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 Back to Success: The 1997/98 Season (16)

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Curva Maestrelli
Curva Maestrelli

Number of posts : 149
Age : 40
Country and city : MALTA
Laziale since : 1986
Registration date : 2008-08-12

PostSubject: Back to Success: The 1997/98 Season (16)   Sat Aug 16, 2008 5:12 pm

Back to Success: The 1997/98 Season source - www.lazioclubmalta.com

Although Zoff's positive campaign (following Zeman's mid-season sacking) in the previous season second round, Cragnotti opted to replace him with the mid-eighties AS Roma coach, Sven Goran Eriksson. The Swede trainer, who had been coaching Sampdoria in the previous seasons, brought with him from the Ligurian outfit, the much-talented Roberto Mancini who after 16 years with the "blucerchiati" decided it was time for a new experience. In the summer 1997 transfer campaign, Lazio also landed the Argentinean midfielder Almeyda, the Serbian midfielder Jugovic, and the Italian defenders Pancaro and Giovanni Lopez together with veteran goalkeeper Ballotta.

Lazio's Serie A campaign started on the 31st August, the day the world was shocked with the news of Lady Diana's tragic death. In Rome, Lazio clinched a 2-0 win against Napoli with new -signings Mancini and Pancaro the scorers. Lazio, then traveled to Milan and managed a last minute equalizer against AC Milan thanks to a Signori penalty-strike. A shock defeat at Empoli followed which was counterbalanced by a dramatic 3-2 injury-time victory against Bari. A 1-1 draw away against Inter followed, while an unexpected home defeat against Atalanta was the prelude to the first derby of the season played on the first November. Tension was high at the Olimpico when after just eight minutes Lazio was forced to play in ten, following Favalli's dismissal. However, Eriksson's lads resisted Roma's attacks and with a fantastic second half display registered a memorable derby victory. Mancini, Casiraghi and Nedved humiliated the cousins, who only managed a consolation goal in the dying seconds. The only negative aspect of that night was that Signori was unexpectedly left on the bench by Eriksson. The blonde bomber did not much appreciate this turn-over strategy. In the mean time, Lazio had made it to the quarterfinals of the Coppa Italia after eliminating Fidelis Andria and Napoli in the first two rounds. Lazio's next opponents in the quarter-finals stage were none-the-less city-rivals AS Roma. Erikkson's boys were doing well even in the Uefa cup. In the first two rounds Lazio eliminated Vitoria Guimaraesand Rotor Volgograd. In the third round the "biancocelesti" played against Rapid Vienna. Lazio won both legs and qualified, but in the return match played at the Prater stadium in Vienna Signori was left once again on the bench. In the dressing room, he reacted badly to Eriksson and decided that it was time for him to leave Lazio and find a new squad where he can play regularly.

