There is a thin line that separates great players from true outliers: It’s a fleeting border, not an easy one to cross. But beyond that border, you may sometimes happen to witness pure Genius manifesting itself. When Fabio Capello’s Roma met Milan in Round 32 of Season 2000-2001, the Giallorossi were close to conquer the third Scudetto in their history. Roma were leading the table with a five-point margin over city rivals Lazio, and six over Juventus coached by Carlo Ancelotti.
However, despite the support of a roaring Stadio Olimpico, Roma came up with a pretty colorless first half. A few seconds before referee Graziano Cesari could send the teams for a break, Milan took the lead with Francesco Coco, who converted a corner kick with a header and gave the whole Olimpico the chills. In the meantime, Lazio were winning over Inter in a match played in Bari – meaning that Roma’s lead over their city cousins was virtually reduced to two points only.
Fabio Capello thus decided to send in Vincenzo Montella, and the entrance of the Aeroplanino changed the fate of the match. Giallorossi’s Number 9 first hit the post with a shot on which Milan’s keeper looked hopeless, and then produced a dribbling that forced Kakha Kaladze to knock him down. The foul ignited a brawl resulting in the expulsion of Kaladze himself, as well as Roma’s Vincent Candela.
With both teams playing with one man less, gaps got wider on the pitch: Montella was free to progress on the right flank and, after having dribbled Federico Giunti, moved inward to the center of the Rossoneri’s box.
Milan’s goalkeeper Sebastiano Rossi – who was 197cm tall – advanced from the goal line to cover a wider area. That is when Genius materialized into Montella’s left foot. Is it a good idea trying to surpass a 197cm-tall giant with a lob shot? Probably not, but the Genius doesn’t know that. Or it simply doesn’t care. Montella really wanted to go for a lob.
The ball flew high, surpassed Milan’s humongous goalkeeper, then quickly dropped down to end its run under the “sette” – the top left corner of the goal. A true masterpiece.
Before the end, there was still time for the Romanisti fans to experience some angst, as Roque Junior hit the post with a header on which Francesco Antonioli couldn’t do anything. But in the end, the Monte Mario stands could burst into loud cheers: At the San Nicola Stadium in Bari, French midfielder Stéphane Dalmat had just equalized for Inter with a phenomenal long-range screamer.
Lazio remained five points behind, overtaken by Juventus. With just two games left, Roma had taken a decisive step towards the Scudetto.
May 27, 2001 – Serie A 2000-2001 Round 32
SCORERS: 45’ Coco (M), 64’ Montella (R)
|ROMA: Antonioli, Zebina, Samuel, Zago, Cafu, Tommasi, Assuncao (75’ Zanetti), Candela, Totti (93’ Nakata), Batistuta, Delvecchio (46’ Montella) (Lupatelli, Di Francesco, Rinaldi, Mangone) Coach: Capello|
|MILAN: Rossi, Helveg, Roque Junior, Maldini, Coco, Guglielminpietro (79’ Chamot), Kaladze, Giunti, Serginho, Shevchenko (93’ Leonardo), Comandini (69’ Garcia) (Abbiati, Jose Mari, Bierhoff, Sala) Coach: C. Maldini.|
REFEREE: Mr. Cesari from Genoa
NOTES: Yellow cards: Montella, Batistuta, Samuel (R), Giunti, Kaladze, Maldini, Serginho (M); Red Cards: Candela (R), Kaladze, Serginho (M)
Translated by Matteo Carnevale