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Classic Final Goals

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Frank Rijkaard’s goal in the 1990 European Cup final didn’t just win the game for AC Milan – it redressed the balance too

WORDS Paul McNamara | ILLUSTRATION Osvaldo Casanova

“There is no world without Verona walls but purgatory, torture, hell itself.” Such was Romeo Montague’s lament in William Shakespeare’s tale of doomed lovers. However, the AC Milan team of 1989/90 – particularly manager Arrigo Sacchi, defender Alessandro Costacurta and Dutch pair Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard – would all beg to differ. Why? Because between them they contrived to torch their chances of a second title in three seasons in that self-same city.

It was the penultimate match of the Rossoneri’s Serie A campaign, against relegation-bound side Hellas Verona. They were level on points with Napoli at the top of the table; they were poised for a straightforward victory too, after Marco Simone scored the only goal of the opening 45 minutes in Verona’s Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

Then all Hellas broke loose.

Sacchi was a progressive, trend-setting manager who fell head over heels for the Dutch Total Football ideology. But that didn’t stop him blowing his lid after Van Basten was denied a penalty. The Milan boss was shown a red card – and the unravelling gathered pace with an equaliser from Argentinian defender Víctor Sotomayor.

Then things got worse: Rijkaard received a second booking on 82 minutes. And worse still: he was soon followed down the tunnel by Van Basten, who was dismissed for hurling his shirt to the floor in a display of impotent protest after being penalised for a foul. And to top it all off, on 89 minutes Davide Pellegrini joined Sotomayor as the second gentleman of Verona who Milan devotees would gladly never hear of again, lobbing a winner over Milan goalkeeper Andrea Pazzagli.

Oh, wait, there’s more: taking the approach of ‘In for a centesimo, in for a lira’, Costacurta duly erupted in the direction of the referee to receive Milan’s fourth red card of a ruinous afternoon.

But what does all of this have to do with a European Cup final? Well, Milan, whose victory over Bari the following week counted for nothing thanks to Napoli’s Diego Maradona-inspired defeat of Lazio, had 31 days following those chastening events to ready themselves for the defence of their European crown against Benfica. For Sacchi and a team studded with world-class talent, to surrender one major title was unfortunate – to lose another in short order would just be downright careless. Here, close at hand, was an opportunity to make amends.  

“There is no world without Verona walls but purgatory, torture, hell itself.” Such was Romeo Montague’s lament in William Shakespeare’s tale of doomed lovers. However, the AC Milan team of 1989/90 – particularly manager Arrigo Sacchi, defender Alessandro Costacurta and Dutch pair Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard – would all beg to differ. Why? Because between them they contrived to torch their chances of a second title in three seasons in that self-same city.

It was the penultimate match of the Rossoneri’s Serie A campaign, against relegation-bound side Hellas Verona. They were level on points with Napoli at the top of the table; they were poised for a straightforward victory too, after Marco Simone scored the only goal of the opening 45 minutes in Verona’s Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

Then all Hellas broke loose.

Sacchi was a progressive, trend-setting manager who fell head over heels for the Dutch Total Football ideology. But that didn’t stop him blowing his lid after Van Basten was denied a penalty. The Milan boss was shown a red card – and the unravelling gathered pace with an equaliser from Argentinian defender Víctor Sotomayor.

Then things got worse: Rijkaard received a second booking on 82 minutes. And worse still: he was soon followed down the tunnel by Van Basten, who was dismissed for hurling his shirt to the floor in a display of impotent protest after being penalised for a foul. And to top it all off, on 89 minutes Davide Pellegrini joined Sotomayor as the second gentleman of Verona who Milan devotees would gladly never hear of again, lobbing a winner over Milan goalkeeper Andrea Pazzagli.

Oh, wait, there’s more: taking the approach of ‘In for a centesimo, in for a lira’, Costacurta duly erupted in the direction of the referee to receive Milan’s fourth red card of a ruinous afternoon.

But what does all of this have to do with a European Cup final? Well, Milan, whose victory over Bari the following week counted for nothing thanks to Napoli’s Diego Maradona-inspired defeat of Lazio, had 31 days following those chastening events to ready themselves for the defence of their European crown against Benfica. For Sacchi and a team studded with world-class talent, to surrender one major title was unfortunate – to lose another in short order would just be downright careless. Here, close at hand, was an opportunity to make amends.  

Read the full story
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AC Milan had dismantled Steaua București in the European Cup final 12 months earlier. They made good on Ruud Gullit’s pre-match vow to “attack them from the first second”, scoring four unanswered goals against the supposedly technically superior Romanians.

