"Ajax were a different class." Thomas Helmer
AFC Ajax's youthful attacking juggernaut had wowed everybody in cruising to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals but surely this, an encounter with classy, well-oiled FC Bayern München, would be a stretch too far? The Amsterdam outfit proved otherwise, leaving the German giants back on the grid as they raced away – they were soon out of sight.
A goalless first leg draw a fortnight earlier demonstrated that the Dutch side could be kept in check, but nothing would hold them back after Jari Litmanen broke the deadlock with an 11th-minute header. Marcel Witeczek surprisingly levelled on 36 minutes, climbing above Danny Blind and Frank Rijkaard, the only members of the home side over 25, to nod in, yet by half-time cavalier Ajax were disappearing into the distance.
Finidi George's thunderous strike raised the noise levels among the 45,000 fans at Ajax's European home, the Olympisch Stadion (these were pre-Amsterdam ArenA days). When Ronald de Boer made it 3-1 just before the interval it was deafening. "The equaliser was a setback, showing Bayern's strength," said Ajax coach Louis van Gaal. "But it is a measure of the class in this Ajax side that the team did not lose confidence, but just kept on going. By half-time the match was done."
If there was any doubt Litmanen vanquished it within seconds of the restart as he converted his second of the night and sixth of the campaign. Bayern battled gamely, and Mehmet Scholl pulled one back from the penalty spot, but fittingly Ajax had the last word two minutes from time as Patrick Kluivert teed up Marc Overmars to seal a famous 5-2 triumph. "Ajax were like a Porsche," rued Bayern chairman Franz Beckenbauer, "we were like a Tin Snail [Citroën 2CV]."