"I hardly forget any of my goals, especially the ones on special nights like this. It was just beautiful." Filippo Inzaghi
The 24-year-old Filippo Inzaghi arrived in the Ukrainian capital with question marks persisting over whether he could hack it with the big boys; his performance against FC Dynamo Kyiv vanquished those doubts for good.
Inzaghi was snapped up by Juventus after amassing 24 league goals for Atalanta BC in 1996/97, but there was an impression that his scoring feats were achieved with the pressure off. How would he perform with sights set higher, when scoring and winning were expected, not merely hoped for? Here he responded emphatically, leaving with ambitions realised, a UEFA Champions League semi-final in the offing and the match ball.
"You don't know Inzaghi that well yet," said Juve coach Marcello Lippi after the 4-1 victory. "Sometimes you don't notice him, he may look like he is not involved in the game, but all of a sudden he scores; he is lethal in front of the goal." Dynamo had received warning with the wiry striker's predatory goal in the 1-1 first-leg draw a fortnight earlier in Turin, but failed to heed it.
Inzaghi put the visitors in front on 29 minutes after a magical pass by Zinédine Zidane, intentionally slicing a long ball over the defence and into the forward's path. Talk of the relative crisis three successive draws had brought seemed far removed, but returned with Serhiy Rebrov's equaliser soon after the restart.
This was Inzaghi's night, however, as he scored two quick headers from corners midway through the half to complete his hat-trick. He celebrated in the manner that would become so familiar, sprinting towards the corner flag with arms stretched angelically and his face contorted into an ethereal scream.
"If you don't score for a few games at Juve you are immediately under scrutiny," Inzaghi said after Alessandro Del Piero had made it 4-1 two minutes from time. "I want to enjoy this great evening for a few days now and I will always remember the hug from my team-mates after the final whistle." It would not be his last.