The history of the Derby d’Italia Juventus-Inter is filled with matches played on a razor’s edge, and invariably followed by harsh controversies. Among all, one of the most famous occurrences happened on April 26, 1998 in Round 31 of Serie A. Juventus is topping the rank at 66, but Inter is just one point behind, and the Nerazzurri can feature the Fenomeno, Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima. The match takes place on a gloomy day at the old Stadio Delle Alpi in Turin, and the referee is Piero Ceccarini from Livorno.
The balance breaks at the 21st minute: Alessandro Del Piero dashes past Salvatore Fresi in the box, and gets the better of Gianluca Pagliuca from a thigh angle with a surgical right foot shot. Inter tries to react, with Ronaldo first narrowly missing the goal from a free kick, and then concluding an irresistible progression into the Bianconeri’s area with another shot out of target.
At half time, Juventus are still leading 1-0.
The pattern doesn’t change after the break until minute number 70. Ronaldo once again catches a ball into the opponents’ box and prepares to move past Mark Iuliano, but Juventus’ defender collapses on him with a perfect ice-hockey style “body-check.” It’s a crystal-clear penalty foul, yet referee Ceccarini doesn’t blow his whistle. The whole Nerazzurri bench burst into the pitch, with coach Luigi Simoni chasing the referee up to the midfield circle. But the action keeps going, and after a quick counterattack Ceccarini does award a penalty – but to Juventus! – to punish a contact between Taribo West and Del Piero.
All hell breaks loose! Inter players encircles the match officer, who is forced to draw back from the box up to the midfield. It takes almost three minutes before Del Piero can attempt to convert the penalty. However, Bianconeri’s Number 10 gets ipnotized by Pagliuca, who drives back his shot and gives Inter new hopes of rebalancing the match in the last 15 minutes.
Even with one man less due to the expulsion of Zè Elias – who is sent off after charging Didier Deschamps with his elbow high – coach Simoni’s squad pull out all the athletic fury they have, but Ivan Zamorano and Ronaldo’s further attempts to score are frustrated by Angelo Peruzzi. The score remains set on 1-0, with Ronaldo mournfully commenting at full time: “For me, football is a joy when you play 11-a-side. But when you play 11 versus 12, it becomes sad.”
April 26, 1998 – Serie A 1997-98 Round 31
SCORER: 21’ Del Piero
|JUVENTUS: Peruzzi, Torricelli, Iuliano, Montero (58’ Birindelli), Pessotto, Di Livio, Deschamps, Zidane, Davids (84’ Pecchia), Inzaghi (62’ Conte), Del Piero (Rampulla, Amoruso, Fonseca, Zalayeta) Coach: Lippi|
|INTER: Pagliuca, Fresi, West, Colonnese, Zanetti J., Moriero (56’ Zamorano), Winter (67’ Zè Elias), Simeone, Cauet, Djorkaeff, Ronaldo (Mazzantini, Milanese, Sartor, Paulo Sousa, Kanu) Coach: Simoni|
REFEREE: Mr. Ceccarini from Livorno
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Davids, Iuliano, Pecchia (J), Pagliuca, Simeone, Zamorano (I); Red Card: Zè Elias.
Translated by Matteo Carnevale