Watch this masterly 1998 UEFA Champions League semi-final showing on UEFA.tv – and get some background here.
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Juventus and Monaco went into this 1997/98 UEFA Champions League semi-final opener with star-studded starting lineups, but who would be the stand-out performer on the night in Turin?WATCH IN FULL
The April Fools' Day joke in the Italian papers ahead of the French champions' visit was that Juventus ace Alessandro Del Piero would miss the game through injury. In truth, he was fit and raring to go as Juve targeted a third straight UEFA Champions League final, although the arrival of a Monaco team boasting Thierry Henry, David Trezeguet and Fabien Barthez required that Marcello Lippi's side be at their best. The Monégasques had eliminated Manchester United in the last round. Would Juve be next?
• Alessandro Del Piero: At 23, the Juventus 'fantasista' was already regarded as one of the greatest players in Europe, being nominated for the Ballon d'Or in 1997. 'Pinturicchio' (the Little Artist) was a creative genius and set-piece master – and he could score goals too.
• Zinédine Zidane: Named as 1996/97's best foreign player in Serie A following his first Italian campaign, the Frenchman played brilliantly just behind Del Piero. The future Real Madrid 'galáctico' (and coach) would scoop the Ballon d'Or for 1998 after leading France to FIFA World Cup glory.
• Fabien Barthez: At 1.80m tall, Barthez was on the small side for a goalkeeper, but the Frenchman had the personality and athleticism to stand tall in any company. The archetypal sweeper-keeper claimed the Yashin Award for his exploits at the 1998 World Cup.
Juventus found the opening blow in breathtaking fashion, Del Piero taking a free-kick from range just after the half-hour mark and sending it flying into the top corner of Barthez's net. However, there are no extra marks for beauty, and his strike was cancelled out just before the break by a more functional effort, Costinha's deflected attempt punishing Juve for failing to clear a corner.
Even so, Juventus drove forward from the restart, and Barthez fouled France team-mate Zidane in the area, allowing Del Piero to make it 2-1 with the last kick of the half. It was the turning point; the Old Lady bossed the second half, Del Piero completing his treble with a second penalty before teeing up Zidane to score what was Juve's 500th goal in European competition.
Alessandro Del Piero, Juventus forward: "It was great for me, scoring four goals over the two legs of a UEFA Champions League semi-final, including three in one game; that's as good as it gets. Monaco were a strong and experienced team, but we were ready. They couldn't surprise us as we were ready for anything. I was playing for an extremely strong side, with my team-mates all helping me to play at my very best. We were a united block."
Stéphane Carnot, Monaco midfielder: "At 3-1 down, we had a few chances to make it 3-2, which could have changed things in a double-header, but we conceded their fourth to Zidane at the very end. At that point, we knew it was over. Recovering from three goals down is not easy at the best of times, but against an Italian team, especially in that era, it was just impossible."
Elsewhere that night
Reigning European champions Borussia Dortmund were given warning that this season would not be theirs as they travelled to the Santiago Bernabéu for the first leg of their semi-final; Fernando Morientes and Christian Karembeu got the unanswered Merengues goals. Kick-off was delayed by over an hour after home fans pulled down one of the goals – Madrid had to bring in a replacement from their training ground.
Monaco had a go in the second leg, but a 3-2 win was not enough to prevent Juventus reaching a third successive UEFA Champions League final – and suffering a second straight final defeat, 1-0 to Real Madrid in Amsterdam. It was a blow, but Juve had won their 25th Serie A title that season, and there was further joy for Didier Deschamps and Zidane, who were among the heroes of France's triumphant 1998 World Cup campaign – along with Monaco's Barthez, Trezeguet and Henry.
Juventus's luck in UEFA Champions League finals has yet to turn, however – they have lost their last five – and Monaco have some idea of how that must feel. Ex-Juve midfielder Deschamps steered them to their only UEFA Champions League final to date in 2004, but they were no match for José Mourinho's Porto in Gelsenkirchen, losing 3-0.