Straight from the dark heart of Italy
RESULTS Tue 10 Apr Chievo 0-1 AC Milan Wed 11 Apr AS Roma 3-1 Udinese, Catania 1-2 Lecce, Napoli 1-3 Atalanta, Parma 2-0 Novara, Fiorentina 0-0 Palermo, Inter 2-1 Siena, Genoa 1-1 Cesena, Juventus 2-1 Lazio.
Wednesday evening was an emotional one for two players whose careers have basically been a window into the true heart of Italian football over the last two decades.
It was 'Big Wednesday' in Serie A and two veterans caught the perfect
wave. Alessandro Del Piero scored the winner for Juventus against Lazio
and Francesco Totti netted the goal that put AS Roma 2-1 up at home to
Both players are coming to the end of their illustrious careers, but still possess the ability to grab the limelight away from any young pretender – and retain the title of genuine fuoriclasse.
Del Piero was making his 700th appearance for Juve when he trotted on to replace Mirko Vucinic with just over 15 minutes remaining in the perfect setting of the Juventus Arena.
Suddenly the volume was amplified to such levels that even Antonio Conte was forced to give up screaming at the top of his lungs and instead settled for some manic arm-waving from the sidelines.
With the home side encamped in the Lazio half, but with Vucinic giving the ball away at every turn, the match was evenly poised at 1-1 – a scoreline which would have left Juve a point shy of AC Milan at the top of the table after the champions had sneaked a 1-0 victory at Chievo 24 hours earlier.
But the stage was set for Del Piero to once more roll back the years and produce a moment of sheer drama, with one of his trademark curling free-kicks with just eight minutes remaining.
It looked as if Andrea Pirlo was set to try his luck but, with the visitors unable to get their wall set up, the referee gave Del Boy the nod. With Lazio goalkeeper Federico Marchetti rooted to the spot, the ball was in the net before he could move, and the stadium was soon in a state of delirium.
An instant poll among Bianconeri fans demanded club president Andrea Agnelli reverse his decision to make this the 37-year-old club legend’s last season, but it seems there is no going back.
Conte has only given Del Piero three starts throughout the campaign, but he has scored against Inter in the league and Milan in the Cup in the new stadium.
Having made his debut for the Old Lady as an 18-year-old mop-haired youth at Foggia back in September 1993, he has now scored 187 Serie A goals, taking him into the top ten in the all-time goalscoring charts.
Before last night’s game, Totti had scored 211 league goals to put him fifth amongst the greats. Just moments after Del Piero reeled away with his familiar tongue-out celebration, down in the Capital the Roma captain was sticking his thumb in his mouth to indicate he had moved on to 212.
Roma were desperately searching for a win against Udinese in order to keep their hopes of holding on to third place alive, but much like Juve, the Giallorossi had dominated their opponents only to be left labouring with the scores locked at 1-1.
Totti’s vital goal may have been a tap-in, but it lifted the Romans after the debacle that was their 4-2 defeat to relegation-threatened Lecce at the weekend, and they would ultimately go on to secure a 3-1 victory.
Two years Del Piero’s junior, Totti, much like his old friend, can still unlock any defence with his movement and quickness of – and of course he too is a leader and team player.
While his team-mates and coach Luis Enrique had to listen to jeers as their names were announced, one name received only cheers and applause. However, in the post-game melee with the press, Totti’s first words were “we win as a team and lose as one.” Almost at the exact same moment back in Turin, Del Piero was saying much the same thing.
Class, as they say, is permanent, and these two greats of the Italian game are still on the crest of a wave.
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