Barcelona 0-4 Milan (Massaro 22, 45, Savicevic 47, Desailly 59)
Milan, calmly, sometimes thrillingly and eventually contemptuously, reasserted themselves as Europe’s prime footballing power last night with a performance of such conviction as to ridicule predictions that Fabio Capello’s weakened team would fall to a Barcelona side deemed the irresistible attacking force.
It was Milan’s third triumph in six years but Capello’s first. The coach’s strategy was vindicated, as was his perseverance with Daniele Massaro, the striker whose two first-half goals redeemed his name after misses that proved so costly last year.
Barcelona fans had arrived in Athens boasting that the team tutored by Johan Cruyff would overwhelm opposition deprived of two key defenders, the suspended Franco Baresi and the no-nonsense Alessandro Costacurta.
Instead, the Spaniards’ defensive shortcomings were ruthlessly exposed. In time they were reduced to bewildered bystanders. Capello had urged his team to impose their own game determinedly, saying: ‘We must show our claws.’ The immediate response could hardly have been more encouraging, Milan’s familiar pressing tactic denying Barcelona any opportunity to develop their insistent rhythm. But the Italian game involved so much more than merely stifling Barcelona.
After 22 minutes of Milanese pressure, Dejan Savicevic’s mastery of Miguel Angel Nadal led to Massaro scoring from four yards.
Massaro’s strike on half-time was equally crisp but far more eye-catching, as a flourish of the left foot sent the ball unerringly into the far corner from 15 yards.
Barcelona were restricted not only by the supremely gifted Paolo Maldini’s seamless switch to centre-back but by the efficiency of all his team-mates.
Within 13 minutes of the restart, Barcelona were sunk utterly. On 47 minutes Savicevic chipped Andoni Zubizarreta and then, with Milan rampant, Marcel Desailly calmly curled a 12-yard shot past Zubizarreta.
Barcelona 4-3-3 Zubizarreta; Ferrer, Koeman, Bakero, Nadal; Sergi (Enrique, 74), Amor, Guardiola; Stoichkov, Romario, Beguiristain (Eusebio, 52).
Milan 4-4-2 Rossi; Tassotti, Galli, Maldini (Nava, 84), Panucci; Boban, Albertini, Desailly, Donadoni; Savicevic, Massaro.
Referee P Don (England).
Source: The Guardian