Juventus – Milan Throwback: Baggio’s Header That Ended Capello’s Era

When Juventus received Milan at the Stadio Delle Alpi on October 30, 1994, the Bianconeri were favorites over the Rossoneri for the first time in a few seasons. Milan were coming from three Serie A titles in a row while Juventus were going through one of the most disappointing decades in their history.

But Milan’s start of the 1994/95 season had been disappointing and a lone goal from Roberto Baggio would confirm that times were ready for a change at the top of the table.

When the campaign started, Juventus had not seen a Scudetto since 1986. That’s NINE years – an eternity for the Old Lady. They were trying and trying, buying one player after another, but it was just not working. They had snatched Roberto Baggio from Fiorentina. They had lured Gianluca Vialli away from Sampdoria.

They had tried to put the legendary Giovanni Trapattoni – the coach who led them to the last title – back in charge, but nothing. Trapattoni had been in the dugout in the last three seasons but, even though some international titles came, the Italian Scudetto remained a chimera.

And so, in the summer of 1994, President Gianni Agnelli had the intuition of replacing Trapattoni with this middle-aged, handsome man with white hair and blue eyes. He already had a long experience as a coach in minor divisions but had spent just two seasons in Serie A – one at Atalanta and one at Napoli. His name was Marcello Lippi.

Juventus’ transfer market campaign was ambitious. The midfield roster was enhanced with the arrivals of Portuguese maestro Paulo Sousa from Sporting Lisboa and the elegant Didier Deschamps from Olympique Marseille. Twenty-seven-year-old defender Ciro Ferrara, born and raised in Naples and already a veteran for Napoli, jumped the fence to play for the much-hatred Bianconeri, who also secured the services of the talented Alessio Tacchinardi from Atalanta.

They all contributed to reinforce a roster that could already boast the rock-solid Angelo Peruzzi between the sticks, Antonio Conte setting the tempo in midfield and a stellar attack that, on top of Baggio and Vialli, also included the reliable Fabrizio Ravanelli. Oh, and by the way, there was also this youngster named Alessandro Del Piero who had done so well towards the end of the previous season, netting 5 goals in 11 appearances…  

But perhaps the biggest revolution in the white-and-black side of Turin was happening in the managerial ranks. The summer of 1994 marked the end of the age of Giampiero Boniperti, a Juventus legend both as a player and as a manager who had been the CEO for the past few years. The reins were taken by what would become known as the Triade – a trio made of new CEO Antonio Giraudo, Vice President Roberto Bettega (he himself a former Juve player) and, moreover, polarizing Sporting Director Luciano Moggi.

The Triade’s endeavors and accomplishments – for good and for bad – would require maybe an entire book to be recounted so let it suffice to say that this was the structure that Juventus were counting on to mount the impossible challenge of dethroning Fabio Capello’s invincible Milan.

Under Fabio Massimo’s guidance, the Rossoneri had won, or better dominated, the last three Serie A seasons, notching up a 58-game unbeaten streak in the process. But still, some cracks were starting to appear in that seemingly invincible lineup.

It was the dusk of the Dutch age at Milan. Frank Rijkaard had come back home to Ajax one year earlier, while Ruud Gullit was being shipped back and forth to Sampdoria. Poor Marco Van Basten was already an ex-player – though he still didn’t know that, and he was admirably trying an impossible recovery from his long-standing ankle injury that would cut his career short.

That doesn’t mean that the Rossoneri weren’t still the top contender for the title. With Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and the young Christian Panucci in defense, Milan were well covered at the back. The midfield was enlightened by the Montenegrin genius Dejan Savicevic, while strikers Daniele Massaro and Marco Simone were still one of the best pair that any Serie A side could line up.

And yet, when they prepared to travel to Turin for their Round 8 matchup versus Juventus, Milan had already lost 2 out of their initial 7 games, shockingly succumbing to minnows Cremonese and Padova.

For the occasion, Marcello Lippi suited up Juventus in a 4-3-3 fashion where Fabrizio Ravanelli, Roberto Baggio and Gianluca Vialli formed a formidable offensive trio.  Milan answered with a 4-4-2 setup where Marco Simone was forced to play wide on the right to make room for Ruud Gullit, who was just back at Milan after a loan spell at Sampdoria.

The Tulipano Nero (“Black Tulip”), however, looked like the shadow of himself. On 43 minutes, well picked by a Demetrio Albertini pass, the Dutchman seemed ready to go one-on-one with Peruzzi but inexplicably lost the timing and let the Bianconeri defense recover.  

It was the episode that perhaps set the fate of the match as, just one minute later, Roberto Baggio scored Juventus’ winner, the only goal of the day, making the best out of an Angelo Di Livio service from the right side. It was the Divin Codino’s 104th goal with a white-and-black jersey, but what made it memorable was the fact that Baggio scored it with a header.

To put things in the right context, think that the striker was 1.74 m tall while Milan’s humongous goalkeeper Sebastiano Rossi stood at 1.98 m. And so, Baggio breaching through the once impenetrable Baresi – Maldini dam and piercing the immobile Rossi certified that times were ready for a change at the top of the Serie A table.  

Fabio Capello’s analysis of the episode after the game was ruthless: “With all due respect, we cannot concede a goal from a Baggio header with all our defenders in position.”

In the second half, Fabrizio Ravanelli had a huge chance to make it two but his aim from a header was worse that Baggio’s. Milan replied with a long ball that picked Demetrio Albertini beyond the Juventus defensive line, but the Bianconeri happened to have the best goalkeeper in Italy – and maybe in the world – those days.

Juventus ended the game defending with 11 men because, after all, they were still facing the defending Italian champions but, when famous referee Pierluigi Collina blew for full time, it was clear that there was a new leader of the Serie A pack. It was the first time that Juventus managed to beat Milan at their brand-new, never loved Stadio Delle Alpi, where they had lost against the Rossoneri three times out of four.

With this loss, Milan plummeted to the 11th place in the table. Their empire would crumble, as they were outclassed by Ajax in the Champions League Final and lose the Intercontinental Cup to underdog Velez Sarsfield of Argentina. They would still manage to win another Scudetto the following season but that was the swan song of Fabio Capello’s epoch at Milan.

For Juventus, on the other hand, that win on October 30, 1994, constituted the dawn of new age. It was an ideal pass of the baton between the team that had ruled over the Italian top-flight for the past few years and the one that was destined to enjoy an even longer period of domination.

Out the next 12 Scudettos, 7 would indeed end up in the Bianconeri’s trophy cabinet and 5 of them were conquered under the genial tactician Marcello Lippi’s guidance.   



October 30, 1994 – Serie A 1994-95 Round 8

SCORER: 44′ R. Baggio

JUVENTUS (4-3-3): Peruzzi, Kohler, A. Orlando, Fusi, Ferrara, Conte, Di Livio (71′ Tacchinardi), Paulo Sousa (89′ Porrini), Ravanelli, R. Baggio, Vialli (Rampulla, Torricelli, Del Piero) Coach: Lippi

MILAN (4-4-2): S. Rossi, Desailly, Tassotti, Costacurta, Panucci, Baresi, Donadoni (59′ Stroppa), Boban (59′ Massaro), Albertini, Gullit, Simone (Ielpo, F. Galli, Lentini) Coach: Capello

REFEREE: Mr. Collina from Viareggio
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Di Livio (J), Costacurta, Stroppa, Massaro (M)