If Feyenoord's previous trip to the San Siro stadium was the pinnacle of their achievements, their triumphant return in the UEFA Cup semi-final first leg against Internazionale FC was not far off that peak.
Feyenoord's 1-0 victory over the Italian league leaders was a reminder of their past as Europe's original Dutch masters: they lifted the European Champion Clubs' Cup in the same arena against Celtic FC in 1970. Thirty-two years ago, however, they went back to the Netherlands with a trophy to show for their glory, glory night. This time, they could find themselves back at base camp in more ways than one when Inter come calling for next week's second leg.
'A great result and night'
Feyenoord coach Bert van Marwijk admitted as much in his post-match press conference: "We still aren't there, although it was a great result and a great night for Dutch football. After the goal we could have gone on to get a second but it wasn't to be."
The Rotterdam outfit had taken a deserved lead on 50 minutes, when Ivan Cordoba slid Pierre van Hooijdonk's cross into his own goal in an attempt to deny the lurking Jon Dahl Tommasson. Van Hooijdonk might have doubled the advantage 20 minutes later, only his free-kick bounced up and over the bar rather than down and into the net.
Series of misses
Had it gone in, it would not have flattered the visitors according to Van Marwijk. "I was very happy with our football in the second half," he said. "When your confidence is high, you have the courage to play your own game." Still, Feyenoord needed Edwin Zoetebier to be at his best to deny Nicola Ventola a last-minute equaliser - the out-rushing goalkeeper blocking the striker's attempted lob with his chest. This was the last in a series of misses by the Italian international, and by no means the most glaring.
Yet Feyenoord were just as wasteful when Van Hooijdonk scooped the ball over after Patrick Paauwe's knockdown from a Robin van Persie cross. That was at the start of a first half where Van Marwijk's men took the game to the home team as predicted. The coach then felt his side "became too nonchalant as we were too comfortable". He continued: "We started to lose the ball and give Inter the chance to create, so basically we were inviting them on to us. I had warned the players about this and was annoyed with them."
Inter will hope Feyenoord fall into the same trap in the return - when coach Héctor Cúper may finally use the likes of Ronaldo, Alvaro Recoba, Clarence Seedorf and Cristiano Zanetti from the start. But can they expect suddenly to turn on the style against a Feyenoord side who are starting to believe this is their year after two European semi-final defeats in the 1990s?
"We didn't get a result tonight, but I think we can go there and make a game of it," Cúper insisted. "Feyenoord have a lot of good players who can hit you on the break with their pace. But our form is good and we will go to Holland looking to win."
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.