George Graham has described it as one of his two most satisfying games as Arsenal manager. And no wonder. The 1994 European Cup Winners' Cup Final was the ultimate 'One-nil to the Arsenal'.
Few gave Arsenal a chance of overcoming Parma. The Gunners were not the force they had been a few years earlier when they cruised to the league title. Ian Wright, their talisman, was suspended after a careless booking in the Semi-Final against Paris St. Germain. Midfield anchor John Jensen was also banned and Martin Keown had failed a fitness test on the morning of the match.
|Parma 0-1 Arsenal
European Cup Winners' Cup Final
Wednesday, May 4, 1994. Kick-off: 8.15pm
Parken Stadium, Copenhagen.
Scorer: Smith 20
Booked: (Arsenal) Adams, Campbell, Selley. (Parma) Crippa, Asprilla.
Referee: Václav Krondl (Czech Republic)
Arsenal: David Seaman, Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Paul Davis, Steve Bould, Tony Adams (c), Kevin Campbell, Steve Morrow, Alan Smith, Paul Merson (Eddie McGoldrick 86), Ian Selley. Subs not used: Alan Miller, Andy Linighan, Ray Parlour, Paul Dickov.
Manager: George Graham
Parma: Luca Bucci, Antonio Benarrivo, Alberto Di Chiara, Lorenzo Minotti (c), Luigi Apolloni, Roberto Sensini, Tomas Brolin, Gabriele Pin (Alessandro Melli 71), Massimo Crippa, Gianfranco Zola, Faustino Asprilla. Subs not used: Marco Ballotta, Roberto Maltagliati, David Balleri, Daniele Zoratto.
Manager: Nevio Scala
Graham was forced to field a couple of fledgling midfielders in Ian Selley and Steve Morrow, with Paul Merson and Kevin Campbell occupying the flanks while Alan Smith ploughed a lone furrow in attack. Fortunately the famous Back Four was in place while David Seaman was just about fit to play after pain-killing injections to numb his rib injury. How Graham would need his resilient rearguard.
The Parma line-up was awash with individual talent from Swedish star Tomas Brolin to Colombia's Faustino Asprilla and Italian legend Gianfranco Zola. The Serie A side were red-hot favourites and showed why with a blistering start to the Final. Brolin hit the post and Asprilla forced a world-class save from Seaman as Arsenal were pinned back. It seemed a matter of time before Parma would score.
Instead, a goal arrived at the other end. In the 21st minute, a misjudged overhead clearance from Minotti fell to Smith on the edge of the area. He chested the ball down and fired in a left-foot volley which bounced in off the post. Arsenal had an unlikely lead.
They defended it with their lives. Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Tony Adams and Nigel Winterburn were simply outstanding, ably protected by the tenacious Selley and Morrow. Seaman, when called upon, was unbeatable. Parma huffed and puffed but were repelled time and again. The Arsenal fans, waving their flags in the old-fashioned Parken Stadium, loved every minute of it.
The final whistle sparked wild scenes of celebration as the Arsenal fans, players and staff hailed a stunning victory against the odds. 'One-nil to the Arsenal' filled the Copenhagen air. The Club had won its second European trophy, 24 years after lifting the Inter-City Fairs Cup at Highbury.