They say the homes in Fuorigrotta around the Stadio San Paolo shook as if there was an earthquake that night. Seismic equipment picked up the tremors such was the scale of the celebrations when the Partenopei found the net. Bayern Munich were powerless in the face of such a force of nature.
It was April 1989 and Napoli were en route to coming of age in Europe. The German giants were among their rights of passage. On a rip-roaring run to UEFA Cup glory, they represented a massive semi-final obstacle for the Partenopei. But Diego Maradona and company were not to be denied.
“The noise in the stadium was crazy, absolutely crazy,” said hometown boy Ciro Ferrara. And he, of all people, should know a thing or two about the match atmosphere that ground can create. Nonetheless, their opponents represented a stern challenge.
“We had struggled past Juve in the quarter finals with a late goal and when the draw paired us with Bayern everyone said it was an impossible tie,” said former Napoli President Corrado Ferlaino. “We were worried because Diego had a problem with his ankle … but he gritted his teeth and played and we won. Diego had pride, he was a winner and he never backed down. Not like modern players who stop at the first sign of pain.”
Yet the first big chance of their first leg clash in the San Paolo went the way of the visitors coached, as they are now, by Jupp Heynckes. Olaf Thon had a snapshot from close range which Giuliano Giuliani had to parry away. It raised the tension levels among the Ultras to even greater heights.
They need not have worried, however, as Diego would ease their fears. He eventually sliced open the Munich defence in the 40th minute of the match. His through ball, courtesy of a little deflection, put Brazilian Antonio Careca in the clear and he thumped home his shot. He was in the kind of form where he simply did not miss that sort of chance.
In the 14th minute of the second half El Pibe de Oro was at it again. This time from a short corner he swung in an inviting cross from the right wing which Andrea Carnevale met with a soaring header. He was dragged to the ground by his teammates in sheer delight. A 2-0 scoreline looked handy to take to Bavaria.
“Diego took the corner and I got up pretty high,” recalled Carnevale years later. “I scored an extraordinary goal, I can remember it clearly – they are the kind of strikes you don’t forget.”
There was room for a final scare in the closing minutes when Giuliani came out on a kamikaze run to try to thwart a Bayern attack. Luckily for him, a long leg of Giancarlo Corradini was there to knock the ball to safety and ensure the two goal advantage was retained for the return match.
Napoli held on well for a 2-2 draw in Germany, a game which midfielder Nando De Napoli reckons was among the finest Careca and Maradona ever produced in his time at the club. It took them through to the final where they again faced German opposition. But Stuttgart could do nothing to stop the Azzurri tide and Maradona raised the trophy into the sky after two pulsating legs. It is a memory which the older fans in the San Paolo will still have flashing before their eyes tonight.