Sad Gunners feel pain of Popescu's spurs; Galatasaray 0 Arsenal 0 (AET: Galatasaray win 4-1 on penalties).
The final in the Parken Stadium went to penalties when the Turkish double winners' ten men held the Gunners to 0-0 after extra-time.
Davor Suker hit the inside of the post from Arsenal's first spot-kick to hand Galatasaray the advantage.
Ray Parlour scored to reduce the arrears to 2-1 before Patrick Vieira hit the underside of the crossbar with their third effort to leave them trailing 3-1.
That provided Popescu with the decisive penalty chance and the defender made no mistake as Galatasaray triumphed 4-1 to become the first Turkish European champions. Like Arsenal, they only entered the tournament at the third-round stage following their Champions League exit.
It was a terrible treble of penalty shoot-out defeats in cup competitions for Arsenal. Earlier this season, the Premiership runners-up went out of the FA Cup at Leicester and the Worthington Cup at Middlesbrough in spot-kick deciders.
Ergun Pembe, Hakan Sukur and Umit Davala all gave David Seaman no chance from 12 yards, before Popescu cracked home the final penalty.
It was ecstasy for Galatasaray, who had midfield veteran Gheorghe Hagi sent off early in extra time for striking Tony Adams, but agony for Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, who took out his frustration on referee Antonio Lopez Nieto.
The Spanish official's decision to order the shoot-out in front of the massed ranks of volatile Turkish fans irritated Wenger, who refused to accept UEFA's explanation.
He was told by an official that the toss to decide ends for extra-time would also count for where the penalties were taken, but Wenger stormed: 'I can't agree with that. The referee may be saying that now, but I don't believe it and I think it was unfair.'
Arsenal captain Tony Adams was seen in heated discussion with the referee when the Spaniard indicated the goalmouth into which the penalties would be taken. Wenger said: 'Nobody has seen this toss of the coin which is supposed to have happened. The referee just told Tony that it was what he had decided.'
But Wenger also had to admit that Arsenal under-achieved in failing to break down a Galatasaray side, who had Hagi dismissed after an incident during which Adams was also booked.
'It was not a huge advantage to have Hagi sent off,' admitted Wenger. 'Sometimes you defend better with ten men because everybody is focused.'
Much of the match was cagy shadow-boxing and in the end, the difference was the form of Brazilian goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel.
Much maligned at home after a chequered international career, the 1994 World Cup winner pushed an extra-time shot from Marc Overmars wide from virtually point-blank range, then produced a stunning reflex save to block Thierry Henry's effort from Parlour's cross.
Galatasaray coach Fatih Terim said of Taffarel: 'I am proud and delighted he is in my team. He was magnificent and thoroughly deserved to be man of the match.'
Popescu described himself as: 'delighted, utterly delighted' and added: 'I am sure the fans at my old club are delighted as well!'
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|Publication:||The Birmingham Post (England)|
|Date:||May 18, 2000|
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