Despite that win and a league title in 1987/88, there was a sniffiness that existed around Sacchi because of his lack of a playing career – “I never realised that in order to become a jockey, you have to have been a horse first,” the quotable Italian once said. Defeat by Sven-Göran Eriksson’s side in Vienna would have reopened the conversation. That said, Sacchi had an answer for those who suggested his success was primarily down to being able to select Gullit, Van Basten and Rijkaard, alongside consummate Italians Costacurta, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini: “De Niro is a fine actor, but you only see it when he appears in a great Coppola film.”

Sacchi directed a dominant Milan performance against Benfica, who had enjoyed a relatively comfortable passage to the final at the Praterstadion, scoring 11 goals in eight matches. Milan’s vanquished opponents en route included Real Madrid (for a second straight season) and Bayern München.

But doubts grew over whether Sacchi’s team would be the first to retain the European Cup since Nottingham Forest in 1980, as Benfica resisted Milan beyond the hour mark. Then, after 67 minutes, redemption – the swift exorcising of the ghost of Verona.

Redemption for Sacchi, if he required it, who watched his side slice through Benfica with the quick, ambitious and incisive football that he so fervently advocated. Redemption for Costacurta, who collected a pass from fellow centre-half Baresi and progressed to the halfway line unchallenged to fire the ball into the final third. Redemption for Van Basten, dropping into space to collect Costacurta’s delivery and flip the ball forwards for the dreadlocked figure running from midfield. And redemption for the perceptive Rijkaard, who had started advancing through the middle before Costacurta’s pass even reached Van Basten.

Moving elegantly, Rijkaard fastened onto the striker’s first-time ball, controlled it with his left foot, then used his right to apply another careful nudge. Now confronted by Benfica goalkeeper Silvino in the penalty area, Rijkaard made firm contact with the outside of his right foot to lift a match-winning finish beyond the Portuguese and prompt celebrations that had a distinctively cathartic undercurrent.

The scale of the Italian club’s achievement in claiming successive European titles was illustrated by the 27-year wait for Real Madrid to emulate the feat. Sacchi would leave Milan 12 months on from his second European triumph, after reportedly locking horns with Van Basten. But the maestro coach and his expressive AC Milan team achieved footballing immortality when Rijkaard waltzed through Benfica’s backline on a night of joy and atonement.

Verona was dead – long live Vienna.

“There is no world without Verona walls but purgatory, torture, hell itself.” Such was Romeo Montague’s lament in William Shakespeare’s tale of doomed lovers. However, the AC Milan team of 1989/90 – particularly manager Arrigo Sacchi, defender Alessandro Costacurta and Dutch pair Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard – would all beg to differ. Why? Because between them they contrived to torch their chances of a second title in three seasons in that self-same city.

It was the penultimate match of the Rossoneri’s Serie A campaign, against relegation-bound side Hellas Verona. They were level on points with Napoli at the top of the table; they were poised for a straightforward victory too, after Marco Simone scored the only goal of the opening 45 minutes in Verona’s Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

Then all Hellas broke loose.

Sacchi was a progressive, trend-setting manager who fell head over heels for the Dutch Total Football ideology. But that didn’t stop him blowing his lid after Van Basten was denied a penalty. The Milan boss was shown a red card – and the unravelling gathered pace with an equaliser from Argentinian defender Víctor Sotomayor.

Then things got worse: Rijkaard received a second booking on 82 minutes. And worse still: he was soon followed down the tunnel by Van Basten, who was dismissed for hurling his shirt to the floor in a display of impotent protest after being penalised for a foul. And to top it all off, on 89 minutes Davide Pellegrini joined Sotomayor as the second gentleman of Verona who Milan devotees would gladly never hear of again, lobbing a winner over Milan goalkeeper Andrea Pazzagli.

Oh, wait, there’s more: taking the approach of ‘In for a centesimo, in for a lira’, Costacurta duly erupted in the direction of the referee to receive Milan’s fourth red card of a ruinous afternoon.

But what does all of this have to do with a European Cup final? Well, Milan, whose victory over Bari the following week counted for nothing thanks to Napoli’s Diego Maradona-inspired defeat of Lazio, had 31 days following those chastening events to ready themselves for the defence of their European crown against Benfica. For Sacchi and a team studded with world-class talent, to surrender one major title was unfortunate – to lose another in short order would just be downright careless. Here, close at hand, was an opportunity to make amends.  

