Throwback Thursday: When Inter Were Awarded Four Penalties

Inter-Verona of September 15, 1991, looked like an average beginning-of-the-season game which ended with an average 2-0 score for the Nerazzurri. Nothing from this match would make it a remarkable occurrence if it weren’t for the fact that it featured four penalties, all awarded to the home side.

This was not the first occasion when four penalties were allowed in a Serie A game, as the same had happened already in an Atalanta-Livorno square-off in 1949 and then, more recently, when Inter received Atalanta in June 1989. In both cases, however, the penalty distribution had been slightly more balanced as the home sides had benefited from three and the visitors were allowed at least one.

That Inter-Verona was the first case of a Serie A team being sent to the penalty spot four times in the same game. The author of the exploit was referee Arcangelo Pezzella, one of the most experienced game directors in Italy back in the days.

The four penalties were not the only record set in the day, however, as – Inter being Pazza Inter – the Nerazzurri took care of missing three of them in succession and only managed to score on the last occasion. If midfielder Stefano Desideri didn’t finally manage to bury the spot, perhaps Pezzella would have continued to award penalties to Inter until they converted one. Who knows.

Referee Arcangelo Pezzella in one of the very few photos of him available on the Internet. Pezzella was born in Frattamaggiore, near Naples, and was on the most prominent Italian game directors back in the 1980s
Referee Arcangelo Pezzella in one of the very few photos of him available on the Internet. Pezzella was born in Frattamaggiore, near Naples, and was on the most experienced Italian game directors back in the 1980s

The 1991-92 season of the Nerazzurri is mostly remembered for their president Ernesto Pellegrini’s puzzling choice to put in charge as coach a man named Corrado Orrico. He was a journeyman trainer with some remarkable stints in minor divisions, but only a short experience in Serie A dating back to 1980. In Pellegrini’s view, this was supposed to be Inter’s answer to the epopee of Arrigo Sacchi at Milan.

But since stories like Sacchi’s are likely to happen only once in a lifetime, Orrico’s parable at Inter ended as many could expect, with the Tuscany-born coach resigning after 17 games, never to be seen again in Serie A except for an even shorter spell in charge of Empoli a few years later.

Back to the game – right In the second minute, after Paolo Piubelli’s tackle on Alessandro Bianchi, referee Pezzella pointed at the penalty spot for the first time. German hitman Lothar Matthaus, however, didn’t live up to his fame of ruthless penalty taker and came up with a central shot that was saved by Verona keeper Attilio Gregori.

A few minutes later, Nicola Berti ended up sandwiched among three Gialloblu defenders in the box. Pezzella went for the penalty again. Another German – defender Andreas Brehme – took the responsibility of converting this time but the ending was similar, with Gregori parrying back his shot and then even clearing the ball away with a spectacular karate-style kick.

Too bad for Verona that Inter’s Stefano Desideri was ready to pounce on the deflected ball and tuck it home with a header to break the stalemate. Inter put themselves in the driving seat, but technically even their second penalty was missed…

In the second half, Ezio Rossi’s foul on Jurgen Klinsmann – the third German in the Nerazzurri’s roster – caused penalty number three for the home side, but striker Massimo Ciocci made things even easier for Attilio Gregori as he sent his shot directly into orbit.

And so, when Inter were allowed the fourth penalty, coach Orrico decided to send to the spot the only one who seemed to be able to hit the target on that day. Stefano Desideri didn’t disappoint his coach and made it 2-0 for Inter, but had to benefit from some help from the post as the ball hit Gregori’s right stick before bouncing past the goal line. Hallelujah.

Before the end of the game, referee Arcangelo Pezzella also tried to break his record as he came close to allowing the fifth penalty – to Verona this time. He seemed to desist after a quick consultation with one of his assistants.

We almost wonder what the two must have told each other.


September 15, 1991 – Serie A 1991-92 Round 3

SCORERS: 45′ Desideri, 69′ Desideri pen.

INTER: Zenga, A. Paganin, Brehme, Ferri, Desideri, Bergomi, Bianchi, Berti, Klinsmann, Matthaus, D. Fontolan (46′ Ciocci) (Abate, Battistini, D. Baggio, Pizzi) Coach: Orrico
VERONA: Gregori, Tommasi (46′ Lunini), Polonia, Piubelli, C. Pin, Rossi, Fanna, Magrin (59′ Guerra), Raducioiu, Prytz, Icardi (Zaninelli, Pelucchi, Sturba) Coach: Fascetti

REFEREE: Mr. Pezzella from Frattamaggiore
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Paganin, Klinsmann (I), Rossi, Prytz (V)