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  • Writer's pictureLazio Stories

1973-74: SCUDETTO!!!!!

Updated: May 4


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In the previous season Lazio went agonizingly close to winning their first scudetto. After the first half of the season the Biancocelesti were fourth just one point behind Milan and Juventus and on a par with Inter. The team had been playing beautifully and were the big surprise of Serie A. With ten games to go, Lazio were still fourth, three points behind leaders Milan. Five matches after the gap had been reduced to 2 and the Biancocelesti were second. A month later, on the eve of the final match of the season, the table read Milan 44, Juventus and Lazio 43. The final three games were Verona-Milan, Napoli-Lazio and Roma Juventus. At the end of the first half the results were Verona-Milan 3-1, Roma-Juventus 1-0, Napoli-Lazio still goalless. As a consequence the table read Milan and Lazio 44, Juventus 43.


Napoli were playing as if their life depended on it and the Biancocelesti were having a difficult time but they were potentially one goal away from the scudetto. In the second half of Roma-Juventus, the Giallorossi, frightened that Lazio could win the championship, opened the gates for the Bianconeri, who scored two goals and won. The Biancocelesti did what they could but lost, Milan were demolished 5-3. Juventus won the scudetto.


Lazio had missed the last boat, everybody thought. They would never have an opportunity like this one ever again.


The birth of the Dream Team


It is interesting to see how a bunch of players, some virtually unknown, a few champions, a couple of youngsters and a former glory were able to achieve such an amazing feat.


When Tommaso Maestrelli became manager in 1971-72, Lazio were in Serie B. He had inherited a side that had a few old timers such as Nello Governato, Giancarlo Morrone and Rino Marchesi. These were given the opportunity to find another team for free. In defence he had some gutsy players - Giuseppe Papadopulo, Luigi Polentes and Mario Facco – who, together with star sweeper Pino Wilson, could provide a good defensive backbone. In attack the star was Giorgio Chinaglia, the great centre-forward, and Giuseppe Massa, two players who could guarantee lots of goals if put in the right conditions. Midfield was not all that great but Maestrelli could rely on Franco Nanni, a young player who could not only destroy all opposition but also had inventiveness and a cracking shot. Hence the new players had to be experienced for Serie B and these were promptly signed: Carlo Facchin, Giambattista Moschino and Rino Gritti. Alessandro Abboandanza could come handy up front and Claudio Bandoni was an excellent goalkeeper. Also to add were the youngsters Giancarlo Oddi who was potentially a great defender but needed to gain experience, and Vincenzo D’Amico, Lazio’s golden boy, who was out for the season due to injury. An interesting player who could cover the whole left wing without difficulty was invented as left back: Gigi Martini.


Lazio came second, not playing exceptionally well, but the objective was promotion and promotion arrived.


The masterpiece was the summer transfer window of 1972. Somebody had to go in order to have the money to find more players. Selling Chinaglia was impossible, so Massa was sacrificed. He left for Inter in exchange for money, Mario Frustalupi and Massimo Silva. With the money Lazio bought Massa’s replacement, Renzo Garlaschelli, goalkeeper Felice Pulici and Luciano Re Cecconi. Martini had done well so Maestrelli asked for a similar player as right back. In came Sergio Petrelli from Roma. It would take a while for him to become a first team player and take Facco's place . Back from a loan period with Napoli was also Pierpaolo Manservisi. Oddi was paired with Wilson in defence on a permanent basis.


Lazio did so well that the only two major changes for the 1973-74 team were Petrelli for Facco and D’Amico for Manservisi. But they were already there. The Dream Team was ready.


1973-74


Lazio started slowly and after six games had won two (Vicenza away and Sampdoria at home), drawn three (Fiorentina, Cesena and Inter) and lost one to Juventus. With two points per win they were fifth but only two points behind leaders Napoli and one behind Inter, Juventus and Fiorentina. They then won the next six (Cagliari, Roma, Napoli, Verona, Milan and Genoa), taking the top spot in the table after the ninth game together with Juventus and Napoli and solitary first from the next game. The derby was spectacular with Lazio winning coming from behind thanks to the first ball touched for his new team by fresh signing Paolo Franzoni.


They were then caught up by Juventus after losing at home against Torino but took back solitary first place after winning at Foggia and Juve losing in Florence. The last game of the first part of season, a 4-0 win against Bologna, allowed them to have a three-point lead.


The second half of the season started with a win against Vicenza but then the Biancocelesti lost at Genoa against Sampdoria. Juventus were two points behind and the next game was Lazio-Juventus.


