Tuesday, March 18, 2008

19/04/89: Milan 5-0 Real Madrid, European Cup semi-final, second leg

Behind every great Milan side, it seems, is an era-defining victory over a Spanish superpower. Just as Fabio Capello's cosmopolitan mid-90s collective trounced Barcelona in the 1994 Champions League final, so Arrigo Sacchi's ancestors smashed Real Madrid 5-0 in the 1989 semi-final. This was a top-shelf Real side - in the middle of a run of five consecutive titles, and with a devastating attacking unit of Bernd Schuster, Martin Vazquez, Michel, Hugo Sanchez and Emilio Butragueno (the following season they would score a La Liga record 107 goals). Yet they were obliterated, five down inside an hour and lucky that Milan spent the last half hour savouring the moment.

Fittingly, given the English template that Sacchi had used to revolutionise Italian football, most of the goals had a strong English flavour, with three from crosses and another that was thrillingly route-one. Carlo Ancelotti scored the first, zig-zagging past two in midfield before lashing a 25-yarder through Paco Buyo's feeble flap, and seven minutes Frank Rijkaard rammed in a header from Mauro Tassotti's cross after Madrid were caught short at a short corner. Ruud Gullit made it three on half-time, leaping majestically to head in Roberto Donadoni's inviting cross, and just after the break he knocked down Rijkaard's long pass for Marco Van Basten to thrash in the fourth. Madrid's woe was complete when, from another short corner, Donadoni's near-post drive sneaked past the miserable Buyo. Milan added four more against Steaua Bucharest in an equally one-sided final, but it was here that they made their formal, undeniable application for greatness.

Thanks to The Guardian for this text.

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