In the long history of the Italian league championship, there was one occasion when a Serie A playoff was necessary to determine the Scudetto winner. It happened at the end of the 1963-64 season, when Fulvio Bernardini’s Bologna found themselves at top of the league with 54 points, together with the title holders – Helenio Herrera’s legendary Inter squad.
The championship had been thrilling and balanced and had featured a number of coups de théâtre, including a three-point deduction inflicted on the Felsinei on doping grounds. However, on May 16, 1964, the Italian Federal Court of Justice (CAF) canceled the penalty, on the basis that the samples used for the doping test were clearly manipulated.
Thanks to the three points they got back (one due to a reversal of the penalty, and two for being initially awarded a loss in the alleged doping case match), Bologna drew level with Inter at the top of the table with only three games left. In the last 270 minutes, both clubs collected an additional five points, making it necessary to resort to a playoff match. It can never happen again incidentally, as rules have changed and goal difference is now the tie-break criterium in cases of ex-aequo. The game was scheduled for June 7 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
The two sides came to Rome in totally different moods. Inter were full of enthusiasm, as only 11 days earlier they had won their first European Cup, beating Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano’s Real Madrid 3-1 at the Prater Stadium in Vienna to unseat city rivals Milan from the European throne. Bologna, on the other hand, landed in the capital city still mourning the tragic loss of their President Renato Dall’Ara – to whom the club eventually dedicated their stadium. Dall’Ara had been killed by a heart attack only four days prior to the Tricolore’s crucial match, rumored to have been brought on by the stress accumulated during the doping case.
However, the match saw Bologna taking command of the operation, thanks to coach Bernardini’s deploying of left-back Bruno Capra in a winger position to control Inter’s dangerous striker Mario Corso. The Felsinei kept pushing, and troubled Giuliano Sarti’s goal on a number of occasions, but the score remained 0-0 until the 75th minute. It took a free-kick to finally break the balance – Giacomo Bulgarelli knocked the ball on to Romano Fogli, whose sharp low-range shot hit the target, taking a slight deflection from Inter defender Giacinto Facchetti on its way in.
You might have expected Inter to react, but the Nerazzurri seemed tired and limited by the heat. Nine minutes later, the Rossoblu made it two as Foglia saw Danish striker Harald Nielsen dashing towards the opponents’ box, and served him a perfectly-timed pass that only needed to be put past Sarti to secure Bologna’s triumph.
It was the goal that secured the club their seventh Scudetto; the last and most prestigious one in their history. It was promptly snatched out of their hands by Inter the following season but it was the best way for them to honor the memory of their beloved president Dall’Ara.
June 7, 1964 – Serie A 1963-64 Playoff
SCORERS: 75′ Fogli, 84′ Nielsen
|BOLOGNA: Negri, Furlanis, Pavinato, Tumburus, Janich, Fogli, Perani, Bulgarelli, Nielsen, Haller, Capra. Coach: Bernardini|
|INTER: Sarti, Burgnich, Facchetti, Tagnin, Guarneri, Picchi, Jair, Mazzola, Milani, Suarez, Corso. Coach: Herrera|
REFEREE: Mr. Lo Bello from Siracusa
NOTES: Attendance: 64000; Yellow Cards: Bulgarelli, Fogli, Tumburus (B)
Translated by Matteo Carnevale