Football: Boli's bravura earns Marseille place in history: French find the killer touch at last as Milan show fallibility in the European Cup final

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Milan. . . . .0

Marseille. . .1

THE forehead of Basile Boli, best known to British audiences for the damage it inflicted on Stuart Pearce's face in Sweden a year ago, will go down in history for altogether more wholesome reasons after a tense and absorbing European Cup final in the Olympic stadium here last night.

Boli's goal on the stroke of half-time did more than bring Marseille the trophy for the first time at the expense of the favourites, Milan. It also broke France's inexplicable duck in Continental competition 38 long years after they pioneered the concept.

While Marseille's jour de gloire had finally arrived - with the sumptuous irony, in view of race relations in their home city, of the hero being a player from the Ivory Coast - Milan were left with the scant consolation of knowing that a point on Sunday at home to Brescia will guarantee their return to the tournament next season.

The match had been widely billed as the meeting of the moguls - Bernard Tapie against Silvio Berlusconi - but they were as helpless as the 'ordinary' supporters who had converged on the Bavarian capital for the most eagerly awaited final in years. Jean-Pierre Papin also had a watching brief to begin with, the pounds 10m former Marseille striker having been left on the bench in an awesome demonstration of Milan's resources. But if the French champions were intimidated, it did not show in a tit-for-tat opening.

Marseille had frozen in their previous final - quite an achievement in balmy Bari - but despite starting with Boli as a sweeper they looked almost too relaxed for their own good on this occasion. It might have been 2-2 by the quarter hour, and 4-2 to Milan five minutes later.

That the giant scoreboards remained unaltered was due in equal measure to the imprecision of Alen Boksic, Marseille's Croat striker, and to the excellence of Fabien Barthez. However, the keeper was a spectator as Daniele Massaro and Paolo Maldini both wasted early heading chances.

Immediately after Massaro's sixth-minute miss, Rudi Voller broke clear to fire against the legs of Sebastiano Rossi in Milan's goal. Boksic put the rebound wide from close range, and also missed with a lob.

Milan then took control. In the space of five minutes Marco van Basten forced two fine reaction saves from Barthez, but 45 seconds before the interval Marseille struck the decisive blow. Abedi Pele won a corner, took it himself, and watched in delight as Boli outjumped the defence to head home.

The temptation to sit on their advantage must have been great. However, with Pele striving to live up to his famous name on the right flank, Marseille looked determined to counter whenever possible. The appearance of Papin to partner Van Basten showed that Milan intended to press them deep into defence.

The substitute seemed intent upon riling those who once revered him. His first act was an illegal challenge on Barthez, which provoked an angry reaction from his former team- mates. The second was a shot at goal when clearly offside, which merely ate into Milan's precious time.

The Rossoneri never recaptured their first-half fluency. Papin hooked wide from their best chance to send the tie into extra time, but Italy's clean sweep of the three European trophies was not to be. Marsille's victory means that 10 of the last 16 finals have been settled by a single goal. Boli, whose tears moved a nation after the Bari debacle, orchestrated the cacophonous celebrations.

The matchwinner summed up his feelings with one word: 'extraordinaire'. A hoarse but deliriously happy Tapie, for once, pronounced himself speechless - which may be another first for French football.

He soon regained his tongue. 'French clubs have flirted with this trophy but it never wanted to smile on us,' Tapie said. 'At last, a French victory. I expected it, I was very confident before the match, but I must say that we also had some luck on our side. This triumph makes up for all the previous disappointments, especially the one two years ago.'

The club's coach, Raymond Goethals, agreed, saying: 'I think that we deserved to win the final two years ago, but this is more important because we have beaten one of the world's greatest teams.'

Marseille: Barthez; Angloma (Durand, 62), Di Meco, Boli, Sauzee, Desailly, Eydelie, Boksic, Voller (Thomas, 81), Pele, Deschamps. Substitutes not used: Casoni, Ferreri, Olmeta (gk).

Milan: Rossi; Tassotti, Maldini, Albertini, Costacurta, Baresi, Lentini, Rijkaard, Van Basten (Eranio, 85), Donadoni (Papin, 55), Massaro. Substitutes not used: Nava, Evani, Cudicini (gk).

Referee: K Rothlisberger (Swit).

Owning a football club, page 38

(Photograph omitted)