Stadio Renato Curi 14 May 2000: It shouldn’t have come to this. With eight games left in the 1999/00 season, Juventus held a comfortable nine point lead over Lazio at the top of Serie A. However, losses to Lazio, Milan and Verona meant that going into the last day of the campaign, Juve held only a one-point advantage – a win at Perugia was required to secure a third Scudetto in 4 years.
Lazio had to defeat Reggina at the Stadio Olimpico and hope that 85 miles away, Juventus would slip up. The side from Rome did all they could, recording a routine 3-0 victory with goals from Simone Inzaghi, Juan Sebastian Veron and Diego Simeone.
The real drama came in the other match. To say that the weather conditions at the Renato Curi were poor would be putting it mildly. The torrential rain became such an issue that referee Perluigi Collina delayed the start of the second-half. Collina then wandered around the sodden pitch – ball in one hand, umbrella in the other – trying to decide if it was at all playable.
The contest did eventually resume. A free-kick from the left wasn’t properly cleared and the ball fell kindly for Alessandro Calori – the centre-back guiding a right-footed shot past Edwin Van Der Sar. Juventus’ chances of regaining parity then suffered a blow when Gianluca Zambrotta was sent-off.
It just wasn’t their day. Despite having a side containing the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, Zinedine Zidane and Edgar Davids, Juve failed to reply. The other Inzaghi – Pippo – squandered possibly their best opportunity, sending a side-footed volley over the bar from close range.
Perugia held on for the win, sparking wild celebrations in Rome amongst Lazio players and fans, their match having long since finished. For the side from the capital, it was only the second league title in their history, matching the achievement of 1974.
Juventus bounced back from the blow of losing the championship on the last day, landing the Serie A title again in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006. However, the last two of those titles were stripped from them as a result of the Calciopoli scandal.
Lazio were also caught up in the match-fixing saga. An initial punishment of demotion to Serie B was later reduced to a points deduction. By this time, the financial position of the club had altered dramatically, with huge debts having been amassed during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The days of spending fortunes on world-class players were over.
Not surprisingly, guiding his side to a championship also boosted the career prospects of Lazio coach, Sven Goran Eriksson. Less than a year later he was gone, as he took charge of the English national team. Would he have been such an attractive proposition had Calori not struck that crucial last-day goal? We’ll never know, though given his failure to land an international title, some England fans will no doubt wish that his success in Italy hadn’t brought him to the top of the FA’s list.