Back on top
Classic Final Goals

Back on top

Frank Rijkaard’s goal in the 1990 European Cup final didn’t just win the game for AC Milan – it redressed the balance too

WORDS Paul McNamara | ILLUSTRATION Osvaldo Casanova

“There is no world without Verona walls but purgatory, torture, hell itself.” Such was Romeo Montague’s lament in William Shakespeare’s tale of doomed lovers. However, the AC Milan team of 1989/90 – particularly manager Arrigo Sacchi, defender Alessandro Costacurta and Dutch pair Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard – would all beg to differ. Why? Because between them they contrived to torch their chances of a second title in three seasons in that self-same city.

It was the penultimate match of the Rossoneri’s Serie A campaign, against relegation-bound side Hellas Verona. They were level on points with Napoli at the top of the table; they were poised for a straightforward victory too, after Marco Simone scored the only goal of the opening 45 minutes in Verona’s Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

Then all Hellas broke loose.

Sacchi was a progressive, trend-setting manager who fell head over heels for the Dutch Total Football ideology. But that didn’t stop him blowing his lid after Van Basten was denied a penalty. The Milan boss was shown a red card – and the unravelling gathered pace with an equaliser from Argentinian defender Víctor Sotomayor.

Then things got worse: Rijkaard received a second booking on 82 minutes. And worse still: he was soon followed down the tunnel by Van Basten, who was dismissed for hurling his shirt to the floor in a display of impotent protest after being penalised for a foul. And to top it all off, on 89 minutes Davide Pellegrini joined Sotomayor as the second gentleman of Verona who Milan devotees would gladly never hear of again, lobbing a winner over Milan goalkeeper Andrea Pazzagli.

Oh, wait, there’s more: taking the approach of ‘In for a centesimo, in for a lira’, Costacurta duly erupted in the direction of the referee to receive Milan’s fourth red card of a ruinous afternoon.

But what does all of this have to do with a European Cup final? Well, Milan, whose victory over Bari the following week counted for nothing thanks to Napoli’s Diego Maradona-inspired defeat of Lazio, had 31 days following those chastening events to ready themselves for the defence of their European crown against Benfica. For Sacchi and a team studded with world-class talent, to surrender one major title was unfortunate – to lose another in short order would just be downright careless. Here, close at hand, was an opportunity to make amends.  

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

“There is no world without Verona walls but purgatory, torture, hell itself.” Such was Romeo Montague’s lament in William Shakespeare’s tale of doomed lovers. However, the AC Milan team of 1989/90 – particularly manager Arrigo Sacchi, defender Alessandro Costacurta and Dutch pair Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard – would all beg to differ. Why? Because between them they contrived to torch their chances of a second title in three seasons in that self-same city.

It was the penultimate match of the Rossoneri’s Serie A campaign, against relegation-bound side Hellas Verona. They were level on points with Napoli at the top of the table; they were poised for a straightforward victory too, after Marco Simone scored the only goal of the opening 45 minutes in Verona’s Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

Then all Hellas broke loose.

Sacchi was a progressive, trend-setting manager who fell head over heels for the Dutch Total Football ideology. But that didn’t stop him blowing his lid after Van Basten was denied a penalty. The Milan boss was shown a red card – and the unravelling gathered pace with an equaliser from Argentinian defender Víctor Sotomayor.

Then things got worse: Rijkaard received a second booking on 82 minutes. And worse still: he was soon followed down the tunnel by Van Basten, who was dismissed for hurling his shirt to the floor in a display of impotent protest after being penalised for a foul. And to top it all off, on 89 minutes Davide Pellegrini joined Sotomayor as the second gentleman of Verona who Milan devotees would gladly never hear of again, lobbing a winner over Milan goalkeeper Andrea Pazzagli.

Oh, wait, there’s more: taking the approach of ‘In for a centesimo, in for a lira’, Costacurta duly erupted in the direction of the referee to receive Milan’s fourth red card of a ruinous afternoon.

But what does all of this have to do with a European Cup final? Well, Milan, whose victory over Bari the following week counted for nothing thanks to Napoli’s Diego Maradona-inspired defeat of Lazio, had 31 days following those chastening events to ready themselves for the defence of their European crown against Benfica. For Sacchi and a team studded with world-class talent, to surrender one major title was unfortunate – to lose another in short order would just be downright careless. Here, close at hand, was an opportunity to make amends.  

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

AC Milan had dismantled Steaua București in the European Cup final 12 months earlier. They made good on Ruud Gullit’s pre-match vow to “attack them from the first second”, scoring four unanswered goals against the supposedly technically superior Romanians.

