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 meet Milan in Round 32 of Season 2000-2001, the Giallorossi are very close to conquer the third Scudetto of their history. Roma are leading the standing with five points over city rivals Lazio, and six over Juventus coached by Carlo Ancelotti.
However, despite the support of a roaring Stadio Olimpico, Roma come up with a pretty colorless first half. A few seconds before referee Graziano Cesari can send the teams for a break, Milan take the lead, with Francesco Coco converting a corner kick with a header, and giving the whole Olimpico the chills. In the meantime, Lazio are winning over Inter in a match played in Bari – meaning that Roma’s lead over their city cousins is virtually reduced to two points only.
Fabio Capello decides to send in Vincenzo Montella, and the entrance of the Aeroplanino changes the fate of the match. Giallorossi’s Number 9 first hits the post with a shot on which keeper Sebastiano Rossi looked hopeless, then produces a dribbling that forces Kakha Kaladze to knock him down. The foul ignites a brawl that results in the expulsion of Kaladze himself, as well as Roma’s Vincent Candela.
With both teams playing with one man less, gaps get wider on the pitch: Montella is free to progress on the right flank and, after having dribbled Federico Giunti, moves inward – towards the center of the Rossoneri’s box.
Milan’s goalkeeper Sebastiano Rossi – who is 197cm tall – advances from the goal line to cover a wider area, and that is when Genius materializes 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 wants to go for a lob.
The ball flies high, surpasses Milan’s humongous goalkeeper, then quickly drops down to end its run under the “sette” – the top left corner of the goal. A true masterpiece.
Before the end, there is still time for the Romanisti fans to experience some angst, as Roque Junior hits the post with a header on which Francesco Antonioli couldn’t do anything. But finally, the Monte Mario stands can burst into loud cheers: At the San Nicola Stadium in Bari, French midfielder Stéphane Dalmat has just equalised for Inter, with a phenomenal long-range screamer.
Lazio remain five points behind, overtaken by Juventus. With just two games left, Roma take a step closer to 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