For the first time in living memory AC Milan approached a European Champion Clubs' Cup final as underdogs, their suspension-hit back line expected to buckle under the weight of FC Barcelona's attacking talent.
Yet Fabio Capello had not read the script, his decision to fight forward fire with fire catching everyone unawares. Two Daniele Massaro goals earned the initiative and when Dejan Savićević made it 3-0 with an exquisite lob soon after half-time, the game was up. Marcel Desailly set seal on a memorable triumph.
"I will take three things back home with me," Massaro said after the game. "The two goals and Hristo Stoichkov's jersey; he's an idol for me." Respect not deference was the order of the day in Athens as, with Demetrio Albertini pulling the strings in midfield, the Rossoneri piled forward from the off.
Christian Panucci had already had a goal disallowed when Massaro broke the deadlock midway through the first period, prodding in at the far post after Savićević had made light work of Josep Guardiola on the right flank.
Massaro doubled the advantage on the cusp of half-time and Johan Cruyff's feted Barcelona side knew it was not their day when Sergi Barjuán dallied too long on a bouncing ball and Savićević pounced, looked up and lobbed Andoni Zubizarreta from distance.
Il Genio (The Genius) might have had another but hit the upright, though Desailly made no mistake just before the hour, powering into the box and placing into the top corner.
So it was Mauro Tassotti – captain for the day with Franco Baresi suspended alongside Alessandro Costacurta – who lifted the trophy. Having been denied by Olympique de Marseille 12 months earlier, Milan won the Scudetto and European Cup in the same season for the first time. "This," announced Capello, "is perfection."