The Serb, who steered the club to the Spanish league and Cup double in 1995-96, saw his side lose 3-1, suffering a similar fate to last season when they also found themselves inferior to Italian opposition on the threshold of the final. That time they lost 2-1 to Lazio, a defeat that contributed to Antic's dismissal at the end of the season.
With Antic back at the helm, returning two weeks ago after both Arrigo Sacchi and Carlos Aguiar had come and gone in the interim, the story of the game had a familiar ring. Exhilarating attacking play could not make up for costly lapses in concentration and poor defending. A missed penalty by Juninho after 73 minutes added to Antic's misery.
He put on a brave face after the defeat. "The players made a great effort and I hope they are not too downhearted by this defeat. We had bad luck with two of the goals coming from corners," Antic said. He conceded Atletico "had lost a great opportunity because the stadium had the best atmosphere I have seen and heard all season".
Parma are favourites to regain the trophy they won in 1995. As their coach, Alberto Malesani, said: "This tie is going our way although nothing is guaranteed. But the match turned out to be a dream and we are certainly very close to the final."
With Bologna drawing 0-0 away at Marseilles in their first leg, there is a strong possibility that 12 May will see the fifth all-Italian Uefa Cup final of the decade. It is scheduled for Moscow, but that might change, unless Marseilles can revive their challenge when they travel to Italy in two weeks' time.
"To be honest, it is now 60 per cent to 40 per cent in their favour," Christophe Dugarry, French international striker, said. "Bologna got the draw they had come for. They are no geniuses but they did exactly what they had to do."
Marseilles' Italian forward, Fabrizio Ravanelli, was the only player to look good for them over the 90 minutes. "We must go there like warriors," he said of the return leg. He could prove to be Marseilles' best hope.Reuse content