In 1999/2000 season under the manager František Cipro Slavia reached the UEFA Cup quarter-final. The red and whites were eliminated by Leeds United who experienced one of their most successful years. LUFC finished third in Premier League table and reached the semi-final of UEFA Cup where they were eliminated by future champions Galatasaray.
After the UEFA Cup semi-final from 1995/96 this was the best European result of red and whites in their modern history until 2018/19 when Slavia progressed to the UEFA Europa League quarter-final again, this time being eliminated by Chelsea FC.
Dramatic start against Vojvodina
Slavia started their European campaign in rather dramatic way against Vojvodina Novi Sad. Following the Kosovo conflict, the Yugoslavian club could not play their home games in Novi Sad and the first leg was thus held in Macedonian capital Skopje. The venue was announced just 9 days before the match after plans for moving the game to Szeged, Sofia or even Prague failed.
Skopje was one of the main hubs for Kosovo post-war aid and was full of refugees and KFOR troops. The team arranged last-minute accommodation in a hostel 50 km from the city and – just to be sure – carried their own water and food. For Vojvodina the journey was even more painful as the club had to travel more than 500 km by bus.
The game in Skopje finished goalless and Slavia thus could be considered favourites for the second leg. But Vojvodina managed to take the lead twice and Slavia had to come from behind with two goals in 74th and 80th minute.
“I got collection of all shirts from that season, except of Vojvodina,” says the then Slavia kitman Václav Petrák. “It wasn’t possible, and I regret it to this day. But they had only one set of shirts for the league and European season."
By the way, the 1999/2000 campaign was full of peculiar shirt choices for Slavia. Both legs against Vojvodina were played in blue away shirts because the Yugoslav club took over their red and white shirts from Slavia back in 1915. So, when you look at the highlights, Slavia are not the “stitched” ones – it’s Vojvodina.
In the second round against Grasshopers Slavia started completely in red for a change which was the then third set. And because they won the game 3-1 and managed to qualify despite the 0-1 away loss, they started using this shirt as “the lucky one” (though it ceased to work away in Leeds).
In the third round the red and whites – this time playing home in dark blue again – managed to eliminate strong Romanian side Steaua Bucharest (4-1 home and 1-1 away). And in 4th round Slavia eliminated Italian side Udinese Calcio thanks to Zanchi’s curious own goal in the first leg in Prague (Slavia won 1-0 home and lost 1-2 away in Udine).
In 1996 – 4 years before – Slavia managed to eliminate AS Roma in UEFA Cup quarter final. This time, in another quarter finals, the red and whites were drawn to face Leeds United – one of the best English clubs of the brink of the century.
Leeds with Martyn, Kewell, Bowyer, Smith or Woodgate was successful not only in UEFA Cup, but also in the Champions League and finished third in 1999/2000 Premier League. How difficult task this will be was confirmed in the first game on Eland Road. The Slavia lost 0-3 and the tie has been practically decided. Despite great 2-1 home win in Prague the red and whites were eliminated.
Slavia managed to progress to the 4th round of UEFA cup twice more. In 2000/01 they were eliminated by 1.FC Kaiserslautern (0-0 and 0-1) and in 2002/2003 in extremely dramatic tie by Besiktas JK (1-0 and 2-4). It took them 19 years to reach quarter final of European cup again – to 2018/19 and the tie with Chelsea FC (0-1 and 3-4).