Milan win second title in third final
Monday, September 1, 2014
AC Milan 4-1 AFC Ajax
Nereo Rocco's Italian side were too strong for their Dutch opponents in Madrid, Pierino Prati's hat-trick helping them to their second trophy in three attempts.
Article top media content
With the brilliant Gianni Rivera to the fore and a hat-trick from Pierino Prati, AC Milan had too much for AFC Ajax at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, though the supreme talent of Johann Cruyff gave a taste of things to come.
Prati opened the scoring for the Rossoneri in the first ten minutes and put them 2-0 up with a piledriver on 40, Rivera providing the deftest of lay-offs. Although Ajax reduced the deficit briefly with a penalty on the hour mark, Angelo Sormani put the match beyond doubt just seven minutes later, before Prati completed his treble on with a quarter of an hour left.
Milan were favourites to take the trophy, having beaten the last two winners of the competition – conceding just one goal per tie – en route to the final. They started confidently – Rivera very much the creator-in-chief from the outset and Prati hitting the post within a minute of the kick-off.
It therefore came as no surprise when the latter made the breakthrough six minutes later, sending a looping header over the helpless Gerrit Bals from a firm cross by Sormani.
The match had become an open, end-to-end affair in which both sides moved the ball around well, Cruyff looking particularly sharp for the Amsterdammers, when Rivera instigated the move of the night.
Picking up the ball on the half-volley just outside his own penalty area, he flicked on over an incoming opponent before feeding Sormani perfectly on the left wing. The Milan No9 carried the ball into the opposition half before feeding his skipper again who, taking two Dutch defenders out of the equation, squirted a spinning back-heel to Prati, giving him time and space to pick his target and hit the back stanchion of Bals's goal.
Starting the second half brightly, Ajax continued to put pressure on the Italians, and reduced the deficit on 60 minutes when Piet Keizer was fouled by Giovanni Lodetti on the edge of the Milan box. With Velibor Vasović converting from the spot, it seemed – all too briefly, as it turned out – as if a comeback could be on.
Just as from the kick-off, it only took seven minutes for Milan to dent Dutch hopes. Involved in the first two goals, it was Sordani's turn to get on the scoresheet this time around. Collecting the ball just inside his own half, he powered forward, cut inside and let fly a fearsome left-footed shot into the bottom corner of the Dutch goal.
A flowing team move put the icing on the cake, Rivera rounding the keeper having sprung the Ajax offside trap with a clever one-two. As Ajax poured back, the Milan captain stood the ball up brilliantly behind two defenders, leaving Prati an easy nod into the net to complete his hat-trick.
With a solid defence, a creative midfield and prolific strikers, there could be no doubt that Milan were deservedly champions of the continent on this occasion. But it would not be long before Ajax tasted European success of their own.