As luck would have it, Nottingham Forest’s first opponents in the European Cup turned out to be their fellow English club and reigning European champions Liverpool F.C.. Despite having finished seven points clear of Liverpool in winning the League Championship, Forest were still heavy underdogs, but they were to take their doubters by surprise in the first leg of the first round match at their City Ground stadium. Liverpool knew little about young Garry Birtles who started up front for Forest, but it was he who tapped home a Woodcock pass to give his side the lead after 26 minutes, and it was Birtles again who pounced on a mistake in the Liverpool defence during the final minutes of the game and crossed the ball to Woodcock who knocked the ball down to the onrushing Barrett to volley the ball home for a crucial 2-0 lead. Still Liverpool were favourites to go through, but the tie was now set up perfectly for Forest. With the defence keeping things tight at the back and with the midfield closing down Liverpool's creative players, the European Cup holders could find no way through in the return game. The match finished 0-0 and Liverpool, after having beaten all comers in Europe for two seasons, found themselves knocked out by a fellow English team.
The tournament was won by English champions Nottingham Forest F.C. in the final against Malmö FF.
The 1999-2000 season of the UEFA Champions League was won by Real Madrid, who had clinched an historic 8th title win, against fellow La Liga side, Valencia. This was the 45th Edition of the competition. The final was hosted in the historic Stade de France, in Paris where the original roots of the competition had began.
This season was dominated by the Spanish La Liga, with them having three of the four semi-finalists in winners Real Madrid, losing finalists Valencia and the other team in the semi-final was Barcelona. This also culminated in an all Spanish final, where history was made with the first ever all-country European Cup/Champions League final.
AS Roma were left in limbo last night, as they went down 0-2 to Manchester United during the home leg of their Champions League clash. Hopes were high, but realistically - based on their current form - it was going to take a miracle to come away from the game in Rome's Olympic stadium as winners. In recent games in Serie A the team have struggeld to beat last-placed Empoli, and last week drew 1-1 with a Cagliari squad that failed to score (an own-goal from defender Matteo Ferrari gifted the Sardinian team a draw). Add to that the fact that team captain and talisman Francesco Totti was ruled out of last night's game with a knee injury, and only those blind to reason could have expected Roma to do much more than stave off defeat.
In the run up to the match the Italian media focussed on Totti's replacement, the Montenegrin striker Mirko Vucinic, who in the course of this season has done some remarkable work for Roma - literally changing the course of games - particularly in the Champions League games. Last night he was on form in various areas of the pitch, causing problems to United's defence on a number of important occasions. He was not, though, in finishing form, and fluffed a number of great chances.
Manchester United approached the game with caution, content to sit back and wait for their chance rather than risk opening up the game. An approach that, with players like Ronaldo and Rooney pays dividends. It was, in fact, towards the end of the first half that United had their best chance of a goal, and they took it brilliantly. Rooney got the ball to Scholes who crossed in a ball that seemed to float for ever into the Roma box. Roma midfielder Marco Cassetti prepared himself to head it clear, without reckoning for Cristian Ronaldo who appeared, at speed, as if from nowhere, to slam the ball past Doni with a brilliant and decisive header.
Going into half-time Roma may have felt somewhat cheated by the scoreline (Vucinic missed another good chance just minutes after Ronaldo's goal), but all was not lost - in theory. The second half started with renewed vigour for the home team, with ex-Empoli midfielder Max Tonnetto having two good chances early on - one which he missed, and the other saved by Van der Saar. Also missing chances was Cristian Panucci, captain of the team in the absence of Totti. Panucci saved the day two weeks ago against Empoli, scoring a briliant header that won the game, but last night it was not to be. In his defence, though, he was resolute in defence, stealing the ball early on from surprise United inclusion Park Ji-Sung.
While Roma continued to push, hoping for an equaliser, United had a number of chances themselves - including a break from Ronaldo that was, unjustifiably, halted for offside. Twenty minutes into the second half came the coup de grace. Park headed a ball into the Roma box, and Doni and Panucci clashed confusedly to clear it, leaving it at the feet of a grateful Wayne Rooney. Pretty it wasn't, but United fans won't be complaining as it effectively closed off the game for a dispirited Roma - and leaves it a gargantuan struggle for Spalletti's team heading to Anfield.
The last remaining Italian team in this season's Champions League don't look likely to progress further than next week's return leg. It's a huge dissapointment for a talented team that seems to lack that crucial ability to confront the really big games. Vucinic, Mancini, and Giuly have all wowed fans at various stages during the season - but when it counts, either against minnows like Cagliari, or the big fish like United, they just don't have the finishing power it would seem. From the start of the season they seemed contenders, both in the Champions League and Serie A. As the season draws to a close the only honour they look likely to take is that of second place in Serie A. Hopefully they can prove us wrong - unlikely, though...