Cup Winners’ Cup Final - May 13th 1998
All the talk before the Cup Winners’ Cup Final against Stuttgart was whether talismanic striker Gianfranco Zola would recover from a severe groin strain in time to face the Germans. Three weeks of intensive treatment in his native Italy helped Zola sufficiently for him to be named in the team as a substitute. It turned out to be a miracle recovery in every way.
The game started quietly with few chances for either team. Roberto Di Matteo scuffed a shot wide and Ed de Goey saved well. At half time we made the minor changes that helped to win the game. Di Matteo sat deeper and this enabled Dennis Wise to move forward and he began to dominate the game.
Even so, we were unable to create a clear cut chance and eventually Zola was asked to prepare for action. Within seconds of replacing the tiring Tore Andre Flo, Zola controlled the ball with his first touch. With his second he was tackled. The ball broke to Wise who played a precision pass back to Zola who had continued his run. With his third touch of the ball, just 17 seconds after entering the pitch, the Italian genius slammed the ball into the roof of the net.
Stuttgart were a beaten team and even after the bizarre sending off of Dan Petrescu, failed to threaten an equaliser. As the final whistle sounded Gianluca Vialli became the first player-manager to win a European competition and for three days we were the holders of three major trophies.