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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

December 31, 1988: Pisa Lazio 1-1

Updated: Jan 4

Goalkeeper howler gives Lazio a late but well deserved point to celebrate New Year

A massive blunder a few minutes from time rewards ten-man Lazio with a draw. A fair result.

Ticket owned by Dag Jenkins, photo by Dag Jenkins

The season so far

The previous year Lazio had finally won promotion back to Serie A. In a packed Olimpico, already under renovation for Italia '90, Lazio had beaten Taranto 3-1 to book their place back in the big time.

The new season started with a new manager. The -9 point deduction and promotion hero Eugenio Fascetti had left and in had come Giuseppe Materazzi.

Lazio’s promotion top scorer Paolo Monelli (13 goals) had also gone (Bari) along with midfielders Vincenzo Esposito (Atalanta) and Domenico Caso (Latina) while loaned forward Giuseppe Galderisi had returned to his original club (Milan) after a disappointing spell at Lazio.

Lazio fans were very sad to see Fascetti leave and he would never be forgotten but they also had reasons to be optimistic. Lazio were out of the purgatory of Serie B and had bought some interesting players.

Three South-Americans for a start; relatively unknown (pre-internet days) defender Nelson Gutierrez (River Plate) and Abel Dezotti (Newell's Old Boys) plus better known, promising forward Ruben Sosa (Real Zaragoza). Lazio had also signed some Italians; defender Marco Monti (Virescit Bergamo) plus midfielders Andrea Icardi (Atalanta) and Claudio Sclosa (Pisa).

Lazio’s objective this season was to enjoy their new elite status and hopefully not have to suffer excessively to maintain it.

The season had started reasonably well with 5 consecutive draws (still only 2 points for a win). This habit of drawing matches would become a prerogative over the season. They were unbeaten until the 4th of December (Atalanta) but with only one win. They arrived at the game under the leaning tower (literally- the ground is a stone's throw away) on 9 points (1 win, 7 draws and 2 defeats).

Pisa had arrived 13th the previous season in Serie A, under the manager they faced today, Giuseppe Materazzi. A year ago, they had signed some interesting players, English defender Paul Elliott and above all Brazilian midfielder Dunga, who would then go on to better things and have an excellent career, even lifting the World Cup in USA '94.

This season their manager was Bruno Bolchi and Dunga had already gone up the Arno to Fiorentina. They had signed two new foreign players; Dutch midfielder Mario Been (Feyenoord) and Belgian forward Francis Severeyns (Royal Antwerp). Pisa had also signed defender Devis Tonini (Padova), midfielders Massimo Boccafresca (Avellino), Francesco Gazzaneo (Avellino) and a young Massimiliano Allegri (Livorno), who would go on to become a top manager winning scudetti with Milan and Juventus. In attack in the November market Pisa had chosen Giuseppe Incocciati (Atalanta)who would later play with Maradona at Napoli.

Leaving Tuscany were defenders Roberto Chiti (Cesena) and Silvio Gori (Catanzaro), midfielders Claudio Sclosa (Lazio), Bruno Caneo (Cosenza) and of course Dunga (Fiorentina). Up front Pisa had sold Riccardo Paciocco (Lecce).

So far this season Pisa had 6 points after 2 wins, 2 draws and 6 defeats. The game today already had a relegation battle feel to it.

The match: Saturday, December 31, Stadio Arena Garibaldi, Pisa

The game was a very unusual New Year's Eve fixture, being played the afternoon of December 31 (never to happen again). It was a crisp but gloriously sunny day and the festive period meant Lazio had a considerable away following, also favoured by the relative proximity of the venue.

Lazio were without 4 first team players as Gutierrez, Paolo Beruatto, Sclosa and Paolo Di Canio were all missing while Pisa were without their first choice goalkeeper Alessandro Nista (who was on the bench).

Pisa started more positively than Lazio and had a shot by Davide Lucarelli blocked by Monti after two minutes and a shot by Incocciati that went just over the bar after four minutes. Lazio then settled and gained control of the midfield. In the 9th minute a Ruben Sosa left footed strike shaved the crossbar and Angelo Gregucci almost scored twice with headers in the 14th and 22nd minutes.

Just as Lazio seemed to be definitely getting the upper hand, Pisa scored. In the 36th minute a perfect high cross by Been was met by Incocciati on the far post and headed in from close range. 1-0 to the Nerazzurri.

Lazio's reaction was to furiously attack head down but it only produced a shot by Sosa, well saved by Gianpaolo Grudina. In the 40th minute came an episode which was to inevitably influence the rest of the game. Gregucci made a reckless and completely unnecessary foul halfway into Lazio's half. It was dirty and late so he was quite rightly shown a direct red card. Well, 1-0 down at half time and with 10 men, apart from a New Year there might not be much to celebrate in Rome that evening.

The second half started with Lazio still going forward. Pisa seemed content to defend and as it was Lazio had a lot of possession but their moves tended to fizzle out once they got near the opponents area.

