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Road to Rotterdam: Feyenoord

Some may say fate has led Feyenoord to the UEFA Cup final in Rotterdam.

Feyenoord, like their UEFA Cup final opponents BV Borussia Dortmund, began their European season in another competition - but perhaps, with the showpiece match being played at their own stadium, it was fate that led the Rotterdam side to the 8 May finale.

UEFA Champions League exit
As 2000/01 Eredivisie runners-up, Feyenoord progressed straight to the UEFA Champions League first group stage, where they were drawn to play holders FC Bayern München, AC Sparta Praha and FC Spartak Moscow. Failure to win any of their first five matches, of which three were lost, ended Feyenoord's hopes of progression. However, the first inkling of that dream home final came with a 2-1 beating of Spartak in their last game that took them into third place and the UEFA Cup.

Third round
Germans SC Freiburg awaited in the third round, and were beaten 1-0 by an injury-weakened Feyenoord in their home first leg, courtesy of a late half-volley from Shinji Ono. In the return, however, things began badly for the visitors, Freiburg taking the lead in the tie in the 49th minute when Levan Kobiashvili's penalty added to Sebastian Kehl's opener. Eight minutes later, though, Pierre van Hooijdonk's spectacular free-kick from 30 metres
out by the touchline put Feyenoord ahead on away goals and substitute Vitor Santiago's late equaliser ejected Freiburg 3-2 on aggregate.

Fourth round
In February's fourth round Feyenoord faced more tricky opposition in Scotland's Rangers FC, a side well familiar to Van Hooijdonk from his days with their Glasgow rivals Celtic FC. As expected, both legs proved to be tight. Feyenoord travelled to Ibrox for the first match, and took the lead just after the hour when Ono's shot deflected in off Rangers' Bert Konterman, though Barry Ferguson's late penalty left the tie finely balanced. Neil McCann opened the scoring in Rotterdam for Rangers, but Van
Hooijdonk proved to be the hero against his ex-city foes, scoring twice in the first half to put his side 2-1 ahead. Bonaventure Kalou then extended Feyenoord's lead, and although Ferguson pulled one back with another spot kick on 54 minutes, the home team held on for a 4-3 aggregate triumph.

The all-Dutch quarter final against PSV Eindhoven proved another knife-edge affair. Van Hooijdonk's goal just before half-time put them ahead at the Philips Stadium, and although Mateja Kezman equalised for PSV soon after the break, the Rotterdam side had the initiative going into their home leg. However, with 15 minutes left of the return, Mark van Bommel put PSV ahead, a lead they held as the match entered injury time. But yet again van
Hooijdonk was Feyenoord's hero, levelling the scores seconds from the final whistle. There were no goals in extra time, forcing a penalty shoot-out, which Feyenoord won 5-4, Edwin Zoetebier saving George Gakhokidze's spot kick before - inevitably - van Hooijdonk hit the decisive strike.

Compared to that excitement, the semi-final against Internazionale FC was a relatively comfortable affair, at least until the dying seconds. Feyenoord stunned the Serie A contenders in Milan with a 1-0 away victory, Inter missing countless chances before Ivan Cordoba's own goal condemned them to defeat. With a home final now in touching distance, Feyenoord seemed to be
even more certain of progress when van Hooijdonk's sixth goal of the competition and Jon Dahl Tomasson's strike put them 2-0 up 34 minutes into the second leg. The score remained until six minutes from the end, when Cristiano Zanetti's goal gave Inter hope, and Mohamed Kallon's injury-time penalty brought the Italians to within sight of an unlikely comeback. However, Feyenoord had mere seconds to hang on for a 3-2 aggregate win.