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 were topping the rank at 66, but Inter were just one point behind, and the Nerazzurri could feature the Fenomeno, Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima. The match took place on a gloomy day at the old Stadio Delle Alpi in Turin, and the referee was Piero Ceccarini from Livorno.
The balance was broken in the 21st minute: Alessandro Del Piero dashed past Salvatore Fresi in the box and got the better of Gianluca Pagliuca from a tight angle with a sharp right-foot shot. Inter tried 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 the target. At half time, Juventus were still leading 1-0.
The pattern didn’t change after the break until the 70th minute. Ronaldo once again caught the ball into the opponents’ box and prepared to move past Mark Iuliano, but Juventus’ defender collapsed on him with a perfect ice-hockey style “body-check.” It looked like a crystal-clear penalty foul, yet referee Ceccarini didn’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 kept going, and after a quick counterattack Ceccarini did award a penalty – to Juventus! – for a contact between Taribo West and Del Piero.
All hell broke loose! Inter players encircled the match official, who was forced to draw back from the box up to the midfield. It took almost three minutes before Del Piero could attempt to convert the penalty. However, Bianconeri’s Number 10 got hypnotized by Pagliuca, who drove back his shot and gave Inter new hopes of rebalancing the match.
Even with one man less due to the expulsion of Zè Elias – who was sent off after charging Didier Deschamps with his elbow high – coach Simoni’s squad pulled out all the athletic fury they had, but Ivan Zamorano and Ronaldo’s further attempts to score were frustrated by Angelo Peruzzi. The score remained set at 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