Throwback Thursday: The Last Descent of Napoli to the Serie B Hell

Far from being the sparkling squad that station in the top positions of the Serie A table nowadays, on June 10, 2001 Napoli were in the middle of a desperate fight to avoid relegation.

Coached by Emiliano Mondonico, who substituted Zdenek Zeman after just six games, the Partenopei were third from last with 32 points – one less than Lecce, Reggina, and Vicenza. In the last two games, they needed to face Roma at home, and then Fiorentina away.

That Roma coming to San Paolo Stadium, on the other hand, were a team flying on enthusiasm. The Giallorossi were leading Serie A with four points over Juventus, and were looking for the three decisive points to capture the tricolore – the league title. Such motivations produced a highly emotional game, played openly by both sides.

Roma started pressuring from the very beginning, but ended up exposing themselves to Napoli’s counterattacks – the one by Nicola Amoruso, well served by Fabio Pecchia in the 37th minute, resulting in the 1-0 goal. But just five minutes later Gabriel Batistuta stepped up and drove fear away from his teammates, making the best out of a corner kick by Francesco Totti to score the 19th goal of his extraordinary season.
Gabriel Batistuta scored 19 goals during his first season with Roma, leading the Giallorossi to an unexpected Scudetto!

Seven minutes after the break, a masterpiece goal by the unforgettable Capitano (although propitiated by a handball…) gave Roma the illusion of Scudetto. Still, with just nine minutes to go, a malicious Pecchia free kick penetrated the Giallorossi’s wall and set the score at 2-2.

Roma coach Fabio Capello sent in Vincenzo Montella – who visibly looks irritated at how late his trainer was putting him in. Indeed, the chance for the tricolore fell right on Montella’s foot – but the Aeroplanino’s furious shot hit goalkeeper Francesco Mancini’s body.

Roma would find the decisive three points for their Scudetto one week later, beating Parma 3-1 in a home ground Stadio Olimpico filled with supporters. Napoli, on the other hand, had to suffer their fifth – and so far last – relegation to Serie B in their history despite winning in Florence with a goal from Edmundo during stoppage time.

Even tougher times would come for the Partenopei, who would eventually go bankrupt, restart from scratch, and finally make it back to Serie A in the 2007-08 Season.

Fast forward to ten years later, and Napoli were chasing the dream of their third Scudetto title, only ending second to Juventus in the table.  Their last descent to hell was just an ancient memory.



June 10, 2001 – Serie A 2000-2001 Round 33

SCORERS: 37’ Amoruso (N), 42’ Batistuta (R), 52’ Totti (R), 81’ Pecchia (N)

Logo_Napoli_2000 NAPOLI (4-4-2): Mancini; Baldini, Fresi (46’ Saber), Quiroga, Baccin; Pecchia, Husain, Jankulovski, Bocchetti (64’ Amauri); Edmundo, Amoruso (71’ Moriero) (Mondini, Pineda, Tedesco, Sesa) Coach: Mondonico
Logo_Roma_2001 ROMA (4-3-3): Antonioli; Zebina, Samuel, Zago, Cafu; Tommasi (82’ Montella), Emerson, Di Francesco; Totti, Batistuta, Delvecchio (55’ Zanetti) (Lupatelli, Mangone, Guigou, Assuncao, Nakata) Coach: Capello

REFEREE: Mr. Treossi from Forlì
NOTES: Yellow cards: Fresi, Pecchia, Bocchetti (N), Di Francesco (R)