The Season 2003/2004
The second round of the Italian Serie A kicked off with a good win at Lecce with Cesar scoring the decisive goal on his return from injury. Then came the match against Sampdoria at home in which Lazio just managed a 1-1 draw with Fiore the scorer. Parma at Stadio Tardini were next and it was a superb performance by Lazio in which the home-side was beaten 3-0 thanks to a Lopez brace and a Corradi header. This fantastic win was followed with another excellent performance in the first leg of the Coppa Italia where Milan was beaten 4-0 with all goals scored in the first half by Cesar, Liverani and a Fiore brace. The return match at San Siro was won again 2-1 with Fiore scoring after just 30 seconds and Couto adding the second until Pippo Inzaghi scored the sole goal for Milan .
More scenes of glee at the stadium were seen after the 3-0 win against Empoli through goals from defenders Couto, Zauri and Stam that permitted Lazio to remain fourth. All these goals however could not be repeated at Chievo were despite the fact that Lazio dominated the match it could not score and even missed a penalty by Lopez.
Then it was Milan at the Olimpico and again luck was not with Lazio since a number of goalmouth chances were missed and Milan hit back with a solo goal from Abrosini. Another unfortunate home-match followed, this time against Udinese. Lazio took an early two-goal lead inside the first six minutes through Muzzi and Inzaghi but Udinese made a great comeback with goals from ex-Castroman and Iaquinta, who grabbed a dramatic equaliser in the dying seconds.
Following this unlucky series of matches it was time for the first leg of the Coppa Italia final against Juventus. For the bianconeri this was the only cup they could achieve that season since they were already out of the title run and the Champions League. It was a fantastic evening at the Stadio Olimpico. A Cup Final is always a big event and the Coppa Italia was certainly Lazio's only chance of winning anything that season too. The stadium was packed, and the game was heralded by a spectacular coreografia . Every single person in the Tribuna Tevere was waving a plastic flag: across the top part of the stand the flags were Lazio colours: dark blue, white, pale blue. Then underneath flags in green, white and red, the Italian flag. After a goaless first-half Lazio opened the score with Fiore after 59 minutes and the same player double with ten minutes to go to give Lazio a precious victory and turned the fans wild with joy. An important step to win the fourth Coppa Italia was thus made.
The derby was next and the stadium as usual was packed up. The match was vibrant and Lazio were playing better and it seemed that finally time was ripe to win a derby. Lazio hit the post and had a clear penalty denied in the first half. After a couple of minutes in the second half a strange atmosphere was hanging at the ground. There were rumours that a child was killed by a police car after riots outside the ground. No-one seemed to know exactly what happened or why: conspiracies against the police by either sets of fans, or simply a catastrophic chain of misunderstandings. The fans were pledging to postpone the match and to avoid further problems the match was actually abandoned. Unfortunately riots continued outside the stadium with police against hard-core fans of both sides.
After the abandoned derby Lazio travelled to Bologna . Despite outplaying the homeside Lazio incredibly lost this match as a lot of chances were wasted while the hosts scored twice on their only two attacks. Fiore was Lazio's scorer in the 2-1 defeat. The race for the fourth place was thus becoming complicated with Parma , Udinese and Inter threatening Lazio. Fiore was again in the score sheet three days later in Lazio's away win at Perugia . He opened the score in the first half until the hosts equalised. Then Giannichedda scored the winner midway through the second half. This victory was followed by the crashing of Siena in Rome . Lazio won 5-2 with a hatrick from Cesar and a goal each from Fiore and Corradi. In the standings, Lazio remained fourth with one point advantage over Inter and Parma .
The Juve trip at Turin was next. Lazio, who hadn't lost to Juve since 1999, played well but missed several chances. A Trezegeut header with a couple of minutes to go gave the home side all points. Lazio thus lost its fourth place status as it was leapfrogged by Parma and Inter. However a comeback was made the following week when Lazio beat Ancona 4-2 at home. Ancona were infront twice but Lazio managed to overturn the score in the last 20mins to gain three important points thanks to goals from Fiore, Zauri and a Couto brace. During the match Inzaghi even lost a penalty. In the table following Inter's win and Parma 's draw, Lazio reached the 'gialloblu' in fifth place with two points less than the 'necessary'.
Three days later it was time to replay the derby. This time the atmosphere was very quiet and the match was played in an unusual friendly atmosphere. Lazio was desperate for a win to jump in fourt place while Roma were still involved in the title race with Milan . Lazio went in front after 40 mins through Corradi. Lazio fans were hoping that at last the derby can be won but Totti's goal levelled for Roma and the match ended 1-1. At the end of the match Mancini had an outburst against the vast wrong refereeing decisions that had damaged throughout the season.
The next match was away at Inter. For Lazio this was almost a decider for fourth place all points were needed to leapfrog Inter and bounce back in fourth place but the match ended goaless and Inter conserved its two-point advantage over Lazio. Then came the home match against lowly Reggina. Lazio tried to win but also due to controversial refereeing decisions the match ended 1-1 thus losing other vital points. Lopez was Lazio's scorer. Fortunately Inter lost thus Lazio levelled up with them just one point behind fourth-placed Parma . Another good news for Lazio fans was Roma's defeat at Milan that meant the scudetto was won by the 'rossoneri'.
The following weekend Lazio said almost goodbye to its hopes of reaching a Champions League berth as it disappointingly lost 2-1 at Brescia . Lazio played badly and only managed to score in the dying seconds through Cesar. Four days later the team was in Turin to play the second leg of the Coppa Italia final. Followed by thousands of fans, Lazio did its best to defend the two-goal cushion achieved in the first leg but Juventus were willing to overturn the aggregate and win the cup. Infact in the first half the hosts outplayed Lazio and went infront through Trezeguet. Early in the second half Del Piero double and levelled the aggregate score to 2-2. Lazio however managed a great comeback and after missing a couple of good opportunities found the net thanks to superb header from Corradi that sent Lazio fans wild. This goal meant Lazio was almost certain of winning the cup. Fourteen minutes later Fiore sealed Lazio's triumph when he scored the equaliser. The last minutes passed quickly as Lazio fans started their celebrations shouting high Lazio chants together with the usual anti-roma and anti-juve choruses. At the end of the match the players celebrated with the fans this precious victory
Celebrations continued the following Sunday at the Olimpico where Lazio played the last match of the season against Modena . Lazio played well and won 2-1 with goals coming from Corradi and Cesar. It was the last Lazio match for Favalli who after twelve seasons opted to join Inter. At the end of the match together with his teammates he celebrated with all the fans the victory of the coppa italia during the team's lap of honour with the Cup. When the team did their triumphal circuit with their small children in tow, the atmosphere was a light-hearted family party, with no invasions or other excesses. It was really a day of celebrations for the fans despite the fact that Lazio finish in an undeserved sixth place, which did not reflect performances on the pitch. Lazio easily played better football than Inter (4 th ) and Parma (5 th ), but were paying the price for appalling refereeing and for our strikers' mistakes. During that day of celebrations no one in Rome knew that it was the end of the "Banda Mancini" era. Infact in the following weeks Mancini left for Inter together with Mihajlovic and Favalli, Stam went to Milan , Lopez was sold to Mexico while Fiore and Corradi were forced to join Valencia to settle the amount due by Lazio on Mendieta's transfer.
14 May 2004: THE COPPAITALIA IS OURS