“The Turin derby isn’t one of Italy’s biggest, it’s not as big as the Milan derby or the Rome derby, or even the Genoese derby” says Roberto, a Juventus fan from the Puglia region of the peninsula in his late 20s. Roberto knows the city well, having worked for Juventus for six months on an internship program, “but it does matter…to Torino fans” he adds with a cheeky grin.
Whilst his words might not necessarily be true for all Juventus fans, the harsh reality is that there is undoubtedly an element of truth to them. The Derby della Mole is very much reminiscent of the Manchester and Madrid derbies prior to the last decade. The long-established European aristocrat doing battle with a smaller, yet no-less irritating enemy. The derby, being played this Sunday, certainly doesn’t hold the lustre of Italy’s more famous derbies – most Juventini would even admit that the Derby d’Italia with Inter means more to them than the rivalry with Torino – but that isn’t to say the rivalry doesn’t hold importance.
The last few years has seen The Old Lady predominantly emerge victorious against their city rivals, the last three encounters wrecking up an aggregate scoreline of 10-2. In April 2015, Torino recorded their first victory in twenty years, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Matteo Darmian and Juve old boy Fabio Quagliarella.
The years preceding this landmark victory were very bleak for Il Toro. Indeed they hadn’t even mustered a goal in the derby for ten matches, a humiliating run that stretched back for an incredible 12 years. However, the recent dominance of Juventus is only a modern phenomenon. For much of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, victories were traded back and forth between the two clubs. But before Torino’s victory 20 months ago, their last win was remarkably one half of a double they completed over Juventus in the 1994-95 season.
In late January 1995, the two met for the first time that season. Torino had been on a horrendous run of form going into the first Derby, winning only one of their previous five matches. In fact, they had only managed to score a single goal in those games, in a 1- 0 win against Fiorentina. The fondly remembered side built under Emiliano Mondonico in the earlier part of the decade had slowly been chipped away at, and the previous summer saw Mondonico leave after four years to take over at Atalanta. Nonetheless, on paper II Granata still had a very capable squad that included Joceyln Angloma, future Juve cult hero Gianluca Pessotto, Abedi Pele and Ruggerio Rizzitelli.
Juve by contrast, were first in the table, being chased by Parma and Lazio. Despite enjoying a renaissance under Marcello Lippi that season, they had been thoroughly trounced by Cagliari the week before, losing 3 – 0. Three days later, they made the short trip to their hideous Stadio delle Alpi for what in those days was a rare mid-week league fixture under the lights. The stadium, hated by just about everyone, could hardly be filled at the best of times, such was the distance it stood from the centre of the city and the poor visibility when in the stadium. This was Torino’s ‘home’ match, and so a crowd of 41,000 was to be their highest of the season.
Torino started the brighter of the two and scored inside the opening ten minutes. Juventus tried to implement an offside trap as a long ball from a Torino defender landed on the periphery of their box. But unfortunately for The Old Lady, the usually dependable Moreno Torricelli didn’t get the memo. The right back, being hounded by Rizzitelli, attempted a preposterous backheel that not only backfired as the bouncing ball merely scraped off the sole of his foot, but he also fell flat on his face, adding to the humiliation. Rizzitelli punished Torricelli by smashing the loose ball past Angelo Peruzzi into the bottom corner of the net.
Toro’s joy didn’t last long as Juve equalised within two minutes. Paulo Sousa, in his brilliant debut season, swung in a cross from the left-hand channel. Antonio Conte, as he so often did in his career, made a surging run into the box. He failed to connect with the ball, however, and clattered into the side of a Torino defender. The ball carried on its path until it landed at the feet of an unmarked Gianluca Vialli, who made no mistake from a few yards out to stab the ball home.
In the 30th minute, Rizzitelli would add his second of the game. Torino launched a high ball into the Juve penalty box following a free kick and Andrea Silenzi – yes the Andrea Silenzi of Nottingham Forrest infamy – won an aerial duel with Jurgen Kohler and beautifully headed the ball towards the middle of the box. Rizzitelli anticipated the head and nipped in front of Torricelli – having a horrible game – to head past Peruzzi. Rizzitelli was a shade relieved, having earlier missed a glaring chance with only Peruzzi to beat.
Anything Rizzitelli could do, Vialli could equal, and much like at the beginning of the game, Juve’s forward levelled the game with his second only minutes after Torino scoring. Sousa, again, picked up the loose ball in midfield and produced a gorgeous through ball inside two Torino defenders for Vialli. The striker timed his run to perfection and now running into the penalty box with only the goalkeeper to beat, the no.9 breezed past Luca Pastine and slotted the ball home with his left foot. Just a marvellous and simplistic goal.
Having initially struggled after his move from Sampdoria to Juventus in 1992, Vialli was at the pinnacle of his career by the 1994-95 season. He flourished under Marcello Lippi and would net 22 goals in all competitions, more than he had scored in 1992-93 and 1993-94 campaigns combined.
Five minutes later, Torino once more took the lead in what was a truly crazy first half. Once again, Rizzitelli was involved. He received the ball facing away from Juve’s goal but on the edge of the 18-yard box. Glancing up, the striker spotted the deep run of Angloma, as Juve’s offside trap failed once again. The leggy defender ran unopposed into the box as Rizzitelli, still facing away from goal, produced an outrageous backheel through the legs of Kohler into his path. Angloma’s initial shot was blocked by Peruzzi but the ball ricocheted kindly back to the feet of Angloma, who almost walked the ball into the empty net.
In the second half, Juve piled on the pressure and are awarded a somewhat controversial penalty, as Vialli is thought to have been pulled down by his shirt. Toro goalkeeper Pastine was outraged and booted the ball away, an act of dissent that didn’t see him punished with a yellow card. Torino players surrounded the referee but the penalty was given. Fabrizio Ravanelli stepped up and hit the ball hard but not far enough into the left-hand corner and Pastine pulled off a great save to keep his side in the lead. The noise coming from the stands, even from watching the video on YouTube, was deafening. Torino held out for a brilliant and much-needed victory. Juve had suffered two defeats in a week, conceding 6 goals and temporarily lost top spot.
The two would meet again 3 months later, and again all the goals were netted in the first half. Rizzitelli would strike first, once again in the opening ten minutes. Juve struck back when defender Roberto Maltagliati turned a Roberto Baggio free kick into his own net. But the Granata’s derby-day hero, Rizzitelli, would add another goal to his burgeoning tally that season.
Like Vialli, Rizzitelli, or ‘Rizzi-gol’ as he was nicknamed, was enjoying the best season of his career and would end 1994-95 with 19 league goals. His previous best was seven, and a further productive season with Torino would see him sign for Bayern in the summer of 1996. While he would win honours with the Bavarian giants, he is best remembered for his spell in the maroon of Torino.
Of course, despite their disappointing performances in the Derby, Juve’s season ended in triumph, with Lippi’s men very nearly completing a treble before it became fashionable. It was up to Parma to stop the Bianconeri adding to their domestic league and cup double, defeating them in the final of the UEFA Cup. Torino finished the season in 11th place and as alluded to earlier, they wouldn’t taste victory over their city rivals for two decades. Despite the long period of wilderness, there can be little doubt that the Toro fans that experienced both victories savoured the taste for many years after.
With the current Torino side one of their best in years, they might just have another win around the corner.
Words by Emmet Gates @E_I_M_G
Emmet is a freelance football writer based in Italy. He has written for FourFourTwo, These Football Times and InBedWithMaradona.