Marine (0) 2
RWD Molenbeek (0) 1
Marine became the second English club to achieve the rarified status of European club champions after a night of high drama in Rotterdam.
For all of the Mariners’ progress since relegation from the top flight only three years ago - the momentum of their upward trajectory since has carried them from promotion, to the Championship and now this season their first continental final in addition to an almost successful defence of their title - RWD Molenbeek represented the most formidable and daunting of opponents, as the Cup holders (having beaten Stalybridge Celtic for that particular privilege) and appearing in a fourth successive final.
Having defeated European club nobility in the form of multiple Champions’ Cup winners Atletico Madrid and Ferencvaros in the quarter- and semi-finals, Marine approached the final in confident mood and took that swagger into the match itself, bold enough to play RWDM at their own technically sophisticated game without sacrificing their customary effervescence. Chances were engineered by both sides - the best perhaps to Molenbeek - without either being able to achieve a breakthrough in a first half that ended goalless but leaving the 4,000-plus attendance anticipating the second even more eagerly such was the standard of football produced.
Upon the resumption, the pattern continued as did the pace, unabated. A goal seemed ever more imminent as both sides struck the woodwork before, in the 58th minute, Marine found the net and took the lead with an acrobatic finish from Tegwyn Prothero, volleying in on the run from the left side of the penalty area after an opening had been skilfully created. As the cut-and-thrust continued without further scoring, that appeared a fitting enough goal to win a final until RWDM eventually breached the Marine defences after 87 minutes with a wonderful goal, a deceptively simple side-footed finish from a central position fifteen yards out, the ball caressed into the corner of the net just out of the despairing reach of the Mariners’ ‘keeper, after a passing sequence the length of the pitch that had systematically taken Marine apart in a manner not previously achieved.
Pegged back but not deflated, Marine took the game back to the Belgians and, as extra-time loomed, scored the decisive goal in the dying seconds as Prothero again appeared in the right place at the right time, flinging himself horizontally at a cross from the right flank, heroically defying the threat of defenders’ outstretched boots, to plant a glorious diving header past RWDM’s custodian, a thrilling denouement to what had proved to be a magnificent match.