Sunday, May 5th, 2002: It’s the last campionato round. Just like the year before, three teams are still battling for the Scudetto with only 90 minutes to go. Inter lead the ranks with 69 points, but Juventus and Roma are just one and two points behind. As if that weren’t enough, the match program for the last day features quite a few interesting pairings.
Inter are due to play Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico: The Biancocelesti need three points to catch the last spot for the UEFA Cup, but don’t want to help city rivals Roma at the same time. The Giallorossi must visit the Stadio Delle Alpi to face a Turin side which have nothing more to ask to their season. Juventus, on the other hand, play Udinese at the Stadio Friuli, with the Friulani also already safe.
There is a long-lasting friendship between Lazio and Inter supporters which makes the atmosphere at the Olimpico even more of a magic one: Except for the North Stands, traditionally occupied by Lazio hardcore fans, the whole stadium is painted in black and blue. It’s just like Inter are playing at home, and all hints suggest an easy win for the Nerazzurri.
Lazio’s fear of favoring Roma in the Scudetto run, on the other hand, starts to fade away as Juventus take the lead in Udine after just two minutes, and completely disappear when Alessandro Del Piero scores the second for the Bianconeri in the 11th minute. However, Inter also take the lead out of the blue: On a corner kick by Alvaro Recoba, goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi fails to stop the ball, and leaves Christian Vieri free to push it in the untended goal.
The whole Olimpico, including the Biancocelesti supporters, burst into joy – as Lazio fans would rather see the title go to Inter, than to the hatred Roma or Juventus. The end seems to be written, but in the 20th minute midfielder Karel Poborsky catches the ball in Inter’s box, and beats Francesco Toldo to equalize for the home side.
Four minutes later, the Nerazzurri put their heads ahead again, and once again from a corner kick by Recoba. El Chino’s treacherous cross from the right side is converted by Luigi Di Biagio darting to the near post – a trademark move of his. Inter then try to catch their breath and control the game until half time, but right in the 45th minute something totally unexpected happens: In an attempt to back pass the ball to Toldo, Slovakian defender Vratislav Gresko comes up with a clumsy, slow header which Poborsky easily reads and turns into Lazio’s 2-2.
Poborsky polemically runs to celebrate against his own supporters, who seem all but happy about his daily performance. At half time, the trending joke among Italian calcio followers is that Lazio’s coach Alberto Zaccheroni is probably spending his break time in the locker room explaining Poborsky in which goal he is really supposed to score today…
Lazio’s second goal literally shocks Inter. When they come back to the pitch, the Nerazzurri are still dazed and confused. First, they risk ending with one man less when a last-man foul by Ivan Cordoba on Simone Inzaghi is pardoned by referee Gianluca Paparesta. Then, they fall behind again when their former player Diego Simeone – who refrains from celebrating – converts with a header a free kick by Stefano Fiore, with the whole Inter defense standing motionless. The Nerazzurri would still have plenty of time for a comeback, but their legs are shaking by now. Their clearest chance actually comes from a quasi-own goal by Giuseppe Favalli as he deflects a shot by Christian Vieri. Alessandro Nesta manages to clear the ball right on the goal line.
Then, in the 73rd minute, the Biancocelesti make an end of it: César, who has just substituted Dejan Stankovic, is left free to run on the left flank and deliver a cross in the middle of the box. Inter’s defense is once again caught by surprise, and Simone Inzaghi, all alone on the far post, cannot but push the ball in with a header to set the score to 4-2.
Lazio’s shocking win literally delivers the Scudetto to Juventus, and marks one of the saddest episodes in the history of the Milanese side. A day that became infamously known as Inter’s Cinque Maggio (“The 5th of May”), and whose most striking image is the Fenomeno Ronaldo Luis Nazario da Lima crying like a baby on the bench, in what will also be his last match played with the Nerazzurri.
May 5, 2002 – Serie A 2001-02 Round 34
SCORERS: 12’ Vieri (I), 20’ Poborsky (L), 24’ Di Biagio (I), 45’ Poborsky (L), 56’ Simeone (L), 73’ S. Inzaghi (L)
|LAZIO (4-4-1-1): Peruzzi, Stam, Fernando Couto, Nesta, Favalli, Poborsky, Giannichedda, Simeone (78’ D. Baggio), Stankovic (61’ Cesar), Fiore, S. Inzaghi (Marchegiani, Negro, Pancaro, Colonnese, Evacuo) Coach: Zaccheroni|
|INTER (4-4-2): Toldo, J. Zanetti, Cordoba, Materazzi, Gresko, Conceição (60’ Dalmat), Di Biagio, C. Zanetti (73’ Emre), Recoba, Ronaldo (78’ Kallon), Vieri (Fontana, Sorondo, Serena, Guglielminpietro) Coach: Cuper|
REFEREE: Mr. Paparesta from Bari
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Stankovic (L), Materazzi (I); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half 4′
Translated by Matteo Carnevale