Words: Peter Fernie
On this day in 1990 AC Milan defeated Benfica 1-0 in the European Cup Final to secure back-to-back triumphs.
Arrigo Sacchi’s side had won the trophy in Barcelona the previous year, hammering Steaua Bucharest 4-0. The triumph in Vienna sealed their greatness as the club collected their fourth European Cup.
It had been a frustrating season for Milan up to this point. They had lost the Scudetto in dubious circumstances. On Round 31 of a 34 game Championship Milan and Napoli both faced away ties, at Bologna and Atalanta respectively. With both matches tied 0-0 late in the game, Napoli midfielder Alemao appeared to be struck by a coin in Bergamo. Following this incident the match was awarded 2-0 to The Azzurri while The Rossoneri drew in Bologna. The momentum had swung and Napoli took the title. To add insult to injury Milan had also lost the Coppa Italia final to Juventus 1-0 on aggregate.
So the pressure was on this great side. They had to overcome the Portuguese giants at The Praterstadion in Vienna or finish the campaign empty handed.
It had been a relatively smooth passage to the Final for Il Diavolo. They had defeated HJK Helsinki, Real Madrid, KV Mechelen and Bayern Munich along the way.
Only the Germans had really given them a scare, taking Milan to extra time in a 2-2 aggregate draw. The late Stefano Borgonovo’s vital away goal had decided the tie.
Benfica enjoyed an easy passage past Derry City, Honved and Dnipro in to the last 4. In the semi-final they had edged past Marseille on away goals after a controversial winning goal from Angolan striker Vata.
The final itself was a tight affair. The Portuguese ,coached by Sven Goran Eriksson, were well marshalled at the back by Ricardo Gomes and future Roma stalwart Aldair. Marco Van Basten found it hard to free himself from the attentions of the two uncompromising Brazilians.
In midfield, both teams tried to impose their style. Milan pressed aggressively as their coach demanded, looking to place The Eagles on the backfoot throughout. Meanwhile, Benfica strived to play through their midfield duo Jonas Thern and Valdo despite the constant pressure.
Defences remained on top as the last quarter of the game neared. In the 67th minute, Alessandro Costacurta stepped forward from the back line and slid a lovely ball into Van Basten. The Dutch centre forward had dropped free of Aldair in to a number 10 position and in one touch he played in his compatriot Frank Rijkaard.
With perfect timing, the midfield man had filled the space Van Basten had vacated. After one touch to collect the ball and another to set it in front of himself.
Rijkaard was one on one with Silvino. He slotted the ball in to the net with the outside of his right foot, low to the now Manchester United coach’s left side.
Although the competition soon became The Champions League, Milan remain the last side to retain the old European Cup or it’s new, larger version.