1994/95: Kluivert strikes late for Ajax

With an average age of just 23, Louis van Gaal's AFC Ajax surprisingly denied AC Milan a second successive UEFA Champions League title, with substitute Patrick Kluivert's late goal in Vienna enough to take the trophy to Amsterdam.

"You never play at your best – the tension is too high," recalled Louis van Gaal as he told UEFA.com about how he led AFC Ajax to UEFA Champions League final glory in 1995.

AFC Ajax 1-0 AC Milan
(Kluivert 84)
Ernst-Happel-Stadion, Vienna

In 1994/95, the UEFA Champions League took another step down the road to a European super league. While the group stage expanded to four mini-leagues of four, replacing the first and second rounds, entry to the competition was limited to the continent's top 24 countries. And while the big boys (eight of them) were seeded directly into the round robin, the other 16 champion clubs had to go through a preliminary round.

However, results went against the so-called giants of the game. IFK Göteborg claimed Group A at the expense of FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC; Paris Saint-Germain FC beat FC Bayern München to top spot in Group B; and HNK Hajduk Split, second to SL Benfica in Group C, were the third qualifier to reach the last eight.

Meanwhile, AFC Ajax struck a further blow for the Davids with home and away successes against holders and Group D favourites Milan AC. The Dutch side then clinched a semi-final meeting with Bayern, seeing off Hajduk in a two-legged quarter-final. The tie was a throwback to the 1970s, and Ajax provided the total football, winning 5-2 in Amsterdam after a Munich stalemate.

But if Louis van Gaal's talented tyros (average age 23) were to follow in the footsteps of Cruyff and Co, they would have to overcome Milan a third time. The Rossoneri's class and experience had been too much for Benfica and PSG in the knockout phase - yet the elder statesmen were found wanting in the Vienna final. Worn down by Ajax's young legs, they eventually succumbed to a late goal by substitute Patrick Kluivert.

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