Throwback Thursday: How the Fatal Verona Was Born

May 20, 1973: Final round of Serie A. Milan, coached by Nereo Rocco, are leading the standing with one point over Juventus and surprising newly-promoted Lazio. Only four days earlier, the Rossoneri have won the Cup Winners Cup, but the tight final battle in Thessaloniki against Leeds United took a heavy toll on their forces. The team is so battered that coach Rocco vainly asks for the last match against Hellas Verona to be postponed by one day. But it’s a no go, the game remains confirmed for Sunday as scheduled.

The road from Milan to Verona is packed with Milanisti supporters, all hoping to finally conquer their Scudetto della Stella (the “star trophy,” a symbolic prize awarded to those clubs which reach their tenth league title). The stands of Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi are painted with red and black. When Verona players leave the locker room and step their feet on the pitch, they feel shocked and disoriented: It looks like they are the ones playing away. The most offended is Gianfranco Zigoni, who charges up his side: “We are not losing today.”

Indeed, Verona plays with an unexpected passion from the very beginning. After 30 minutes, they are already leading 3-0! Roberto Rosato re-ignites Milan hopes by scoring the 1-3 goal, but after the break the Gialloblu continue with the same trend, and hit twice more. Giuseppe Sabadini and Alberto Bigon eventually set the score to 3-5.

Rossoneri players in despair after their incredible 3-5 defeat in Verona. The man on the left is Milan and Azzurri’s legend Gianni Rivera

But even with such a humiliating defeat, Nereo Rocco can still hope to play his chances for Scudetto in a tiebreaker playoff match. While the Rossoneri are committing suicide in Verona, Lazio is being held onto a goalless draw by Napoli, whereas Juventus is even losing 0-1 to Roma at Stadio Olimpico. But when the clock strikes minute 60, Josè Altafini equalises for the Old Lady, and raises the first red flag. At this point, all the three clubs are sharing the lead. Then, with just three minutes to go, a volley by Antonello Cuccureddu puts a damper on Milan’s hopes: Juventus have managed to come from behind, and overtaken the Rossoneri at the last lap!

This is how the myth of the Fatal Verona was born for Milan. The Devils will have to wait six more years to finally catch their Scudetto della Stella.



May 20, 1973 – Serie A 1972-73 Round 30

SCORERS: 17’ Sirena (V), 25’ Sabadini (M, o.g.), 29’ Luppi (V), 32’ Rosato (M), 70’ Luppi (V), 72’ Turone (M, o.g.), 81’ Sabadini (M), 90’ Bigon (M).

Logo_Hellas_Verona_1973 VERONA: Pizzaballa, Nanni (32’ Cozzi), Sirena, Busatta, Batistoni, Mascalaito, Bergamaschi, Mazzanti, Luppi, Mascetti, Zigoni. Coach: Cadè
Logo_Milan_1973 MILAN: Vecchi, Sabadini, Zignoli, Anquilletti, Turone, Rosato, Sogliano, Benetti, Bigon, Rivera, Chiarugi. Coach: Rocco

REFEREE: Mr. Monti from Ancona