Match day 33 of the 1997/98 Serie A season would be one of the most dramatic in the leagues history. Title favourites Juventus welcomed Renzo Ulivieri’s Bologna to the Stadio Delle Alpi, knowing a win was vital to take the title race to the final day of the season.
Lippi’s Juve were sitting at the top of the table on 71 points. However, breathing down their necks were Luigi Simoni’s Inter. The Nerrazzuri sat just two points behind their bitter rivals with two games to play. Inter travelled to Bari and were huge favourites with the Biancorosso’s season all but settled as they sat comfortably in mid table. Juve, however, faced a much tougher test. Bologna were nine games unbeaten, including a 3-0 demolition of AC Milan during this remarkable run of form.
As the Turin sunshine covered the dried out Delle Alpi pitch, you could feel the tension in the air. This game was massive. The hosts appeared nervy early on with so much at stake and it came as no surprise to see the visitors start the brighter.
In their changed yellow and blue kit, Bologna dominated the ball and reaped the rewards as they took an early lead. Angelo Peruzzi’s punch from a Rossoblu corner landed at the feet of defender Amedeo Mangone. Deep inside the Juventus half, Mangone sent the ball back where it came from, finding Igor Kolyvanov in acres of space at the back post. The Russian drove his volley past Peruzzi at his near post to score his ninth goal of the season, sending the shirtless travelling fans wild.
The goal served as a welcome wake-up call for Lippi’ side, and they finally started to get their superstars like Zinedine Zidane, Edgar Davids, and Alessandro Del Piero on the ball. And it was from a Del Piero corner that Juventus really should have equalised, as Paolo Montero rose above everyone only to see his header kept out by Bologna keeper’, Giorgio Sterchele. Whilst the Bianconeri pushed forward, they had to stay alert at the back and Bologna almost doubled their lead after the dangerous duo of Kolyvanov and Kennet Andersson combined, only for the Swede to blaze over from close range.
With the half hour mark approaching, Juve tried their luck from range on a couple of occasions through Edgar Davids and then Del Piero and their pressure would soon tell. Gianluca Pessotto played a ball down the Juventus left looking for Zidane who, despite the heavy weight of pass, managed to lunge at the ball and squeeze in an inch perfect cross for Filippo Inzaghi to head home from close range. As Inzaghi scored, news broke that Ronaldo had given Inter the lead in Bari.
However, Juve’s equaliser didn’t faze Bologna and they continued to play their football and look dangerous. As the half came to a close, the Rossoblu should have been awarded a penalty as Mark Iuliano seemed to grapple Kennet Andersson to the ground, leaving the Bologna forward furious with referee Boggi.
Harsh words would have been spoken by Lippi in the Juventus changing room at the break and it had the desired effect. The Bianconeri came out like a train in the second half and within five minutes, Inzaghi doubled his tally to put them in front. A typical Zidane through ball found the Italian international, who slipped the ball home sending the rare full house at the Delle Alpi into ecstasy.
This elation was short-lived. Whilst Juventus were still celebrating, one of their old boys came back to haunt them. Midfielder Giancarlo Marocchi won the ball back for the visitors deep inside the Juve half and slid a ball to Roberto Baggio. The ex-Bianconero found himself face to face with Peruzzi and there was only going to be one winner as Baggio calmly lifted the ball over the on rushing Italian keeper’. With Inter still leading in Bari, this was a potentially ‘title-defining’ goal.
Lippi had no choice but to go all out for the win. The tactician replaced midfielder Didier Deschamps with Uruguayan forward Daniel Fonseca. Bologna were now camped in their half as Juventus poured forward. The Juventini were off their feet when Inzaghi laid a ball to Mr. Juventus himself, but Del Piero uncharacteristically fluffed his lines from 12-yards, firing straight at the keeper’. It went from bad to worse for the Juve number 10 as he missed another golden chance; glancing a Fonseca corner over the bar.
After Roberto Baggio was substituted to a chorus of boos, Zidane was the next guilty of profligacy as he too fired over from close range. But just as it appeared to be one of those day for Juve, Fonseca received the ball out wide. Twisting and turning, he beat his man with ease and sent an inviting cross into the six-yard box. Otherwise known as ‘Inzaghi territory’, the opportunistic striker arrived right on cue to guide the ball into an empty net and complete his hat-trick. It was a typical Inzaghi strike and vital with Inter still leading. A Juventus win would keep them top going into the final day.
At that point, little did the Bianconeri know that they would not have to wait until the final day. In three mad minutes, two late strikes from Nicola Ventola and Phil Masinga sent Inter to a crushing 2-1 defeat in Bari. And thanks to Pippo Inzaghi’s hat-trick, Juventus were on hand to be crowned champions.
Words by Giovanni Dougall @giovannid86
Gio has been part of the Gentleman Ultra team since 2013 and is the creator of @ClassicCalcio and @Solo_Parma. He regularly travels to Italy to follow his beloved Parma.