:: A Relentless Comeback:: source -www.lazioclubmalta.com
With the nine-point handicap inflicted by the Italian Federation, promotion in Serie A was just a dream for the most optimistic. The reality instead was that Lazio had to fight hard in order to avoid relegation. Although the squad was technically strong to avoid relegation, the psychological component was to play the most essential role.
Administratively, the club seemed finally on its feet thanks to the Calleri brothers so the coach Fascetti could work in a tranquil environment supported by the fans that had faith in his capabilities. They were optimistic that Lazio could do well and from the beginning a special relation was built between them and the whole squad.
It took eight matches for Lazio in order to recover the nine-point decifit and to get out of the last position of the standings. In the first round, Lazio earned twenty-four points, and there were high hopes that it could even challenge for promotion, but the squads run of positive results ended abruptly and was soon re-sucked in relegation zone. In February 1987, the club and all fans mourned the death of Umberto Lenzini, the charismatic and beloved president of the Maestrelli's and Chinaglia's era. From then on a series of negative results brought Lazio to the brink of relegation that was partially avoided on the last day of the season thanks to a late winner by Fiorini against lowly-Vicenza. In that match Lazio needed a win to avoid direct relegation and at least play the deciders. With just seven minutes to go, third division (Serie C) seemed inevitable, however sustained by its unique fans that gathered in 60,000 to support the Fascetti boys, the players gave all they could and their perseverance was rewarded with a vital victory that brought Lazio out of hell but still not in paradise. Lazio ended the regular season fourth-from-bottom on thirty-three points, on equal level with Campobasso and Taranto. Thus these three teams had to play the deciders to determine who will accompany the already condemn Catania, Vicenza and Cagliari, in the third division. The Italian Federation decided that a mini-league between these three squads was to be played in Naples. In the first match, Lazio faced Taranto and, although followed by over 20,000 fans who had traveled to Naples during those hot July days, it lost by a goal to nil, scored by De Vitis in a clearly off-side position that was not noticed by the referee. The situation was disparate, but Lazio was not yet condemned. Taranto and Campobasso drew their match one each, thus Lazio's only chance to avoid the drop in Serie C, was a victory against Campobasso.
The game versus the "Molisani" was scheduled on the 5th July. The Lazio players were tense but knew that the club's destiny was in their hands, precisely in their feet. To help them sustain this hard exam, the players had once again the support of the irreplaceable fans that once again invaded Naples to support the team. The game was tough, although Lazio looked superior and went in front early in the second half through Poli, who headed home a cross from Piscedda. The remaining minutes seemed infinite, but Lazio resisted heroically securing permanence in Serie B that was vital for the club's future.
Avoided relegation, Lazio's aim was now promotion in Serie A. The heroic squad of the minus-nine-season was partially dissolved. The input of Giuseppe Galderisi, three times Italian champion with Juventus and Verona and a regular in the 1986 World Cup National team strengthened the squad and demonstrated the club's determination to return in the maximum division. On the other hand, previous seasons heroes Poli and Fiorini were sold. The squad alternated good results to poor ones and but managed to obtain promotion placing third position on same levels with Atalanta and just one point over Catanzaro, who thus lost promotion. The team's main protagonist of the season was Monelli, who scored thirteen goals including the injury-time equalizer in the decisive match at Catanzaro. Finally it was time to joy at Lazio. The fans who had followed the team massively both in home and away matches, and after that they had seen their team on the brink of liquidation just a couple of years before and almost in Serie C the previous summer, could finally explode their joy in the streets of Rome for the return in the top flight.
The summer of 1988 was not any plain sailing at Lazio and contrasts over the transfer market strategies developed between Fascetti and President Calleri that resulted in the exoneration of the much beloved coach who paid his determination of resisting Calleri from selling the bomber Monelli. The fans did not welcome this president's move and protested vividly against the club owner. However, Calleri did his way and replaced Monelli with two South-American strikers, the Uruguayan Ruben Sosa and the Argentinean Gustavo Dezotti. The third foreigner was the Uruguayan midfielder Nelson Gutierrez. Giuseppe Materazzi was appointed as new coach. The club's main ambition was to secure permanence in Serie A as soon as possible, however following a poor attack and a tendency to play for draws, totaling nineteen out of thirty-four matches and winning only five meant that Lazio had to wait until the last day's goalless draw against the ex-Bruno Giordano's squad, Ascoli, to secure its stay in Serie A.