Despite that win and a league title in 1987/88, there was a sniffiness that existed around Sacchi because of his lack of a playing career – “I never realised that in order to become a jockey, you have to have been a horse first,” the quotable Italian once said. Defeat by Sven-Göran Eriksson’s side in Vienna would have reopened the conversation. That said, Sacchi had an answer for those who suggested his success was primarily down to being able to select Gullit, Van Basten and Rijkaard, alongside consummate Italians Costacurta, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini: “De Niro is a fine actor, but you only see it when he appears in a great Coppola film.”

Sacchi directed a dominant Milan performance against Benfica, who had enjoyed a relatively comfortable passage to the final at the Praterstadion, scoring 11 goals in eight matches. Milan’s vanquished opponents en route included Real Madrid (for a second straight season) and Bayern München.

But doubts grew over whether Sacchi’s team would be the first to retain the European Cup since Nottingham Forest in 1980, as Benfica resisted Milan beyond the hour mark. Then, after 67 minutes, redemption – the swift exorcising of the ghost of Verona.

Redemption for Sacchi, if he required it, who watched his side slice through Benfica with the quick, ambitious and incisive football that he so fervently advocated. Redemption for Costacurta, who collected a pass from fellow centre-half Baresi and progressed to the halfway line unchallenged to fire the ball into the final third. Redemption for Van Basten, dropping into space to collect Costacurta’s delivery and flip the ball forwards for the dreadlocked figure running from midfield. And redemption for the perceptive Rijkaard, who had started advancing through the middle before Costacurta’s pass even reached Van Basten.

Moving elegantly, Rijkaard fastened onto the striker’s first-time ball, controlled it with his left foot, then used his right to apply another careful nudge. Now confronted by Benfica goalkeeper Silvino in the penalty area, Rijkaard made firm contact with the outside of his right foot to lift a match-winning finish beyond the Portuguese and prompt celebrations that had a distinctively cathartic undercurrent.

The scale of the Italian club’s achievement in claiming successive European titles was illustrated by the 27-year wait for Real Madrid to emulate the feat. Sacchi would leave Milan 12 months on from his second European triumph, after reportedly locking horns with Van Basten. But the maestro coach and his expressive AC Milan team achieved footballing immortality when Rijkaard waltzed through Benfica’s backline on a night of joy and atonement.

Verona was dead – long live Vienna.

“There is no world without Verona walls but purgatory, torture, hell itself.” Such was Romeo Montague’s lament in William Shakespeare’s tale of doomed lovers. However, the AC Milan team of 1989/90 – particularly manager Arrigo Sacchi, defender Alessandro Costacurta and Dutch pair Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard – would all beg to differ. Why? Because between them they contrived to torch their chances of a second title in three seasons in that self-same city.

It was the penultimate match of the Rossoneri’s Serie A campaign, against relegation-bound side Hellas Verona. They were level on points with Napoli at the top of the table; they were poised for a straightforward victory too, after Marco Simone scored the only goal of the opening 45 minutes in Verona’s Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.

Then all Hellas broke loose.

Sacchi was a progressive, trend-setting manager who fell head over heels for the Dutch Total Football ideology. But that didn’t stop him blowing his lid after Van Basten was denied a penalty. The Milan boss was shown a red card – and the unravelling gathered pace with an equaliser from Argentinian defender Víctor Sotomayor.

Then things got worse: Rijkaard received a second booking on 82 minutes. And worse still: he was soon followed down the tunnel by Van Basten, who was dismissed for hurling his shirt to the floor in a display of impotent protest after being penalised for a foul. And to top it all off, on 89 minutes Davide Pellegrini joined Sotomayor as the second gentleman of Verona who Milan devotees would gladly never hear of again, lobbing a winner over Milan goalkeeper Andrea Pazzagli.

Oh, wait, there’s more: taking the approach of ‘In for a centesimo, in for a lira’, Costacurta duly erupted in the direction of the referee to receive Milan’s fourth red card of a ruinous afternoon.

But what does all of this have to do with a European Cup final? Well, Milan, whose victory over Bari the following week counted for nothing thanks to Napoli’s Diego Maradona-inspired defeat of Lazio, had 31 days following those chastening events to ready themselves for the defence of their European crown against Benfica. For Sacchi and a team studded with world-class talent, to surrender one major title was unfortunate – to lose another in short order would just be downright careless. Here, close at hand, was an opportunity to make amends.  

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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