The Biancocelesti faced the mother of all games without Re Cecconi injured, replaced by Fausto Inselvini who had arrived in the autumn transfer window, an excellent all rounder who could basically play anywhere. Lazio crushed the Bianconeri, went ahead 2-0 and could have scored more. Two controversial penalties were awarded to Juventus in the second half, the first one saved by Pulici but not the second. The Biancoclesti reacted, created a massive chance with Chinaglia and then scored their third thanks to a Chinaglia penalty. Lazio top, three points clear of Napoli and 4 ahead of Juventus.


The lead remained the same for the next two games (draw in Florence and win over Cesena) and reduced by one when Lazio lost against Inter. The +3 returned after a week thanks to a 2-0 win over Cagliari. The Biancocelesti then beat Roma for the second time, again coming from behind, taking them to a +4 lead.


The next two games were remarkable. In the first, away to Napoli, Lazio fell behind three times and managed to equalise every time thanks to a Chinaglia hat trick. In the second,against Verona at home, at the end of the first half the Biancocelesti were losing 2-1. Lazio had played well, had had numerous chances, but had been unlucky. On entering the changing rooms at the interval, Maestrelli refused to open the doors and sent the players back out on the pitch. The crowd could not believe it. Why had they come back on to play so early? There were more than 10 minutes to go until the beginning of the second half. After a few minutes of bewilderment, the fans got it and started to shout Lazio Lazio. They did that for the entire interval so when Verona came back onto the pitch, they saw the Lazio players already raring to go and the crowd all wound up, it was like walking into a den unarmed against 50,000 lions. In the second half the Biancocelesti ripped them apart and won 4-2.


A goalless draw in Milan allowed Juventus to pull back a point but Lazio won the next game against Genoa. Three games to go, three point lead. The Biancocelesti lost to Torino 2-1 but Juventus lost too. Two games to go. If Lazio beat Foggia at home, the scudetto was theirs.


Against Foggia, paralysed by fear, the Biancocelesti possibly played their worst game so far, but won thanks to a Chinaglia penalty. The scudetto was theirs, the first in the club's 74 year history. The final game at Bologna was basically a friendly and ended 2-2.


Lazio played the most exciting football, had a bunch of wild players who fitted perfectly together, managed by the Maestro. Pulici, Petrelli, Martini, Wilson, Oddi Nanni, Garlaschelli, Re Cecconi, Chinaglia, Frustalupi, D’Amico plus Inselvini, Facco, Polentes, Franzoni and Manservisi. Heroes and legends that will never be forgotten.


Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup


The season had started with the Coppa Italia in August and September. After beating Varese at home in the first match they lost to Brescia in the second. The draw in the derby meant that Lazio had to beat Novara with at least a four-goal difference. The Biancocelesti won 6-0 and went to the second round. But here manager Tommaso Maestrelli would start playing with the reserves and concentrate more on the campionato, so Lazio ended up last in the semi-final group phase.


In the UEFA Cup, Lazio faced Sion in the first round: 3-0 was money in the bank. In the return game Lazio scored immediately with Garlaschelli and switched off. The Swiss won 3-1 but scored their last goal in the 90th minute. Second round was against Ipswich Town. The first leg in England was a disaster, 4-0. Only a miracle could allow Lazio to go through, but the players were absolutely convinced they could at least take the opponents to extra time. Lazio scored after 48 seconds with Garlaschelli. In the 23rd minute Allan Hunter, a defender, saved a goal on the line with a deliberate handball. The referee Leo Van der Kroft (the Lazio players accused him of having had a little too much to drink before the game) did not give Lazio the penalty. Chinaglia two minutes later made it 2-0. In the second half Lazio doubled their efforts but could not score their third. In the 75th minute Clive Woods dived in the box and the referee gave a penalty. All hell let loose. The referee was surrounded by the Lazio players, some allegedly even hit him. Ipswich scored and from then on the game became a battle on the pitch and in the stands. It even continued in the changing rooms with a massive brawl among the players caused by one of the Ipswich players calling the Italians bastards. Lazio won 4-2 but were eliminated. UEFA banned Lazio from Europe for three years, reduced to one on appeal.


Most total appearances: Giuseppe Wilson, Giorgio Chinaglia, Giancarlo Oddi, Franco Nanni, 42

Most appearances Serie A: Wilson, Chinaglia, Oddi, Nanni, Felice Pulici, Mario Frustalupi, 30

Top goal scorer overall: Chinaglia, 34

Top goal scorer Serie A: Chinaglia,

Most assists Serie A: Frustalupi, 5

Most substituted player overall: Nanni, 12

Most substituted player Serie A: Vincenzo D’Amico, 8

Most sub ins overall: D’Amico, 11

Most sub ins Serie A: Paolo Franzoni, 8

Most booked player overall: Frustalupi, 7

Most booked player Serie A: Wilson, Frustalupi, Sergio Petrelli, Luigi Martini, 3


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