Thirty years after their previous visit to this stage, Arsenal took on French opposition in the shape of Lens for the right to play in the Uefa Cup Final in Copenhagen.
Having been eliminated from the Champions League in the group phase, Arsenal’s reward was what is now derogatorily referred to as “Thursday Night Football“. Except at this point the matches were not played on Thursdays, Uefa had not yet succumbed entirely to the mania which made them ruin a perfectly good knockout competition.
The club argued that the Wembley experiment had been a success in that it allowed more spectators to witness the home defeats against Barcelona (2 – 4) and Fiorentina (0 – 1) with only AIK Solna defeated. Indeed, it was Batistuta’s outstanding finish that ended Arsenal’s interest in that season’s Champions League. How costly Kanu’s penalty miss in Florence earlier in the campaign turned out to be.
That said, reaching the final emphasised that money is not everything. Arsenal conceded one goal in their four home legs with winning leads established in all against capable opposition. The board took notice and whilst that might not have been the decisive factor, it was certainly a major contribution to the Champions League future being at Highbury.
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