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Juve's happy returns

Juventus FC took to the UEFA Champions League like a duck to water in 1995/96.

By Paul Saffer

Having looked on as AC Milan reached three successive UEFA Champions League finals in the 1990s, Juventus FC, led then as now by Marcello Lippi, took to the reformed competition like a duck to water when they lifted the European crown in 1995/96.

Inauspicious start 
Qualifying by winning Serie A for the first time in nine years, Juventus's opening Champions League campaign could not have got off to a worse start as, 37 seconds into their Group C opener at BV Borussia Dortmund, Andreas Möller scored against his old club. However, it was more a sign of things to come when Michele Padovano, Alessandro Del Piero and Antonio Conte responded to secure victory for Juve.

Swift progress 
Progress was then swift: the Bianconeri beating FC Steaua Bucuresti 3-0 and Rangers FC 4-1, before triumphing 4-0 in Glasgow to win the section. A 2-1 home defeat by Dortmund followed but Juventus still finished four points clear of the Germans after drawing their last group match 0-0 in Bucharest.

Madrid showdown 
Awaiting Juventus in the quarter-finals were the European Champion Clubs' Cup's past masters, Real Madrid CF. In a premonition of this season's semi-final, Madrid won the first leg but fell in Turin. Raúl González, then just 18, scored to give Madrid a 1-0 success at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Padovano winner 
That was not enough to deny Juventus, however. Del Piero claimed his sixth goal of the competition 17 minutes into the return, and then early in the second half Padovano put the home side ahead. Madrid hit the post three minutes from time, but Juve hung on.

Vialli on target 
FC Nantes Atlantique were Juventus's semi-final opponents. This time the Bianconeri were at home first and second-half goals from Gianluca Vialli and Vladimir Jugovic earned them a 2-0 lead in the tie. Vialli scored again 17 minutes into the return, but that effort was cancelled out by Eddy Capron just before half-time. Paulo Sousa restored Juve's advantage not long after the break, and while Japhet N'Doram and Franck Renou struck back for Nantes, Juventus ran out 4-3 aggregate winners.

Rome final 
The Bianconeri did not have far to travel for the final as Rome's Stadio Olimpico was the venue for their meeting with AFC Ajax - conquerors of Milan the previous season. Against an Ajax side featuring future Juve star Edgar Davids, Lippi's team made the perfect start when Fabrizio Ravanelli shot them ahead in the 13th minute. But Jari Litmanen equalised on 41 minutes, and just as Ciro Ferrara stifled the Ajax attack after that, so Dutch keeper Edwin van der Sar - another destined for the Delle Alpi - dealt with all the Italian champions could throw at him. Penalties ensued.

Penalties triumph 
Ironically, it was Davids, along with Sonny Silooy, who missed the Ajax spot-kicks as Ferrara, Gianluca Pessotto, Padovano and Jugovic held their nerve to hand Juventus a 4-2 shoot-out victory. It was the club's second European Cup win, claimed under happier circumstances than the victory against Liverpool FC eleven years before.

Repeat chance
Juventus might have gone on to lose the next two finals – revenge proving sweet for both Dortmund and Madrid – but they can now repeat the triumph against the only other side to have progressed to the Champions League's showpiece four times, Milan.