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1987/88: Resurgent Leverkusen hold their nerve

1987/88: Resurgent Leverkusen hold their nerve

RCD Espanyol 3-0 Bayer 04 Leverkusen
(Losada 45 56, Soler 49)
Bayer 04 Leverkusen 3-0 RCD Espanyol
(Tita 57, Götz 63, Cha 81)
(agg: 3-3 aet, Leverkusen win 3-2 on penalties)

There would be a new name on the UEFA Cup in 1987/88 - regardless of the outcome between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and RCD Espanyol. Both were first-time European finalists. Both had future national team coaches as managers in Erich Ribbeck and Javier Clemente. Not surprisingly, then, it took penalties to separate them.

The final first leg ended 3-0 to Espanyol at Sarrià, courtesy of Roberto Losada and Miguel Soler. That was how it stayed until the second half in Leverkusen, where Periquitos goalkeeper Thomas Nkono conceded three goals in 24 minutes to Milton Tita, Falko Götz and Cha Bum-kun. Extra time segued into a shootout, which the German side won 3-2. Espanyol duly returned to the shadow of their city rivals FC Barcelona, which was scant reward for a remarkable campaign.

They had knocked out the Milan giants, Milan AC and Internazionale FC, in consecutive rounds, then edged past Club Brugge KV in the semi-finals. Yet Leverkusen, too, were impressive qualifiers. They lost just once on the way to becoming the third Bundesliga team to lift the trophy. FK Austria Wien, Toulouse FC, Feyenoord, Barcelona and West German champions-elect SV Werder Bremen were among their scalps. Although their greatest triumph was arguably the 1-0 victory at Barcelona in the last eight - not even Espanyol fans would dispute that.