Pisa's intentions were confirmed when after 65 minutes they replaced striker Lamberto Piovanelli with a defender. Lazio, in the same minute, took off Antonio Acerbis (he had played well but this was a tactical move) and threw on young forward Antonio Rizzolo, who brought some extra energy and dynamism to the Lazio forward line.

Without even the ammunition for counter attacks Pisa pulled back completely in the hope of surviving Lazio's by now increasingly desperate attempts to equalise.

Lazio were finally rewarded for their efforts and Pisa punished for their negativity with only four minutes remaining. A free kick was awarded to Lazio just outside the box. It was in a central position so Ruben Sosa after a touch by Dezotti tried his luck at goal. And lucky he got, a pretty innocuous low and central shot was at first seemingly blocked by the Pisa keeper but then incredibly and quite inexplicably dropped over his own line. It was Christmas and New Year all in one for the Lazio fans.

To be honest Lazio, despite being in 10 men for 50 minutes, had deserved the draw. When the final whistle blew it was a fair result. Pisa felt a bit hard done by but Lazio had battled hard, never given up and attacked for most of the match. The way it came was somewhat fortuitous, to say the least, but it was nothing less than Lazio deserved.

An away point (still only two per victory) and New Year's Eve to look forward to, I for one was a happy lad heading to the station and back to Rome.

Who played for Pisa

Grudina, Cavallo, Lucarelli, Faccenda, Boccafresca, Bernazzani, Cuoghi, Gazzaneo, Incocciati, Been (81' Dolcetti), Piovanelli (65' Dianda)

Substitutes: Nista, Brandani, Severeyns

Manager: Bolchi

Who played for Lazio

Martina, Monti, Piscedda, Pin, Gregucci, Marino, Dezotti, Icardi, Muro, Acerbis (65' Rizzolo), Sosa

Substitutes: Fiori, Di Loreto, Greco, Prodosmo

Manager: Materazzi

Referee: Di Cola

Goals: 36' Incocciati, 86' Sosa

What happened next

Lazio ended up 10th at the end of the season but not without some danger of relegation at various points.

In the new year they would lose their next match 3-0 in Florence, against Fiorentina. The highpoint of the Biancocelesti's season however would come a week later on the 15th January 1989.

It was derby day in Rome and Roma were strong favourites to put it mildly. Against all odds however it ended 1-0 to Lazio with a goal by a young local boy and Lazio fan, Paolo Di Canio. To rub salt in the Romanisti's wounds he even emulated his hero Giorgio Chinaglia by celebrating under the Roma end. An epic Lazio derby win after almost 10 years, the season would be positive whatever happened next.

Lazio did flirt with relegation but on June 18, a Dezotti goal against Sampdoria at the Stadio Flaminio (The Olimpico was being 'revamped' for Italia '90) ultimately secured their survival.

Lazio came in 10th with 29 points, only two points above the relegation zone (4 teams went down at the time). They would win 5, draw 19 and lose 10 matches. Their top scorer was Ruben Sosa with 8 goals (plus 4 in Coppa Italia).

Pisa, meanwhile, after the Lazio game went unbeaten for four matches (a win and three draws, including an away point at Milan).

They lost the return match against Lazio 1-0 (Sosa) but did manage to beat Roma 1-0. Ultimately, however, their chronic lack of goals let them down. They would end up the worst attack with 17 goals (in 34 matches). They tried changing managers; from Bolchi to Luca Giannini on March 13 and from Giannini to Lamberto Giorgis on April 18.

All in vain, Pisa came 17th on 23 points. With 6 wins,11 draws and 17 defeats they were relegated to Serie B with Como, Pescara and Torino.

Top scorer was Incocciati with 7 goals (plus 1 in Coppa Italia).

It was in fact in Coppa Italia that Pisa had their best moments. They reached the semi-final (after a good run of results including a win over Roma 3-1). They would then be eliminated by Maradona's Napoli over two legs. The Cup was then won by Sampdoria.

The Serie A saw a one- team domination. Giovanni Trapattoni's Inter triumphed with a record number of points to lift their 13th scudetto.

Lazio 1988-89






Goals scored

Serie A






Coppa Italia












Top five appearances



Serie A

Coppa Italia

Ruben Sosa












Di Canio












Top five goal scorers



Serie A

Coppa Italia

Ruben Sosa




















Let's talk about Rubén Sosa

Source Wikipedia

Ruben Sosa was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, on April 25, 1966. He is considered to be one of the best strikers in Uruguayan history.

He started his professional career in his homeland playing for Danubio. He made 78 appearances, over a three-year period and scored 33 goals.

In 1985 he flew to Spain to play for Real Zaragoza. He played at La Romareda for three seasons playing 106 games and scoring 30 goals.

He won a Coppa del Rey in 1986, scoring in the final against Barcelona.

