Football: Inter netted by lap-top wizard

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The Independent Online
German thoroughness is legendary and even football teams from unemployment blackspots on the Ruhr are not beyond a bit of vorsprung durch technik when it comes to penalties.

Schalke O4, from the grimy city of Gelsenkirchen, where one in three families relies on benefits, turned over well-heeled Internazionale to capture one of the three prizes in European football with the help of a little electronic wizardry.

Huub Stevens, the Schalke coach, prepared for a penalty shoot-out to decide the Uefa Cup final by creating a data bank of the Inter players' spot-kick styles on a lap-top computer.

Stevens' homework paid off when the two-legged final ended 1-1 after extra time and 81,000 spectators in Milan's sumptuous San Siro stadium held their breath for the showdown. The Serie A aristocrats, who included England's Paul Ince, were expected to stroke home their penalties, but missed three out of four, while the boys from the Bundesliga were spot on every time.

Jens Lehmann, who saved Inter's crucial first penalty by Ivan Zamorano, said: "I had checked with the lap-top and whenever Zamorano took a long run up he always kicked it to the [goalkeeper's] left. And that's exactly what he did."

The Schalke captain, Olaf Thon, added: "Huub Stevens had all the Inter players and their preferred corners stored in the computer. Inter's goalie Pagliuca also helped us by deciding a bit too early which way he was going to dive."

The progress through technology approach, which is used in tennis by Thomas Muster, is a natural progression from 20 years ago when the Ipswich Town keeper Paul Cooper was reported to have made full use of the new- fangled video to tape penalty-takers and went on to save a record eight out of 10 during the course of a season.

As Schalke celebrate their first European trophy in their 93-year history and their first honour since winning the German Cup in 1972, spot-kickers playing Teutonic teams are left with one thought - Germans have ways of making you miss.

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