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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

July 5, 1987: Lazio Campobasso 1-0

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

San Poli conquers San Paolo and Lazio live on


A Fabio Poli header enables Lazio to win the playoff and survive, in all senses.


Official SS Lazio photo

The season so far


The previous season had been disappointing. Lazio had finished 11th under Gigi Simoni and at one point even flirted with relegation.


In the early summer Lazio brought in a new manager Eugenio Fascetti and several good players to boost their new promotion push (Giuliano Terraneo, Angelo Gregucci, Antonio Acerbis, Giancarlo Camolese and Gabriele Pin to name a few).


The promotion dream was already shattered in the late summer. Lazio player Claudio Vinazzani was accused of being involved in the "Totonero- bis" match fixing scandal. On August 6 Lazio were sentenced to relegation to Serie C. The owners, the Calleri brothers, risked giving up and 8,000 fans caused urban warfare under the Football Federation headquarters. The players, already in pre-season training in Gubbio decided to stay on for now, awaiting the final CAF verdict (the appeal).


On August 26 the appeal court changed the verdict to a lighter nine-point docking in the following season's Serie B. It was still a harsh sentence with two points per victory and especially considering the scant evidence against Lazio, but it meant survival and some hope for the future.


So Lazio started the season at -9 points. The main priority now was survival.


After a hesitant start Lazio gathered steam and at one point even looked as if they could join the promotion battle. Then the stress of the handicap start and the necessity to push early on took its toll and Lazio struggled in the second part of the season.


On June 21, 1987, came possibly the most dramatic match in Lazio's history. On the last game of the season nothing but a win would avoid relegation to Serie C. A record crowd of 70,000 witnessed Lazio beat Vicenza 1-0 with a Giuliano Fiorini goal seven minutes from time.


Lazio had avoided relegation ... for now. Next up was a three-team playoff in Naples to decide the last unlucky loser. The other two teams were Taranto and Campobasso.


On June 27, Lazio lost 0-1 to Taranto with a goal, possibly in offside, by Antonio De Vitis. 25,000 Lazio fans came back disappointed but there was one last chance, Lazio had to beat Campobasso. The table read Taranto 3 (safe), Campobasso 1, Lazio 0 (Taranto and Campobasso had drawn).


Campobasso could afford another draw while Lazio had no other choice but to win.


The match: Sunday, July 5, 1987, Stadio San Paolo, Naples


So, in a period of the year more suitable for beach trips and holidays, 25,000 Lazio fans set off for Naples again. It has been called an "exodus".


Lazio went with three up front, Fabio Poli-Giuliano Fiorini-Paolo Mandelli while the Molisani had former Lazio Claudio Vagheggi, back after two months, instead of Francesco Boito in attack.


Lazio had to win and placed themselves in the Rossoblu's half from the start. The Molisani were content to defend and hope for the occasional counter foot. An open game would surely favour Lazio's superior and more talented side.


So Lazio went forward, time and time again but the "Lupi" predictably were hard to break down.


In the 12th minute Mandelli found Fiorini in the heart of the area but with his back to the goal, the Modenese flicked the ball up and went for an acrobatic bicycle kick but it went just over the bar.


In the 20th minute Acerbis went on a brilliant run down the left, cut inside and put a low cross into the small area where Fiorini pounced but, challenged by a defender, shot past the post.


In the 24th minute Captain Gabriele Pin hammered high from an inviting position.


There followed lots of crosses and total territorial domination but not the desperately needed goal. In the 39th minute an injured Giorgio Magnocavallo was replaced by Massimo Piscedda while for Campobasso a clearly unfit Vagheggi went off for Francesco Boito in the 43rd minute. Half time Lazio 0 Campobasso 0. Lazio were 45 minutes away from Serie C, in the best case scenario…


In the second half, Lazio continued to attack, but unlike in the first half the Molisani managed to orchestrate a counter foot and what a chance it was. In the 51st minute Carlo Perrone (no connection with former Lazio player) went down the right and crossed for an unmarked Boito in front of goal. The striker from Veneto had the time to chest it down and fire from close range but instead opted for a header which, Lazio fans are thankful to this day, went straight into Giuliano Terraneo's arms. The striker had the whole goal to aim for but hit the keeper who had stayed put.


In the 53nd minute, immediately after, Lazio scored. A long move from left, to right, to left again, involving several players, saw Piscedda finally put a high cross in with the outside of his foot, it reached the small area where diminutive Fabio Poli incredibly towered above two defenders and headed the ball in. He then ran the whole length of the field, along the athletics track, to celebrate in front of the “Curva Nord” which had physically moved in block to Naples. Lazio 1 Campobasso 0.


The tactical pattern of the game now changed completely. Lazio however were galvanized and played on the wings of enthusiasm, they were the better team and winning.


Campobasso now came forward but Lazio controlled well and were dangerous on the break. In the 61st minute Fiorini went past a few defenders but ran out of steam and shot wide. In the 67th minute a low cross by Piscedda was met by Poli just inside the area but his cracking shot shaved the crossbar. In the 76th minute Fiorini was pushed just outside the area and referee Casarin awarded the Biancocelesti a freekick. Piscedda, one of the few local boys in the squad, took it but his thundering left foot flew just over the bar.


Campobasso never threatened Terraneo even if all Laziali held their breaths every time they crossed the halfway line. Thirty seconds from the end Paolo Mollica beat a defender on the left and crossed but the Lazio defence cleared. The referee whistled the end of the match and a never-ending season. Lazio 1 Campobasso 0.


