Final memories raise the stakes
28.3 || Seamus
AFC Ajax and AC Milan's UEFA Champions League quarter-final meeting will see the sides facing each other for the first time in competitive action since the 1995 final.
Then, on a nervous May night in Vienna, Patrick Kluivert's goal in the 85th minute was enough to give Ajax the trophy. It was actually the third time that the Dutch club had triumphed against their Serie A rivals that season, with Ajax winning 2-0 in two group stage meetings.
Despite a young squad boasting some of Europe's rising stars, this latest Ajax team, double winners in the Netherlands last season, have proved they can live with the best by coming through Group B, a pool that also featured fellow quarter-finalists Valencia CF along with the might of Arsenal FC and AS Roma.
Arie van Eijden, Ajax chief executive, said his team were "looking forward" to meeting Milan, especially as the club had already surpassed all its expectations for the season. "The goal was to try to get to the second phase, which we achieved," said Van Eijden. "Nobody thought Ajax could have come to the quarter final as well."
Wait and see:
However, Van Eijden added that the goal now was to get as far as possible. "The team is growing in their performances and gaining experience, he said. "They are now doing very well." When asked whether his team could repeat that triumph in 1995, he added: "Let's see what the future will give."
Milan have won the European Champion Clubs' Cup on five occasions, one more than Ajax. The first meeting of the two clubs came back in the 1969 final, when Milan triumphed 4-0 in Madrid thanks in part to Pierino Prati's hat-trick.
One win each:
Adriano Galliani, the Milan president, was well aware of the two previous finals between the two clubs. "I've both good and bad memories of Ajax, in 1969 and 1995. I hope this time there will be a happy ending," he told the club's official website.
However, Galliani was happy with the draw, not least because Milan were not paired with Internazionale FC or Juventus FC. "We have avoided to face another Italian team and I'm extremely happy," he said. "We have the possibility to have three Italian teams in the semi-finals."
Another reason for his confidence was the way Milan cruised through the second group stage. They won their first four games in Group C, including a 1-0 success at home against holders Real Madrid CF, to qualify in some style. In the quarter-finals, Milan will travel to the Amsterdam ArenA for the first leg on Tuesday 8 April before playing host to Ajax at San Siro on Wednesday 23 April.
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