The spotlight was firmly focussed on a trio of play-makers who had provided Spurs with their main moments of glory over the last 15 years. Glenn Hoddle's astute tactical stewardship helped Chelsea dispose of Ajax - by a
4-2 margin in a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw - and reach today's final where they face the hosts, now managed by Hoddle's old midfield partner, Osvaldo Ardiles.
A head-to-head between Hoddle and Paul Gascoigne would have been fascinating, but Spurs, who won 3-2, proved too strong for a Lazio side still in the early stages of their build-up and weakened by a shaky defence.
Gascoigne will contest the bronze medal position today, but his skills were worthy of the final and he scored a goal fit for any occasion. The Italians were trailing 3-1 with 22 minutes to go and were desperately seeking something special to bring them back into the game. Again finding space in the inside-left channel, Gascoigne shimmied forward, changed pace and left Darren Caskey, Dean Austin and Colin Calderwood marking space. His finish, a curling right-footer from 15 yards, was a delight to behold.
'It was a super goal,' Ardiles said. 'He looked the most classy player out there.' The other side of Gascoigne was sadly in evidence at full-time when he remonstrated with the Barnsley referee, Stephen Lodge, insisting that he had blown too early.
The final whistle did appear premature but Tottenham were still deserved winners. Within 30 minutes they had accelerated into a two-goal lead courtesy of first Calderwood's powerful header and then Teddy Sheringham.
The England striker is still pondering his future in north London following the fall of Terry Venables, but whatever the doubts off the field he looked his normal predatory self in the box. His goal, set up by Vinny Samways' cross-field pass, was a masterpiece of cool-headed finishing: a swift bring-down and firm shot past Luca Marchegiani.
Giuseppe Signori, like Sheringham his league's most prolific marksman last season, halved the deficit early in the second half, the dynamic little striker converting a low penalty after Austin had brought down Gascoigne. Darren Anderton restored Spurs' two-goal margin but the day, if not the final result, belonged to Gascoigne. He had started almost manically, kicking Anderton twice, before settling into a smooth rhythm of long and short passes mixed with sudden dribbles.
While Spurs looked like they had been playing under Ardiles for months, Chelsea were less impressive under their new management. Hoddle swept in front of a three-man defence and, given time and tuition, the system should work. Their goal came from a fine four-man build up, Gareth Hall's shot deflecting in, but their advantage was cancelled out late on by the Finn, Jari Litmanen. Kevin Hitchcock was the hero of the dead-ball denouement, saving two Ajax penalties to set up today's all-England final.
Chelsea: K Hitchcock; G Hall, A Dow, M Donaghy, E Johnsen, F Sinclair, G Peacock (G Stuart, 55 min), G Hoddle (D Lee, 75 min), D Wise, R Fleck, T Cascarino. Player-Manager: G Hoddle.
Ajax: E Van der Sar; S Silooy, F De Boer, J Van der Brom, D Petersen, E Davids, S
Pettersson, R De Boer, G Finidi (J Litmanen, 67 min), M Overmars. Manager: L Van Gaal.
Referee: D Elleray (Harrow).
Goals: Hall (1-0) 27 min; Litmanen (1-1) 81 min.
Tottenham Hotspur: E Thorstvedt; D Austin, S Campbell (I Hendon, 72 min), V Samways, C Calderwood, G Mabbutt, N Barmby, S Sedgley, D Anderton, T Sheringham, P Allen (D Caskey, 60 min). Manager: O Ardiles.
Lazio: L Marchegiani; P Negro, G Favalli, L De Paola, C Bergodi (G Stroppa, 62 min), R Cravero, D Fuser (R Bacci, 33 min), T Doll, A Winter, P Gascoigne, G Signori. Manager: D Zoff.
Referee: S Lodge (Barnsley).
Goals: Calderwood (1-0) 8 min; Sheringham
(2-0) 30 min; Signori pen (2-1) 52 min; Anderton (3-1) 64 min; Gascoigne (3-2) 68 min.
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