This outcome shocked all Lazio fans. During the following training sessions some hard-core fans tried in vain to convince their idol to remain and accused Erikkson and his fellow Mancini for this situation. Cragnotti decided to satisfy Signori and reached an agreement with Sampdoria to transfer him. After more than five season in which he scored over 100 goals with the light-blue shirt Signori left Lazio. After a negative spell that saw Lazio collected one point out of three matches, the departure of "Beppe-gol" calmed the dressing room and the team started to gear up. In fact, an outstanding positive run of 17 matches, of which 13 victories, followed that permitted Lazio to climb the table and join Juventus and Inter in the title race. In the mean time, Lazio had reached the final of the Coppa Italia. In its road to the final stage it eliminated Roma and Juventus in two tensed cup-ties. In the quarterfinal stage, Lazio met arch-rivals AS Roma in a passionate cup derby. The first leg was played on the Epiphany in which Lazio went immediately in front through Boksic. Roma, who wanted to take revenge of the league derby defeat, tried to react but following a foul on Boksic, it was Jugovic who from the penalty spot beat Konsel to put Lazio 2-0 up. Few minutes later Roma were given a penalty and Balbo scored. In the second half, Lazio dominated and scored the third goal through a Mancini's lob and the fourth strike thanks to a Fuser direct free-kick. It was Lazio's triumph and the first time ever Lazio scored four goals in a derby match and had won by a three-goal margin over AS Roma . In the return leg match, Erikkson's boys performed excellently and opened the score in the dying seconds of the first half through a Jugovic penalty kick. Nine minutes into the second half Paulo Sergio equalized for the "giallorossi " who later on remained in ten, following Di Biagio's dismissal following some dangerous tackles. The match seemed destined to a draw, however in deep injury time Gottardi beat Konsel giving Lazio its third derby win out of three so far in the season. In the semi-final stage Lazio met Juventus. The eagles played the first leg in Turin, and clinched an outstanding victory thanks to a superb Boksic shot from outside the penalty area. In the return leg, in front of 70,000 fans, Juventus shocked Lazio when Fonseca opened the score before half time. Lazio reacted in the second half and Nedved scored twice in three minutes to overturn the score. Juventus equalized in injury time but it was not enough to knock out Lazio. Apart from the joy of reaching the final stage of the Coppa Italia, Lazio also managed to reach for the first time the semi-final stage of the Uefa Cup. After eliminating Auxerre in the quarterfinals Lazio was paired with Spanish side Atletico Madrid. The eagles were thus competing in three competitions at high levels. During its positive run in the league, Lazio beat again AS Roma for the fourth time in a row. The match had no story with Lazio dominating all match-long scoring twice in the second half through Boksic and Nedved. With seven matches to go, Lazio was fixtured to play a decisive home-league match against league-leaders Juventus who were enjoying a two-point advantage over Eriksson's boys. It was a do-or-die match. Lazio had the chance to bounce in first place in case of a victory.

The Olimpico was packed and Lazio played well however it was Filippo Inzaghi who against the run of play, headed the winner for Juventus midway through the second half. This defeat, after a five-month positive spell, was a psychological blow for Lazio's title hopes. In the Uefa cup, semifinal first leg Lazio traveled to Madrid to play against Atletico. It was another marvelous performance for the "biancocelesti" who won through a Jugovic long-distance strike. In the return leg, the Spanish did their best to overturn their destiny but Lazio defended well to finish the match in a goalless draw to secure their first ever European Cup final. In the domestic league, things were going badly with Lazio losing matches and going down the table. However, it was time for the Coppa Italia first leg final against AC Milan at San Siro. Lazio followed by almost 12,000 fans, outplayed Milan but did not manage to find the net. Quite astonishingly it was Milan who won the match through a last minute grasp by Weah. In the return leg played in Rome in front of 80,000 fans Lazio was determined to win the cup. The first half ended goalless and for Lazio things went worse when Albertini scored for Milan soon after the restart. Erikkson inserted Gottardi and five minutes later the Swiss-Italian jolly equalized following a Mancini's pass. Lazio and its fans firmly believed in the comeback. With thirty-five minutes to go, Lazio needed two more goals to make it. Four minutes passed, when Maldini brought down Gottardi at the edge of the Milan's penalty area. The referee ordered a penalty and Jugovic transformed coolly. The Olimpico's support was at its maximum and Eriksson's lads forced Milan players on their backs. The goal was in the air. From a Lazio corner, the ball rolled nearby Nesta ,who had come upfront to help his team mates, and with a sliding shot he delivered the ball into the net GOOAAALLL!!! Lazio had made it, in less than fifteen minutes the aggregate score was overturned. However, almost twenty-five minutes remained to play and Milan needed only one goal to adjudicate the cup. In the remaining minutes the "rossoneri" pressed in search of the precious goal but Lazio controlled without risking anything. At the final whistle Lazio's players and fans exploded their joy for this memorable triumph. It was the first victory under Cragnotti's presidency. A week after the Coppa Italia success, Lazio traveled to Paris followed by over 20,000 fans to play the Uefa Cup final against Inter. The "nerazzurri", who had just lost the title race against Juventus, were eager to at least conclude the season with a European triumph. For the first time the Uefa cup final was played in one sole match on neutral soil. It was not Lazio's night and Inter dominated the match from start till the end winning easily 3-0.

Lazio concluded this intense season losing also the last Serie A outings to end in an undeserved seventh place. In fact, in the last seven league outings Lazio collected just one point.


Last edited by k77 on Mon Sep 08, 2008 1:39 am; edited 1 time in total
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