It was 20:31 CET on 28 May 1997 when referee Sandor Puhl blew his whistle to signal the start of the UEFA Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund and Juventus at Munich's Olympiastadion. Exactly 95 minutes and 45 seconds later, the Black & Yellows were celebrating the greatest success in their history.
Juventus were favourites ahead of the fifth UEFA Champions League final –or the 42nd final of the European Cup, as the competition was previously known – and were looking to defend the title they had won by beating Dutch outfit Ajax 4-2 in a penalty shootout at the Stadio Olympico in Rome a year earlier.
The Italians were one of the giants of the continental game at the time and had claimed five wins and a draw in their group to beat Manchester United to top spot, before defeating Rosenheim in the quarter-finals (1-1 draw away, 2-0 win at home) and the previous year's runner-up Ajax in the last four (2-1 win away, 4-1 win at home). Borussia Dortmund, meanwhile, claimed four victories, one draw and one defeat to finish the group stage level on points with Atlético Madrid – although the Spaniards claimed pole position thanks to their superior goal difference – before dispatching Auxerre (1-0 win away, 3-1 win at home) and Manchester United (1-0 win away, 1-0 win at home) in the knockout stages.
It was the seventh meeting between the two clubs since May 1993. However, the Black & Yellows had only claimed one victory in that four-year period – in a dead rubber – and had otherwise amassed four defeats and one draw (2-2 in the 1995 UEFA Cup semi-final).
Several BVB players suffered the heartbreak of not starting the final, including long-term captain Zorc, Tretschok – who had scored the winner in the 1-0 victory at home to Manchester United – and Feiersinger, who had been an outstanding stand-in for Sammer throughout the competition but didn't even make the four-man bench in Munich.
The match – watched by 59,000 spectators, including over 30,000 BVB fans – began as many expected, with Borussia predominantly on the defensive and looking rather hampered and harried, though they did manage to free themselves from Juve's grip from time to time. One such incident came in the opening stages when Chapuisat beat Di Livio on the left flank but full-back Juliano deflected Riedle's cross behind for a corner.
Lambert initially struggled to keep Zidane in check, with the Frenchman launching wave after wave of attack from midfield. One of them culminated in Jugovic and Reuter colliding near the penalty spot following a Vieri cross, but referee Puhl waved away the penalty appeals. The Italians came close from a set-piece in the fourth minute but Juliano headed Zidane's corner wide, before Vieri hit the side-netting a short while later.
Nevertheless, the Black & Yellows weathered the early Juventus storm and managed to slow the game down around the 15-minute mark. Their attacks might have lacked the usual fluidity, but their lightning-quick counters certainly seemed to be their most promising route to goal. And the fact that the team worked tirelessly and threw themselves into every tackle as if it were the last goes without saying.
The breakthrough came on the 29-minute mark, when the Italians headed one of Dortmund's counter-attacks behind for a corner. Möller took the set-piece and lofted the ball into the box, where it was punched clear by Peruzzi towards the right flank. Lambert gathered the ball and floated a chipped cross back into the danger zone, where Riedle chested it down and fired home with his left foot from the edge of the six-yard box to put the Black & Yellows 1-0 ahead. The goalscorer had beaten two Italians to the ball in the build-up to the goal and left shot-stopper Peruzzi no chance. Astonishingly, it was the 11th match of the 1996/97 Champions League campaign in which BVB had claimed the first goal. Of the ten previous clashes, they had won eight, drawn one and lost one. Juve were behind for the first time – and were about to be punished from another corner.
Chapuisat forced it following a one-two with Möller, who made his way over to the left wing to take the set-piece. It was Riedle who again got to the ball first, directing a powerful header from eight metres beyond Peruzzi to leave the favourites staring defeat in the face with 34 minutes on the clock.
Juventus responded with a spate of dangerous attacks – Zidane hit the upright from 17 metres out and Vieri's goal was disallowed for handball – but Borussia Dortmund survived thanks to a combination of luck, skill and fighting spirit and went in two goals to the good at the interval.
Riedle headed Möller's free-kick narrowly wide early into the second period, before Klos made a spectacular save to deny a low and powerful Boksic strike and then parried a deflected and looping effort from Vieri onto the crossbar. Among the Dortmund ranks, the players urged for calm.
In the 64th minute, however, they could not prevent Juve from pulling one back. Boksic got the better of Heinrich down the left wing and, although the cross seemed to have been played too far behind substitute Del Piero, the young striker pulled off a beautiful backflick to steer the ball past Klos and into the BVB net.
Borussia Dortmund, though, responded in style. Hitzfeld opted to bring on Ricken to replace the exhausted Chapuisat in the 70th minute of the match. Juve resumed play with a throw-in but before Boksic could get to the ball, Sousa had nipped in to steal it and played a lightning-quick ball forward to Möller. Spotting the gap in the Juventus rearguard, the midfield man played the perfect through-ball into the path of the sprinting Ricken, who noticed out of the corner of his eye that Peruzzi was some distance off his line and chipped the Italian custodian from a centre-right position 26 metres from goal. The ball dipped into the top corner. A dream goal to round off the perfect counter! Ricken had been on the pitch for just eight seconds. Eight seconds!
RTL commentator Marcel Reif, who had shouted "lob him, now!" a split-second before Ricken pulled the trigger, said: "This is a fairytale. This kind of stuff just doesn't happen. The brothers Grimm will be turning in their grave."
There was to be no fairytale comeback for Juventus in the remaining quarter of an hour and the match ended 3-1. The two-goal margin was too much to overturn, even for Italy's record champions, and the Black and Yellows saw out the victory to claim their greatest-ever success in their 100th game at European level.
There was some brief hesitation before the awards ceremony. As long-term captain Zorc had only been substituted on in the 89th minute, it was Sammer who wore the armband. The team urged Zorc onto the podium to be the first one to lift the trophy, but he hesitated – that is, until Sammer told him: "Get up there and finally lift the thing!"
BVB VS JUVENTUS 3-1 (2-0) on 28/05/1997
Borussia Dortmund: Klos – Kohler, Sammer, Kree – Reuter, Lambert, Sousa, Heinrich – Möller (Zorc, 89) – Riedle (Herrlich, 67), Chapuisat (Ricken, 70)
Juventus: Peruzzi – Porrini (Del Piero, 46), Ferrara, Montero, Juliano – Deschamps – Di Livio, Zidane Jugovic – Vieri (Amoruso, 71), Boksic (Tacchinardi, 87)
Substitutes: De Beer, Tretschok – Rampulla, Pessotto
Goals: 1-0 Riedle (Lambert, 29), 2-0 Riedle (Möller corner, 34), 2-1 Del Piero (Boksic, 66), 3-1 Ricken (Möller, 71)
Referee: Puhl (Hungary)
Yellow cards: Sousa, Ricken – Porrini, Juliano
Attendance: 59,000 in Munich's Olympiastadion (sold-out)