ON THIS DAY IN FOOTBALL... 10 MAY
Nayim - from the halfway line (1995)
Real Zaragoza have never won the Spanish league, but in the so-called knockout tournaments they have done exceptionally well. They've lifted the Copa de Rey five times, they won the old Inter-State Fairs Cup but most memorably, they were crowned champions of the now-defunct European Cup Winners' Cup - the most distinguished piece of silverware in their trophy cabinet. Traditionally, Zaragoza have never produced powerful, consistent sides but every few years they have managed to elaborate joyful, artistic attacking teams who are capable of beating anyone when they put their minds to it. Such sides included Zaragoza's 'Five Magnificents' (Los Cinco Magníficos), the famous 'Zaraguayos' team (with reference to the sleek, gossamer-like skills of Paraguayan pair, Saturnino Arrúa and Carlos Diarte), Leo Beenhakker's Maños' side which featured the likes of [Juan] Barbas, [Juan] Señor, [Jorge] Valdano and [Raúl Vicente] Amarilla, amongst others, and the side put together by Víctor Fernández, the great local coach who worked wonders for his hometown club. That legacy allowed Zaragoza to gain the right to play the 1994-1995 European Cup Winners' Cup, for having won the Copa against Celta the previous season.
They enjoyed a very good tournament, even if for their opening ties they had to travel to Valencia to play at Mestalla, after being hit with a two-game stadium ban by UEFA; in 1992, right at the end of Zaragoza's meeting with Borussia Dortmund, a 25 peseta coin was thrown from the stands and hit referee, Ruber Forstinger, which is the reason for the suspension. In those first two ties the Maños saw off Easter European opposition Gloria Bistrița and Tatran Prešov. Once they were allowed to play back at La Romareda they eliminated Feyenoord thanks to a 2-0 result in the return leg after the losing the away leg 1-0. In the semi-final they secured a 3-0 advantage in the first leg at home to Chelsea but were made to suffer in London and lost 3-1. The final was to be held at a dream venue, the Parc des Princes in Paris, and against illustrious rivals - Arsenal.
Víctor Fernández fielded: Cedrún; Belsué, Cáceres, Aguado, Solana; Nayim, Aragón, Poyet; Pardeza, Esnáider and Higuera. The Parc des Princes was packed to the rafters, with thousands of fans from both finalists.The game itself was full of rhythm and energy but it was still goalless when the two teams made their way back to the changing rooms at half-time. That would change after the break; on 68 minutes, Juan Eduardo Esnáider let a high ball drop 25 yards out then on the turn, thumped a volley home for the opener. David Seaman in the Arsenal goal didn't even flinch. But 12 minutes later, a neat build-up down the right involving Parlour and Merson, teed up Hartson to beat Cedrún with a first-time finish: 1-1. Sanjuán came on for Higuera to refresh the team but there were no more goals in regulation time, so off we went to half an hour of extra-time. The first half didn't produce any goals and matters didn't change in the second half. Then, on 114 minutes, Sanjuán made way for Geli - everyone thought the game would be settled from the penalty spot. But with one minute remaining, and a shoot-out looking definite, Cedrún raking goal kick was nodded back to Nayim who chested the ball down, took the minimum to gauge the bounce then unleashed a terrific, high dipping ball which had Seaman frantically backtracking; to the amazement of everyone watching, the ball entered under the bar.
Just one thought flashed through Nayim's mind when he received that ball - back home in Ceuta, when he was just starting out, he scored two goals by launching the ball high into the air, giving it a bit of spin with the outside of his boot; in that fleeting second those images somehow came back to him. To this is day it stands as probably if not the finest goal, certainly the most audacious, ever to have been scored in a European final.
Ceuta-born Nayim had developed his skills in Barça's youth academy, one of the best football schools around. His goal gave Seaman repeated nightmares, "Never a day goes by without someone asking me to recount that goal", he said. But Arsenal's London rivals lapped it up, Tottenham in particular - who changed the lyrics of a popular Arsenal chant to wind up their neighbours. "Nayim, from the halfway line", to the tune of Village People's disco smash 'Go West' would ring out from the terraces, without fail, every time the Gunners were in town. Nayim's wonder goal has even been immortalized on a T-shirt - not that any of us could ever forget it...
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