Something had to give at the Feijenoord stadium tonight, and unfortunately for BV Borussia Dortmund it was their hopes of a third European trophy. The new German champions failed to join Juventus FC, AFC Ajax and FC Bayern München as winners of all three UEFA cup competitions, losing a dramatic UEFA Cup final 3-2 to Feyenoord.
The irony, however, was that Dortmund's bid to make history had been scuppered by their most experienced player, Jürgen Kohler. The 36-year-old's dismissal arguably cost his team the chance of victory. Kohler had been sold short by Lars Ricken's pass when he brought down Jon Dahl Tomasson to concede a 32nd-minute penalty - but this was no consolation to the former FIFA World Cup winner on his last senior appearance.
"I wouldn't say it was a bitter end to my career because I've had too good a career for that but I do think it was a small blemish on my track record," Kohler said afterwards. "However, you have to live with it because that's the way it goes in sport. I've got to give credit to the team and the fans for the way we played with ten men. It shows the team are a strong unit and I'm optimistic about their future."
The Dortmund coach, Matthias Sammer, said: "Kohler feels terrible. He would have liked a different way of bowing out." Pierre van Hooijdonk made it a "double punishment" when he rifled home his seventh UEFA Cup goal from the spot. "It is debatable whether you should give away a penalty and then lose a player for such an offence," continued Sammer. When Van Hooijdonk's magnificent seven became eight soon after, courtesy of a trademark free-kick, Dortmund were looking at another sort of treble. Rivals Bayern and Hamburger SV had both lost European finals in Rotterdam.
'Nothing to lose'
Having gone in 2-0 down at half-time, Dortmund rallied. Marcio Amoroso converted from the spot after his fall under Patrick Paauwe's challenge prompted referee Vitor Manuel Melo Pereira to level the penalty count. "At half-time the coach told us, 'Let's just go for it, we've got nothing to lose'," said Tomáš Rosicky, one of the night's most impressive performers.
Tomasson's goodbye gift
On 50 minutes, however, the Milan AC-bound Jon Dahl Tomasson, another player making a farewell appearance, scored after the Dortmund defence left him all alone to finish off Shinji Ono's good work. "I'm going to Italy now and I'm very happy to have won the UEFA Cup as a way of saying goodbye," the Dane said. "We have done something good for Dutch football - I've had four good years in Holland and winning the cup is great for myself and the club."
Spirit and stamina
Not quite how Sammer saw it. "We showed spirit and stamina to get it back to 2-1 but suddenly made a stupid mistake," the German coach said. "I would like to congratulate Feyenoord for winning the match, but I believe that we gave them the goals. It was our fault and we did not find our proper playing style in the first half." While a rueful Ricken added: "I take the blame for the third goal."
Jan Koller did hint at the style that had brought the championship to the Westfalenstadion with a superb second for Dortmund - returning Kees van Wonderen's poor headed clearance with interest. Then Rosicky began to drive at the Feyenoord rearguard from midfield, making for a nervous, if exciting, finale where either side might have added to the scoring. The Feyenoord coach, Bert van Marwijk, said: "Twice in the match I began to think victory was ours but it was very difficult for us. We wanted to put them under pressure with the extra man but suddenly we had pressure against us. We really had to battle until the very end."
The "inspirational" Van Hooijdonk could even have grabbed a third. Still, "it was a fantastic result and a fantastic day," according to Van Marwijk. And one capped by a rather more prominent hat-trick - Feyenoord's third European trophy, their first since 1974.
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