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A look back

A stellar occasion with a shining star

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More than 20 years ago, in April 2002, Borussia Dortmund and AC Milan faced each other in the semi-finals of the then UEFA Cup. BVB enjoyed a "stellar occasion with a shining star" in the first leg ; only to then endure anxious moments in the second leg...

"Glittered like Real Madrid, with the ice-cold winning mentality of Bayern Munich,'' was how the Westfälische Rundschau described a legendary Dortmund performance, one of the most perfect in club history. "Perhaps level with the 4-0 win in Prague or the 5-0 win against Benfica,'' recalled the former Ruhr-Nachrichten editor Klaus Bäcker, drawing comparisons with results from way back in the early days of European competition. The Black & Yellows' 4-0 win over AC Milan inspired awe in Dortmund and drew plaudits across the whole footballing world. Milan's captain, a certain Paulo Maldini, needed just a single word to describe proceedings: "Dismal." 

The magazine kicker handed out top notes for a Black & Yellow team at full strength, but with one notable shining star in its ranks on that 4 April 2002: Marcio Amoroso. "A footballer that exists on the boundary between genius and madness, one who can provoke intense fury in a whole stadium with his arrogant style of play, but who can also captivate and bewitch through his artistry with the ball and his goalscoring ability,'' said the Westfälische Rundschau. Amoroso earned a penalty early on, which he himself converted to open the scoring. Not long afterwards, he grabbed his second with a "Goal of the Year" contender, then he scored with a header to make it a hat-trick. These were Borussia's fifth, sixth and seventh goals of their European campaign – Amoroso was involved in all of them. "He does things that no-one else can,'' said an awestruck Michael Zorc, BVB's sporting director at the time. 

The Black & Yellows' 137th match in European competition was a stellar occasion with a bright star: Amoroso's hat-trick (8/34/39) had even the usually reserved BVB coach Matthias Sammer gushing with praise: "Amoroso was our game winner in the first half. The man of the hour was rather more matter-of-fact about things: "I'm a striker. I have to score goals. Dortmund bought me to score goals."

"These 90 minutes will be etched in the memory of our fans, not just because of the result against a great opposition, but also because of the fight and technical ability displayed by the team," said Dr Gerd Niebaum, the president at the time. But the 90 minutes after that, in the second leg, proved equally unforgettable. In a sun-splashed San Siro with only 15,000 fans in attendance, it looked like BVB had a comfortable cushion. But the lead was soon whittled away. After 18 minutes, goals from Inzaghi and Contra had brought the score to 4-2 on aggregate. And as if that wasn't enough stress: Jens Lehmann got extremely lucky when he let a Kaladze shot slip through his legs, only for the ball to take a slight deflection off the back of his heel to send it past the upright. It would have been Milan's third goal in the space of half an hour. Fortunately, Dortmund got a grip on the game before it was too late. An Inzaghi penalty in injury time was answered by a Lars Ricken goal for the final score of 3-1. The Black & Yellows could breathe a sigh of relief, they had reached the UEFA Cup final in Rotterdam...
Boris Rupert