A few minutes later, a building roar began to echo around the stadium, emanating from the area behind Milan’s goal. The Yugoslav commentator began to tentatively report that a goal had been scored while clearly scrambling for information as to what was going on.
It turned out that Red Star’s talisman Savicevic had arrowed a shot into the top corner. Red Star now led and were facing ten men. But the fog persisted – and l
Less than 10 minutes later, German referee Dieter Pauly was forced to abandon the game. The match simply couldn’t continue. But what followed would prove far more controversial.
Immediately afterwards, Red Star manager Vladimir Petrovic inexplicably agreed to replay the game less than 24 hours later.
The youthful but exhausted Red Star side would have to pick themselves up to do it all again the very next day.
The re-match started badly for the hosts. Milan had an early goal disallowed before the deadlock was broken by Van Basten in the 35th minute.
But just four minutes later, Red Star drew level - with easily the goal of the tie. A long ball found Savicevic in space with just Costacurta for company. He cushioned the ball and executed a delightful turn before finding the onrushing Stojkovic who hammered the ball past Galli.
Minutes later, a clash with Red Star’s Goran Vasilijevic left Milan’s Donadoni unconscious - and with his airway blocked, Red Star’s physio took the decision to break the Italian’s jaw to ensure he could breathe.
No further goals followed – meaning penalties loomed.
Savicevic and Mitar Mrkela missed for Red Star, leaving Frank Rijkaard to score Milan’s fourth spot kick in a 4-2 shoot-out victory. After 270 minutes of football, the tie was finally over.
Red Star would ultimately strengthen in the years following the tie. Several of the young side would stay to play a part in the 1991 European Cup triumph.
For Milan the tie proved to be by far and away their toughest of the competition. A 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid at the San Siro two rounds later proved just what an outrageously talented side they were.
The eventual 4-0 victory against Steaua București in the final was achieved at a canter.
That triumph, their first since 1969, would usher in a period of absolute domination for Milan as first Sacchi and then Capello guided them to new heights.
But how different things could have been had the fog not descended on the Serbian capital that November night. Who knows how radically different the landscape of modern European football could have been.
What’s certain though is that the three-legged tie of 1988 deserves to go down in the annals as one of the most dramatic European football has ever seen.
Words by Andy Gallagher