For the last time the UEFA Cup final was played in its traditional two-legged format and was won by a club in a European showpiece for the first time, FC Schalke 04 beating FC Internazionale Milano on penalties after a tight tie.
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FC Schalke 04 1-0 FC Internazionale Milano
FC Internazionale Milano 1-0 FC Schalke 04
(agg: 1-1 aet, Schalke win 4-1 on penalties)
Sixty-four teams entered the first round of the 1996/97 UEFA Cup: 29 preliminary round winners; 27 clubs that had been given byes; and eight UEFA Champions League qualifying round losers. But when the dust settled on the competition's changing landscape, three of the four semi-finalists were sides bidding for a first podium finish: AS Monaco FC, CD Tenerife and FC Schalke 04. The other were no strangers to this sort of stage, FC Internazionale Milano.
Roy Hodgson's Nerazzurri might have needed penalties to get past Grazer AK, but they were otherwise untroubled by EA Guingamp, Boavista FC and RSC Anderlecht. Nor did Monaco cause them much discomfiture in the last four, losing 3-1 at San Siro before a consolatory single-goal victory in the Principality.
The other semi-final pitted unsung Schalke against another team seldom found on European football's hymn sheet, Tenerife. It was a close encounter which Huub Stevens' men won 2-1 after extra time in Gelsenkirchen. Home advantage also told for Schalke in the final first leg, Marc Wilmot's goal giving them a slender lead to take to Italy, and for 84 minutes in Milan, it seemed this would be enough. But then up popped Inter's Chilean, Iván Zamorano, to level the scores. Extra time segued into penalties where it was the German side who kept their nerve to win through 4-1.