MILAN – Can you dance in the mud? Yes. Can you glide between opponents on a pitch at the limit of playability that’s covered in sawdust, frost and mud? Yes, if you’re known as El Fenomeno. On 14 April 1998 it was cold in Moscow, very cold. The snow had been shovelled to the edge of the pitch, but the field at Dynamo's stadium still didn’t have a single blade of grass on it: only mud and sawdust. And progression to the UEFA Cup final was at stake.
In the first leg, at San Siro, Inter had beaten Spartak Moscow 2-1, but the second leg had started in the worst possible way: Tikhonov’s goal meant the hosts would progress as things stood. However, coach Romanstev’s team’s blistering start was frozen by Ronaldo’s equaliser in the 44th minute as he opportunistically poked home a rebound to make it 1-1.
Although, that wasn’t enough to be safe and sound. However, with 15 minutes to go before the final whistle, El Fenomeno scored one of his most legendary goals. With it he demonstrated all his skill and class on a pitch on which it was almost impossible to play football: he controlled a ball played into him, spun his man, dribbled, played a one-two with Zamorano, slipped between two defenders, rounded the ‘keeper and calmly slotted home. All done with disarming ease and grace.
Not only was it a beautiful goal, but it was important in sending Inter through to the final in Paris where they would go on to win the third UEFA cup in the Club’s history on 6 May.