In 1988 Sosa signed for Lazio in Serie A, a more prestigious league at the time. He made his debut in a 0-0 draw at Cesena on October 9, 1988.

He would take a while to get his first goal, December 18 against Pescara, but it was immediately obvious at Lazio that Sosa was an excellent signing. In his first season he played 33 games in Serie A (out of 34) and scored 8 goals (plus 4 goals in Coppa Italia). His impact at Lazio was considered a success.

In his second year he played slightly less (27 league games) but repeated his 8 goals. Lazio improved their league position by one place, climbing up to 9th.

His third year in the capital saw Sosa only miss one league game and score 11 goals (plus 1 in Coppa Italia). Sosa scored in both derby matches against Roma that season (two 1-1 draws) and it was considered to be his best year so far. Lazio came 12th in a very tight Serie A table but for the first time since their promotion they never had any relegation worries whatsoever.

The following season 1991-1992 would alas be Sosa's last at Lazio. It was also his most prolific. He scored 13 league goals, in 31 games, plus another 4 goals in Coppa Italia. He got another derby goal and paired up well with German striker Karl Heinz Riedle. Lazio came in 10th but with 11 wins.

Despite Sosa's positive performances, he and Lazio could not reach an agreement on the renewal of his contract so Sosa signed for Inter in the summer of 1992. Lazio fans were sad to see Sosa go. He had easily been their best player for the past four years and their top scorer. He played 106 league games with 40 goals, plus 23 Coppa Italia games with other 10 goals.

These feelings of loss were however mitigated somewhat by the signings of Paul Gascoigne, Aron Winter and Giuseppe Signori, to name just a few. There was the sensation that Lazio were moving up a level.

Sosa moved up a level too, scoring 20 goals in his first year at Inter (and other 2 in Coppa Italia). He would stay at Inter for three seasons. He scored 44 goals in 76 league appearances, 5 goals in Coppa Italia in 16 matches and 1 goal in the Uefa Cup, in 11 matches. With the Nerazzurri he won the UEFA Cup in 1994.

In 1995 he went to play in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund. He only played 17 matches with 3 goals but did win 'den meistertitel' (the league title) in Germany.

After only a year in Westphalia Sosa returned to Spain to Logroñés. He would play only 5 games in the season (with an uncharacteristic 0 goals) and in 1997 he returned to South-America.

Between 1997 and 2001 he played for Nacional Montevideo making 66 appearances and scoring 26 goals. He won 3 league titles in this period.

In 2002 he went for the Chinese experience but it did not work out (13 games and 1 goal) and in 2003 he was back at Nacional (15 games and 1 goal). In 2007 he retired at 41, after playing two last matches with Racing Montevideo.

At International level he earned 46 caps for La Celeste (The Sky Blue) Uruguayan national side. He scored 15 goals, winning two Copa Americas (Argentina 1989 and Uruguay 1995) plus a runners-up medal (Brazil 1989). He also played four games in his World Cup participation in Italia '90.

After his retirement Sosa has continued his allegiance with Nacional, working as Technical Director and later becoming an Ambassador for the club. He is now assistant coach at Nacional.

Ruben Sosa, along with Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlán, Álvaro Recoba, Luis Suárez and Enzo Francescoli can be considered one of the best Uruguayan players of the modern era. In his homeland he was nicknamed El Principito (The Little Prince).

At 1.74 metres Sosa was not an imposing forward and his physique was slightly on the stocky side. He was however a complete forward. He was able both to score goals and to set them up. Sosa was agile and quick, with explosive acceleration. Added to his speed and creativity he had a powerful and accurate left foot. His free kicks were particularly strong and dangerous. He was an exciting player and you always knew something could happen when he had the ball. For Italians " da solo valeva il prezzo del biglietto" (The price of the ticket was worth it just to see Sosa). In his prime he was one of the best strikers of his generation.

At Lazio he was adored. Four years of high level performances and a steady flow of goals, including three in derbies, make him a club legend. He was also a very likeable person and popular for his jovial character. In the 80's, after six years out of 8 in Serie B, the likes of Sosa, Thomas Doll and Riedle were like a breath of fresh air for Lazio fans. Lazio finally held their own again in Serie A. His era would mark the transition between the ordeals of Serie B (but with some romantically great moments) and the glory years of European limelight and trophies.

Lazio fans have not forgotten Ruben Sosa. His name is still chanted regularly in the Curva Nord in a song which includes Amarildo and Pedro Troglio (two other players of that era).

He comes back occasionally and participates in an event called "Di Padre in Figlio" which reunites old glories in a friendly game amongst themselves. The last time I saw Ruben Sosa he was being carried in triumph on fans shoulders towards the Curva Nord. He definitely has not been forgotten. Grande Rubén.

Lazio Career



Serie A

Coppa Italia


43 (12)

33 (8)

10 (4)


27 (8)

27 (8)



35 (12)

33 (11)

2 (1)


35 (15)

31 (13)

4 (2)


140 (47)

124 (40)

16 (7)



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