Throwback Thursday: Maspero’s Hole In the Derby of Turin

All is fair in love, war, and a football derby. Especially when that derby is the Derby della Mole in Turin, which circumstances have made the most unbalanced in Serie A in the last decades. On one side, the invincible Juventus, a take-it-all steamroller whose eight titles in a row is just the latest of many accomplishments.

On the other side, Torino, a glorious and passionate club which won seven Scudetto, but raised the trophy for the last time in 1976, and has suffered the shame of relocation to Serie B many times since then.

The derby of Turin often turns into a one-side hammering with the Granata on the receiving end. But now and then, Torino manage to fight back and come up with one of those heroic performances that make for a good story to be told to one’s grandchildren. The game played at the late Delle Alpi Stadium on October 14, 2001, which became known as the derby of “Maspero’s hole,” is one of them.

That was the day of Riccardo Maspero. Not only did the Granata midfielder score a late equaliser to set the score to 3-3, but he also prevented the Bianconeri from snatching a derisive win, by means of an old-school trick you would maybe expect to see on a campo di provincia – but surely not in Serie A. Maspero sabotaged the penalty kick spot, causing Marcelo Salas to fail a conversion that would have given Juventus a last-minute victory. Yes, all is fair in a derby.

Here is the infamous moment, that not many noticed during the game: Riccardo Maspero kicking the penalty spot to dig a small hole in it…

Marcello Lippi’s Juventus had put a strong claim to the match in just 25 minutes, hitting a dazed Torino defense three times. Alex Del Piero realized the first and third goals, whereas current Udinese coach Igor Tudor (one that didn’t score often, but when he did, it was always when it mattered the most) scored the second. Tudor’s goal spurred violent protests on the part of Torino, which wrongly claimed the Bianconero was in offside.

At half time, the Derby della Mole looked as good as done, with Juventus ready to collect yet another win in the heartfelt cross-town battle, and the Granata humiliated on the pitch and furious at referee Gennaro Borriello. Coach Giancarlo Camolese didn’t want to give up however: For the second half, he sent in his flagship striker Marco Ferrante, whom he had inexplicably left on the bench, and pulled out debuting Franco Semioli to replace him with the more experienced Simone Vergassola.

The trainer’s changes bore fruit indeed, as in the 57th minute hot-blooded Ferrante delivered a long-range cross for Cristiano Lucarelli, and Mr. “Keep Your Billion”- as he would become eventually known for refusing billionaire offers from several Serie A clubs, preferring to go one level down and play for his hometown Livorno – flinged the ball past Gianluigi Buffon to re-open the match.

When midfielder Antonino Asta gained a penalty, 13 minutes later, courtesy of a foul by Lilian Thuram, he celebrated like he had just won a World Cup. A pretty generous penalty if truth be told, as the Frenchman – who had already won a World Cup for real – committed his foul outside of the box. But Ferrante didn’t care (it’s the Derby della Mole, how could you?), and from the penalty spot made it two for his side.

With Torino now fully believing in it, and just eight minutes to go, Asta crossed from the right flank to find Ferrante’s header, which called Buffon to remind everybody why he was considered the best goalkeeper in the world. But there he was, ready for the tap-in after Buffon’s save, Riccardo “Ricky” Maspero, 31 years already and an honest career across the whole Italian peninsula on his back.

He never scored that much, Maspero – 61 goals in 22 years – but surely the goal by which he sealed the 3-3 draw in that afternoon at the Stadio Delle Alpi grabs the top spot in his personal hall of fame. And still, that goal is not the reason why he is mostly remembered in the Derby della Mole, as the best on that same day was yet come…

Riccardo Maspero has just put the ball past Juventus’Gianluigi Buffon to grab an incredible 3-3 equaliser for Torino

Just two minutes before the final whistle, Daniele Delli Carri pushed Igor Tudor down in Torino’s area. Referee Borriello pointed again at the penalty spot with no hesitation. All hell broke loose. Borriello was encircled by a whole host of Granata jerseys barking at him. But as the referee tried to keep things under control waving yellow cards like there was no tomorrow, Maspero decided to stay out of the pandemonium, and silently approached the penalty spot to put his Machiavellian plan into action.

With his cleats, Maspero dug a small hole right where the ball was to be placed. Nobody saw him, or at least Marcelo Salas didn’t notice it. Juventus’ designated penalty shooter was Alex Del Piero, but Lippi had already substituted him with the Chilean forward. As Salas positioned the ball, Maspero could be heard shouting at his goalkeeper Luca Bucci: “He’s going to miss it!

And, well, so it was. Marcelo Salas’ shot would have made for a perfect rugby try conversion. But this is football, and as Salas’ ball got lost in the stratosphere and curtains fell on an unforgettable derby of Turin, Juventus would eventually go on to win the title in the day of Inter’s Cinque Maggio.

Torino, on the other hand, would manage to hold their city rivals to another draw later in the season in a no less controversial game. They finished their seasonal confrontation with the Old Lady unbeaten, at the end of the “Battle of the Horns” between Marco Ferrante and Enzo Maresca. But this is another football story.


October 14, 2001 – Serie A 2001-02 Round 9

9′ Del Piero (J), 11′ Tudor (J), 24′ Del Piero (J), 57′ Lucarelli (T), 70′ Ferrante (T, pen.), 83′ Maspero (T) 

JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon; Zenoni (64′ Ferrara), Thuram, Juliano, Pessotto; Zambrotta, Tudor, Tacchinardi, Nedved; Del Piero (73′ Salas), Trezeguet (Carini, Paramatti, Rondinella, Maresca, Pericard) Coach: Lippi
TORINO (3-5-2): Bucci; Mezzano, Galante, Delli Carri; Asta, Cauet, Semioli (46′ Vergassola), De Ascentis, Castellini; Lucarelli (78′ Maspero), Osmanovski (46′ Ferrante) (Sorrentino, Comotto, Brambilla) Coach: Camolese

REFEREE: Mr. Borriello from Mantova
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Zenoni, Tudor (J), Cauet, Semioli, Lucarelli, Vergassola, Bucci (T)

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