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Remembering Borussia Dortmund's 1997 Champions League Final Win over Juventus

Stefan Bienkowski@@SbienkowskiFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2015

Victorious Borussia Dortmund's soccer team celebrates with their trophy after defeating Juventus Turin 3-1 in the final of the European Champions League Cup in Munich, Wednesday, May 28, 1997. (AP Photo/Thomas Kienzle)
THOMAS KIENZLE/Associated Press

Karl-Heinz Riedle is lying on the ground face down in the grass. It's a warm night on May 28, 1997 on the outskirts of Munich and Borussia Dortmund forward Riedle has just landed face first on the ground at the famous Olympic stadium. But he couldn't care less. 

This man has just scored the opening goal of the 1997 Champions League final and 50,000 Dortmund fans have just erupted into the night sky. Within a few seconds the German international is back to his feet, after thumping a shot past oncoming goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi, and running towards the corner flag where he comes to a stop to embrace the piece of plastic.

The German side have just defied all odds and taken the lead against the Old Lady.

Juventus, led by coach Marcello Lippi, look stunned. Just one year ago almost to the day the Italian giants had overcome Ajax to become the reigning European champions and since then disposed of other Euro heavyweights Atletico Madrid, Dortmund (in the preliminary group stages) and Rangers.

The European champions had also added the likes of Christian Vieri and Alen Boksic in attack as well as a 24-year-old attacking midfielder by the name of Zinedine Zidane. This trophy had Juventus's name written all over it and the entire continent was expecting them to win it. 

LUCA BRUNO/Associated Press

Yet here we were, 29 minutes into the biggest game on the planet and Dortmund were refusing to stick to the plan. Juventus may have enjoyed large periods of dominance in possession and attack, but once a solitary corner rebounded to defensive midfielder Paul Lambert who then knocked the ball to the back post for Riedle, the script had been ripped up and thrown to the wind. 

Five minutes later the Black and Yellows had doubled their lead. This time from another corner through a swung-in cross from Andreas Moller which found Riedle—again—leaping above all others to be the first to the ball. The forward connected perfectly with the cross and knocked the ball past Peruzzi for the second time that night with a bullet header. 

Before Juventus could even regain their composure and address this turnaround Dortmund had already doubled their lead. 

The second half offered much of the same in terms of possession, with Juventus again dictating play and attacking Dortmund with every hope of restoring their dominance in the game and they finally found some respite from the German storm with a wonderfully worked goal in the 71st minute. 

Following an interception from another counter-attack from Andreas Moller and Riedle, Juventus broke and made their way up the Munich pitch through Boksic, to Zidane and then back to the Croatian international via a wonderful dummy from Vieri. There, the forward gunned down the right-hand side of the Dortmund box to swing in a low cross to an awaiting Alessandro Del Piero at the front post of Stefan Klos' front post. 

The Italian forward, who would go on to score 15 goals in a breakout season of sorts for Juventus that season, confronted the drilled cross with the most delicate of touches, back-heeling the ball past Klos and into the back of the net.

Within 20 seconds of losing the ball in the opposition half, Dortmund had conceded their first goal of the night and now faced an almighty test of their resolve with almost 30 minutes still on the clock.

Ottmar Hitzfeld reacted in a calm manner, pulling off a shattered Riedle for the industrious Heiko Herrlich as well as an intention of replacing Stephane Chapuisat a few minutes later with a midfielder to sure up the middle of the park. Dortmund were boarding up their goalmouth and preparing to see out the storm. 

Lippi's side took notable incentive from this and began throwing wave after wave at their opponent's goal in search of a second goal. Score now, before the 70th minute, and the Italian side could have even turned it around without the need of extra time. 

Yet history had other plans for the outcome of this game. 

As expected, just seconds before the 70th minute, the fourth official held up the substitution board with the number nine in red and 18 in green. Lars Ricken was coming on for Chapuisat with every intention of making sure no more goals were scored before full time. 

Oddly enough it was the manner in which Ricken came on to the pitch that had a large effect on what happened next.

Didier Deschamps, Juventus' central midfielder, was keeping an eye on Moller in the centre of the park and didn't seem to notice Ricken come on and drift out right into the space behind the marauding left-back Mark Iuliano. Alas it took just one pass to unlock the exposed Italian defence. 

Looking back at the play, we see Moller pick up the ball following a short exchange of passes and tackles from the Dortmund throw in deep in their own half and once he does Ricken takes off. Angelo Di Livio, a full-back or defensive winger by trade, was left to cover the midfield while Deschamps & Co. pushed forward and took little notice of Ricken until he was 20 yards behind him.

With a wonderful pass from Moller, taking Livio and central defender Ciro Ferrara completely out of the game, Ricken runs onto the pass and in a move that still baffles fans and critics alike today chose to chip Peruzzi from 30-yards out. The Italian goalkeeper, making his 131st appearance and second European Cup final for the Old Lady, stood stunned as the ball looped over his head. 

Ricken had just chipped one of the best goalkeepers in the world with his first touch of the ball and won the European Cup for the club he'd played for since he was 17 years old. 

LUCA BRUNO/Associated Press

The 21-year-old ran off the pitch and in a mixed hysteria of amazement and ecstasy leaped over an advertising board and took off down the touchline towards his manager. There he found his entire team waiting to embrace him to the backdrop of a stadium full of celebration. 

The camera then turned back to a Peruzzi who hadn't moved an inch since Ricken's goal. Amazed and heartbroken in equal measure, the goalkeeper characterised a Juventus who had just been stunned for the third time that night. 

In an interview with UEFA.com, ahead of Dortmund's Champions League final against Bayern Munich in 2013, Ricken's admitted that he had spent the first 70 minutes of the game thinking about the very goal he would go on to score. 

"I watched the first 70 minutes from the bench, and I noticed that [Angelo] Peruzzi was often standing too far from his goal," the homegrown hero recalled. "I came into the match with that in mind, thinking 'Peruzzi is too far out of goal, Peruzzi is too far out of goal'."

Dortmund had just confirmed the most important victory in the club's history and would be crowned European champions in just 20 minutes' time. 

@Sbienkowski

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