ravanelli, Gianluca Vialli, and Alessandro Del Piero were the key threats up front with the latter playing a massive part in Juventus’ road to the final by scoring in five of the six group games.
Marcello Lippi’s topped Group C which included Borussia Dortmund, Steaua Bucharest, and Rangers – achieving four consecutive wins to guarantee top spot and set up a quarter-final tie against Real Madrid.
A goal from Raul Gonzalez in the opening 20 minutes of the tie against Los Blancos at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium gave Lippi’s men an uphill task in the second leg, which they were able to overcome by winning 2-0 in Turin to set up a semi-final tie with Nantes.
Even though the French side looked easy on paper, they gave the Turin-based side a tough time in the first 45 minutes at the Stadio delle Alpi until Bruno Carotti received his marching orders, before Vialli getting and Serbian Vladimir Jugovic both scored to make it 2-0.
A 3-2 loss at the Stade de la Beaujoire in the second leg was only a consolation in the end; Juve marched on to the major showdown in Rome.
Their opponents, as stated above, were Ajax. The mighty Amsterdam side though were left humbled in the first leg of their semi-final tie against Panathinaikos at the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam when Krzysztof Warzycha netted the winner for the Greeks three minutes from time to put an end to Ajax’s 19-game unbeaten run in Europe.
Logic tipped Panathinaikos to go through, but there was no logic involved with that Ajax side who tore the Trifolium to shreds in the second leg, winning 3-0.
On May 22 1996, Juve, slight underdogs, went out to achieve their first ‘real’ Champions League trophy, with the first one in 1985 being branded the ‘Cup of death’ due to the death of 39 supporters prior to the final against Liverpool, not only that but the Champions League was their only shot at winning a major trophy that season, having lost out on both Serie A and the Coppa Italia.
The Bianconeri were determined, and in front of 50,000 Juventus fans they had an electrifying start – Ravanelli almost scoring after capitalising on an error by Sonny Silooy, with Moreno Toricelli testing Van Der Sar minutes before.
The striker though got the goal soon after, making use of a mix-up in the Ajax backline between Frank de Boer and Van der Sar to finish from a tight angle and make it 1-0.
Louis van Gaal’s men replied soon after, Kiki Musampa with a left-footed strike which was saved by Angelo Peruzzi.
Danny Blind was next to test Peruzzi but his deflected strike was tipped over the bar by the goalkeeper.
Next came Ajax’s most dangerous chance of the half, when Kanu’s flicked header was arduously cleared off the line by Juventus’ goalkeeper.
However, the Dutch giants got their goal four minutes before the break when Peruzzi’s poor clearance of a Frank de Boer free-kick fell to semi-final hero Litmanen who made no mistake from close range to make it 1-1.
The second half saw Del Piero’s left-footed strike saved by Van Der Sar and Vialli wasting a great chance to score in what proved to be the only notable chances of the 90 minutes as the game headed to extra time.
After a dull first 15 minutes of extra time, the second half saw the Juve spectators jump off their feet as Jugovic’s deflected free-kick went inches wide of the far post.
Juventus were pretty much on the front foot; Del Piero then tested Van der Sar with a fantastic volley from outside the box.
Del Piero wasted another chance to make it 2-1 in the second half of extra-time, this time he shot straight at Van der Sar despite being completely free in the box. The 1995-96 final was to be decided on penalties.
Peruzzi saved Davids’ penalty but was unable to deal with Litmanen and Arnold Scholten’s respective spot-kicks, while Ciro Ferrara, Gianluca Pessotto, and Michele Padovano scored for the Bianconeri.
Approaching the last penalty, Ajax right-back Silooy had his penalty saved by Peruzzi and it was all up to Jugovic to win Juve the Champions League 11 years on from ‘Cup of death’, and he did. Juve were champions of Europe.
Just like with everything Juventus, the tournament was covered in controversy as it was later revealed that team doctor – without the knowledge of the club – doped the players prior to the final to boost their performances, with false news coming out in 2013 claiming that the title could be awarded to Ajax.
That night in Rome remains Juventus’ last triumph to date, with the win coming against the tournament favourites – but as always with Juve, covered in controversy.