The 26th season of the UEFA Cup witnessed an exhilarating showdown between German powerhouse Schalke 04 and Italy’s Internazionale. In a gripping two-legged final that culminated in a 1-1 aggregate draw, Schalke 04 emerged victorious over Internazionale in a nerve-wracking penalty shootout, securing the coveted title. This resounding triumph marked a historic moment for Schalke 04, cementing their place in football history and underscoring their formidable prowess on the European stage.
Notably, the defending champions, Bayern Munich, suffered an unexpected early exit in the first round, falling to Valencia in a match that set the tone for the tournament’s intense and unpredictable battles.
The first leg of the final unfolded on May 7, 1997, at Gelsenkirchen’s Parkstadion, where Schalke 04 displayed their mettle, securing a crucial 1-0 victory over Internazionale. Wilmots proved to be the hero of the match, scoring a pivotal goal at the 70th minute, much to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd of 56,824. The match was expertly officiated by Marc Batta from France.
The tension escalated during the second leg at Milan’s Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, as Internazionale fought back fiercely, securing a crucial 1-0 win over Schalke 04 with Zamorano’s decisive goal at the 84th minute. The match drew an electric atmosphere, with 81,675 fervent spectators cheering on their teams. The referee for the match was José María García-Aranda from Spain.
As the two teams remained deadlocked with a 1-1 aggregate score, the match was ultimately decided by a penalty shootout. Schalke 04 exhibited nerves of steel, triumphing over Internazionale with a resounding 4-1 victory in the penalty shootout, securing their place as the victors of the 1996-97 UEFA Cup.
This memorable victory marked the final year of the UEFA Cup final in its traditional two-legged, home-and-away format. From the following year, the final would be played as a single match at a neutral venue, ushering in a new era for the prestigious tournament. Schalke 04’s triumphant campaign stands as a testament to their resilience, skill, and unwavering determination, solidifying their status as a force to be reckoned with in the world of football.