On Thursday VfB Stuttgart welcome S.S. Lazio to the Mercedes-Benz Arena for the first leg of the UEFA Europa League quarter finals where they will look to improve their all-time record versus Italian teams in continental competitions. To date in 9 official matches played, Stuttgart managed only 1 win, a 1-0 victory at home over Torino in 1979, in 9 total matches (4 draws and 4 losses). It was against Italian opposition where Stuttgart nearly managed to win their first major European silverware and it is with these matches that we reflect upon now.
Preamble: The Road to the Final
As there was no group stage to be played, both teams had to endure 5 rounds of two-legged knockout ties to advance to the final. Stuttgart opened up with a 3-2 aggregate win over FC Tatabanya of Hungary, before dispatching NK Dinamo Zagreb of Yugoslavia (4-2) and then Holland’s FC Groningen (5-1). The quarter finals saw them drawn versus Real Sociedad of Spain which saw the Germans prevail in penalties after a pair of 1-0 wins for either home side. This set up a meeting with East Germany’s Dynamo Dresden in the semi finals to which they advanced by 2-1 on total aggregate score.
Napoli kicked off their march to the final with a 2-1 aggregate win over PAOK of Greece before themselves travelling to East Germany for a date with Lokomotive Leipzig, whom they defeated 3-1. After defeating Bordeaux (1-0) it set up an all Italian quarter-final versus Juventus. After losing the first leg in Turin 2-0, Napoli won the return match by the same score sending the teams into extra time, where a 120th minute goal sent them onto the semi finals against even more German opposition in the form of FC Bayern. The Italians ruined the dream of an all German final by defeating the Bavarian giants 4-2 on aggregate to set up the final with VfB Stuttgart.
First Leg: SSC Napoli 2 – 1 VfB Stuttgart. Late goal sinks Stuttgart
The first leg of the final was played on the 3rd of May 1989 at Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo. Manager Ottavio Bianchi sent out his team in what appeared to be a 4-3-3; Giuliano Giuliani in goal, a back four of Italian international and former Juventus manager Ciro Ferrara, Alessandro Renica, Giancarlo Corradini and Giovanni Francini, a midfield trio of Brazilian Alemão and Italians Luca Fusi and the aptly named Fernando de Napoli, and up front featured Brazilian Careca, Italian Andrea Carnevale, and the captain Diego Maradona.
Arie Haan sent out the visitors in a much less structured formation. Eike Immel started in goal. A three man defence featured Guido Buchwald, Günther Schäfer, and Nils Schmäler, with the captain Karl Allgöwer being allowed to roam just in front of the back line. The midfield consisted of Maurizio Gaudino, Jürgen Hartmann, Yugoslavian and Slovenian international Srečko Katanec, Michael Schröder, and esteemed Icelandic attacking midfielder Asgeir Sigurvinsson. The lone striker was Fritz Walter, of no relation to the legendary Kaiserslautern forward of the same name.
The visitors got off to the best possible start. A hopeful long ball over the top from Fernando de Napoli was controlled by Maradona but got tangled up with his marker Hartmann. The ball came loose and was picked up by Careca who attempted to push past Buchwald but was stood up and dispossessed by the defender. Allgöwer was there to pounce on the loose ball and surged forward from just outside his own penalty area into all the way into the Napoli end before he was finally clipped from behind by his pursuer Fusi, giving the Swabians a free kick about 25 metres from the Napoli goal. After a short delay Sigurvinsson smartly passed the ball into the centre of the field where Gaudino was able to unleash a long-range effort on target that was quite simply misplayed by Giuliani and it squeezed into the Napoli goal. 1-0 to Stuttgart after 17 minutes, and a vital away goal.
The home side managed to equalise in the 2nd half with just over 20 minutes left to play. Maradona’s corner was cleared but only as far as de Napoli who lobbed the ball back into the penalty area. Substitute Massimo Crippa could only manage a glancing header but the ball fell kindly to Maradona whose effort on goal was judged to have struck the arm of Schäfer and the Greek referee pointed to the spot. Maradona stepped up to take and with great poise sent Immel the wrong way and slotted into the left corner. 1-1.
As the match was reaching its conclusion and looking as though both teams would walk away with a draw, the hosts found a late breakthrough 4 minutes from full time. Renica launched a long ball into the Stuttgart box where it was controlled by Carnevale. He then quickly found a streaking Maradona on the right side who then took the ball to the by line and then cut it back for Careca. The striker outmuscled his marker Buchwald and shot past Immel. 2-1 for Napoli and it left all to play for in the 2nd leg in a fortnight’s time.
