If you ask any Milan supporter which was the key moment in their victorious 1998-99 season, they will probably mention that goal propitiated by Maurizio Ganz in the 95th minute of a home match against Sampdoria. On May 2, 1999, Milan receives the Blucerchiati on the path of their desperate chase to Serie A leading team Lazio, then coached by Sven Goran Eriksson.
Only one month earlier, after having tied 0-0 their match against the capolista at the Stadio Olimpico, the Rossoneri were left with a gap of seven points versus the Biancocelesti. But since then, Lazio lost two games in a row, with Roma and with Juventus, and reduced their advantage on Alberto Zaccheroni’s club to one point only.
Still, the Bluecerchiati that go to San Siro on that day are hungry for victory: Coached by Luciano Spalletti, they need some precious points in their battle to avoid relegation. Indeed, the first chance in the match turns into a post hit by Vincenzo Montella just a few minutes after the start. But then Milan wake up, and in the 17th minute Massimo Ambrosini unleashes a powerful left-foot shot to place the ball under the sette, (the “seven,” as you call the top corner of a goal in Italy, due to its resemblance to a number seven shape…) and give his club a 1-0 lead.
Luck seems to be on the side of the Rossoneri, as a penetration by Marco Franceschetti ends with a shot hitting again a young Christian Abbiati’s post. Then, Sampdoria is even left with one man less, when a clumsy foul by Saliou Lassissi earns him an early red card.
However, Eriksson’s side is not willing to give up, and 15 minutes after the break a header by Vincenzo Montella finally equalises the match. Coach Zaccheroni decides to reshuffle his cards, and sends in Leonardo for a listless Zvonimir Boban: A good move, as the Brazilian promptly gives his side a new lead, converting a free kick with his magical left foot.
Still, with only four minutes to go, Sampdoria put a new damper on the Diavoli’s hopes. Franceschetti adjusts his aim this time, and his left-foot volley ends past Abbiati to bring the match to 2-2.
Cloudy and confused, Milan keep furiously looking for a new goal, and inevitably expose themselves to the Doria’s counterattacks. Indeed, the away team come very close to overturn the match, but poor Brazilian striker Cate – who will eventually die in a car accident at only 38 – sees his shot deflected by Abbiati, when he could have rather served an all-free Vincenzo Iacopino on his left.
When even the most optimistic Rossoneri fans are abandoning hope, Ambrosini shots a corner kick from the left. The ball flies all over the box and ends right on the opposite side, where Maurizio Ganz catches it with a clumsy volley: His shot doesn’t seem irresistible, yet the ball bumps into defender Paolo Castellini, and misleads goalie Fabrizio Ferron, ending its run into the net.
San Siro Stadium explodes with joy, and with just three more games to go, Milan maintain their chances of surpassing Lazio – something that will eventually happen – unchanged!
May 2, 1999 – Serie A 1998-1999 Round 31
SCORERS: 17’ Ambrosini (M), 60’ Montella (S), 79’ Leonardo (M), 86’ Franceschetti (S), 95’ Castellini (S, o.g.)
|MILAN: Abbiati, Sala, Costacurta, Maldini, Helveg, Albertini, Ambrosini, Guglielminpietro (65’ Ba), Boban (64’ Leonardo), Ganz, Bierhoff (Rossi, Giunti, Iannuzzi, Ayala, N’Gotty) Coach: Zaccheroni|
|SAMPDORIA: Ferron, Grandoni (84’ Hugo), Franceschetti, Lassissi, Balleri, Doriva, Pecchia, Laigle (84’ Iacopino), Castellini, Montella, Palmieri (78’ Cate) (Ambrosio, Sakic, Mannini, Vergassola) Coach: Spalletti|
REFEREE: Mr. Braschi from Prato
NOTES: Yellow card: Laigle (S); Red card: Lassissi (S)
Translated by Matteo Carnevale