The foreign players did not provide the desired input, with Sosa and Dezotti finding the net just in eleven occasions with the latter scoring only three goals. However, thanks to a quite reliable defence, the team secured its stay in the top division without ever really being involved in the harsh battle against relegation. The boring season's high note was without any doubt Lazio's return to victory, after almost ten years, in the Roman derby. In fact, in the first round's encounter, the much talented young forward and Roman born Paolo Di Canio, scored the winner infront of the muted Curva Sud (A.S Roma's hardcore fans lodging) who had to suffer the "Chinaglia style" celebration of the twenty year-old striker, who in his teenage years used to follow his beloved team everywhere together with the hardcore Lazio fans and who was a regular Curva Nord (S.S.Lazio's hardcore fans nest) resident. Therefore, he perceived the importance of beating the much-hated A.S.Roma. In the second round derby, Roma did not manage to take revenge and the match ended in a goalless draw. In the Italian Cup, Lazio had a couple of good outings and arrived till the quarterfinals stage, surrendering to Atalanta.
Due to the restructuring of the Stadio Olimpico for the 1990 Italian World Cup, the 1989-90 season home matches of both Roman squads had to be played at the smaller Flaminio Stadium, situated in the area where once stood the "Stadio Rondinella", Lazio's home ground in the twenties and thirties. Brazilian striker Amarildo and Argentinian international midfielder Troglio replaced the disappointing Dezotti and Gutierrez. Sosa was confirmed as the third foreigner while Solda', Bergodi and Sergio were signed to strengthen the rearguard. After the opening day home defeat against Sampdoria led by the duo Vialli-Mancini, on the second day against all-odds Lazio managed a rare win at San Siro against Milan, thanks to an own goal from Italy's most promising defender Paolo Maldini. Lazio alternated good results to poor ones, although it continued on the previous seasons' footsteps totalling fifteen draws and winning just eight matches the most remarkable apart from the Milan's game, being the three nil triumph against the league-winners Napoli, lead by the geniality of Maradona and the talents of Careca, Carnevale, Alemao, De Napoli and the Naples-born Ferrara. Amarildo and Sosa fitted quiet well together, scoring eight goals each, while Di Canio emerged as the most skilful player in the squad. Lazio never got in troubled waters and sailed on easily to secure a tranquil permanence in Serie A. In the Italian Cup, Lazio was eliminated in the second round by Bologna.
After the Italia 90 world cup, Lazio returned to play its home matches in a totally refurbished 80,000 capacity "Stadio Olimpico". During the summer transfer market a lot of things happened, especially between Lazio and Juventus. In fact the Roman squad, to the disappointment of its fans, sold its main talent Di Canio to the "bianconeri" who on their part released Zoff who had won both the Uefa Cup and Italian Cup in the previous season, to sign the emerging Bologna coach Maifredi. Calleri grasped this opportunity to appoint the legendary ex-international world-class goalkeeper, as the new Lazio coach. Moreover, the club signed the German striker Kalle Riedle, that meant the sale of Amarildo. Sosa and Troglio were confirmed as the other two foreign players. Lazio started on bad note as it was eliminated from the Italian Cup by the second division team Modena. Zoff followed Masterazzi's footsteps and totaled nineteen draws out of thirty-four matches, with just eight wins and seven defeats. Both derbies ended in a one each draws with Sosa scoring in both occasions. Lazio ended in tenth place with the duo Sosa-Riedle scoring twenty of the thirty-three goals scored by the whole squad. The main news of the season however was the announcement in March 1991, that Calleri had concluded a deal to bring the English ace Paul Gascoigne to Lazio, that immediately initiated the "Gazza-Mania" among the Lazio fans. Unfortunately, however Gascoigne got seriously injured in the FA Cup final match between his side, Tottenham Hotspurs and Nottingham Forest that meant he had to stay out of play for a whole season.
In order to fill the place that was to be of Gascoigne, for the season 1991-92 Lazio signed the East Germany midfielder Thomas Doll and sold Troglio to Ascoli. The squad seemed strong enough to achieve a much-dreamt Uefa Cup qualification. However, an incredible serious of last minutes and injury time equalizers by the opponents, meant the loss of precious points that marked Lazio's disappointing 10th place, even behind the surprisingly newly promoted Foggia, coached by the offensive football mentor Zdenek Zeman and lead on the pitch by the emerging football talents of Signori, Baiano and Rambaudi. The fans were really angry of the results obtained as they dreamt a European Cup qualification, but were conscious that a new era was going to start at Lazio as the Roman entrepreneur, Sergio Cragnotti, owner of various multinational Finance-Holdings and alimentary companies, had purchased Lazio together with his brother Giovanni from Giorgio Calleri, promising to make the Rome-based team one of the top clubs in Italy. Meanwhile, Gascoigne had recovered from his injury and was ready to join Lazio for the season 1992-93.