Second Leg: VfB Stuttgart 3 – 3 SSC Napoli. Goal fest at the Neckarstadion.
Manager Bianchi trotted out the exact same starting 11 that featured in the first leg, while his counterpart Haan made only 1 change to his side, omitting defender Guido Buchwald in favour of former Inter Milan, Tottenham, and Bayern striker and current United States National Team manager Jürgen Klinsmann. Of course, Stuttgart needed at least a goal.
But after 18 minutes played it was the visitors who dealt Stuttgart a significant setback. At the halfway line, Maradona collected a loose ball only to be roughly dispossessed by Katanec. The ball fell to Alemão who, after a lengthy run into the Stuttgart third, played a lovely one-two with countryman Careca. The midfielder was put in 1v1 with Immel and made no mistake slotting past to put the visitors up 1-0 on the night and 3-1 up on total aggregate.
However 9 minutes later Stuttgart were handed a small lifeline. Sigurvinsson in-swinging corner was well met by Klinsmann who rose above Ferrara and headed past Giuliani. A tied match meant Stuttgart was 1 goal away from forcing extra time, but with over an hour left to play they would need to shut the door on the Italians.
Unfortunately that wasn’t to be the case.
Just shy of 10 minutes remaining in the 1st half Maradona delivered his own in-swinging corner, which was routinely cleared from the near post by Schäfer, but straight back to Maradona. The quick thinking maestro then headed the ball immediately back into the penalty area where the on rushing Ferrara was there to make amends for failing to mark Klinsmann on the equaliser by volleying home past Immel. 4-2 on total aggregate and Stuttgart’s hopes were fading fast.
All hopes of a comeback were effectively dashed on 62 minutes as Napoli executed a picture perfect counter attack. A Stuttgart cross was cleared up field by a Napoli defender where it was met by Careca’s head. The Brazilian’s ball found a streaking Maradona who surged toward the opposing penalty area and, after holding off his marker Hartmann, calmly played the ball to the trailing Careca. The striker finished off the move by deftly chipping over the charging Immel. 5-2 on aggregate and Napoli already had a hand on the trophy.
Stuttgart managed to make things relatively interesting by way of 2 late consolation goals.
The first was by way of an unfortunate de Napoli own goal after he deflected a long-range effort from Gaudino past his goalkeeper 20 minutes from time.
The home side were then gifted a very late consolation also courtesy de Napoli. After dribbling the ball safely out of his own penalty area to the right side of the pitch for reasons only known to de Napoli himself he decided to cross the ball back into his own box where a grateful Olaf Schmäler, who was a 2nd half substitute, headed past Giuliani. All square on the night but with only a minute of regular time plus whatever was to be added on for injuries and stoppages it left the downtrodden Swabians no chance at scoring 2 goals. The final whistle blew and the men from Naples would hoist the UEFA Cup triumphantly.
Aftermath: Stuttgart’s Germans have the last laugh.
The 1988-89 UEFA Cup was Maradona’s only major European trophy but it was a significant feather in his cap in terms of his greatly successful career at Napoli, which spanned from 1984-1991. His performance over the 2 legged final was sublime and he was a major factor in nearly every goal his team scored. It also remains Napoli’s greatest European achievement to date.
For Stuttgart it would be the closest they’ve come (to this day in fact) to winning a major European trophy. However for Jürgen Klinsmann, who had moved to Inter Milan the following season, and Guido Buchwald the loss to Maradona’s Napoli was redeemed by the West German victory over Argentina just over a year later on Italian soil at the 1990 World Cup Final. Buchwald especially was instrumental in that final match by completely neutralising the Argentinian legend’s contributions, which more than made up for missing out on winning the UEFA Cup.
Will the current crop of Stuttgart players be able to banish the ghosts of 1989 and go on to win the Europa League? One thing is for certain, we’ll have a much better idea come tomorrow afternoon.
Stuttgart : Immel, Schäfer, Schröder, Katanec, Hartmann, N. Schmäler, Sigurvinsson, Allgöwer, Gaudino, Klinsmann, Walter (O. Schmäler ’77).
Coach : Arie Haan.
Napoli : Giuliani, Ferrara, Renica, Corradini , Francini, Fusi, Maradona, Alemao (Carannante ’31), De Napoli, Careca (Bigliardi ’70), Carnevale.
Coach: Ottavio Bianchi.