Lazio could celebrate a win and survival in Serie B but possibly their very existence as a club. Eugenio Fascetti and the "minus nine" boys had done it!


Who played for Lazio


Terraneo, Acerbis, Magnocavallo (39' Piscedda), Camolese, Gregucci, Marino, Poli, Caso, Fiorini (74' Brunetti), Pin, Mandelli

Substitutes: Ielpo, Filisetti, Rizzolo

Manager: Fascetti


Who played for Campobasso


Bianchi, Parpiglia, Della Pietra (62' Mollica), Maestripieri, Anzivino, Lupo, Evangelisti, Baldini, Perrone, Goretti, Vagheggi (43' Boito)

Substitutes: Picca, Accardi, Pivotto

Manager: Vitali


Referee: Casarin


Goals: 53' Poli



What happened next


The "minus nine" gang became heroes for life. They are one of the most popular teams in Lazio's 123-year history. A year later Fascetti and most of the team would take Lazio back to Serie A. It is the 1986-87 season however which is best remembered.


Lazio have never been back in Serie B and have since won both domestic and European trophies, but without the heroes of Lazio vs Campobasso history could have been very different. "I ragazzi dei -9" are immortal and are revered as much if not more than the star studded trophy lifting teams that followed. "Grazie ragazzi".


On a personal note, and it sounds strange now, I only found out days later that Lazio were safe. I was in Seville and happened to see "Il Messaggero", a Roman newspaper, in a shop so I picked it up and flicked to the sports page. There I scanned for evidence and saw the magic words "Lazio are preparing a team to go for promotion to Serie A". Never had I been so pleased to hear Lazio were in Serie B!


Campobasso on the other hand to this day have never made it back up to Serie B.


Lazio 1986-87

Competition

Played

Won

Drawn

Lost

Goals scored

Serie B

38

14

14

10

35

Serie B Play Outs

2

1

-

1

1

Coppa Italia

7

2

3

2

8

Total

47

17

17

13

44

Top Five Appearances

Players

Total

Serie B

Serie B playoffs

Coppa Italia

Caso

47

38

2

7

Pin

45

38

2

5

Terraneo

45

38

2

5

Acerbis

44

37

2

5

Podavini

40

33

1

6

Top Five goal scorers

Players

Total

Serie B

Serie B playoffs

Coppa Italia

Fiorini

9

7

-

2

Mandelli

6

6

-

-

Poli

6

4

1

-

Podavini

5

3

-

2

Marino

3

3

-

-

Acerbis

3

2

-

1

Caso

3

3

-

-

Let's talk about Fabio Poli


Source Wikipedia

Fabio Poli was born in San Benedetto Val di Sambro (Bologna), on November 22, 1962.


He started playing football for local clubs Pianorese and Vadese Calcio but his first big team was Modena. He played for the "Canarini" (The Canaries) in Serie C for two seasons between 1980 and 1982. He made 43 appearances with 3 goals. The Gialloblù finished 12th and third but won the Anglo-Italian Cup twice (against Poole Town and Sutton Town).


In 1982 he joined Bologna but never played and in November moved to Cagliari in Serie A. In his first year "Casteddu" were relegated under Gustavo Giagnoni. The following year the Sardinians finished 11th under Mario Tiddia and 16th the year after, which saw the arrival of Renzo Ulivieri as coach in October. He played 83 league games and scored 10 goals in his three years on the island.


In 1985 Poli joined Lazio. He arrived in the capital at a difficult time. Lazio had just been relegated, there were internal feuds among those running the club, little money and unpaid wages. Despite a good team and a respected manager, Gigi Simoni, it was not an ideal situation to win promotion. In fact Lazio came 11th but at one point even risked going down. Poli played 29 league games with 1 goal (Brescia) and 5 games in Coppa Italia.


The following season was dramatic. In the summer Lazio were initially demoted to Serie C and then the decision was changed to a nine point docking in Serie B. This was due to an alleged involvement of Lazio player Claudio Vinazzani in the 1986 betting scandal. The Biancocelesti had a new manager, Eugenio Fascetti, and Serie A ambitions but the court verdict changed everything. The whole squad however decided to stay and fight.


After a strong start Lazio predictably ran out of steam in the second part of the season. They ultimately earned the right to a three-team relegation playoff, after an 82nd minute winner by Giuliano Fiorini against Vicenza. The playoffs were played in Naples in July. The first game was unluckily lost 1-0 against Taranto, with a goal two metres offside. Lazio took 25,000 fans to the game and the same number returned for the decisive game against Campobasso. Only a win could save the Romans from the drop and possibly worse (the future of the club itself was at risk). In the 53rd minute Poli became a legend heading the winner in Lazio's 1-0 victory. He ended the season with a bang but had performed well throughout with 31 league appearances and 4 goals (Bari, Taranto, Genoa, Pescara) plus 6 games in Coppa Italia with 1 goal (Vicenza).


Despite his heroics, Poli was surprisingly sold to Bologna for the 1987-88 season. The "Felsinei" were near home and had Serie A ambitions but Poli wanted to stay with Lazio and has since stated he felt betrayed.


He had an excellent first season with the Rossoblu under Luigi Maifredi and won promotion (alongside Lazio), playing 34 league games with 9 goals (Udinese, Lazio…, Taranto, Catanzaro, Cremonese, Barletta, Lazio again…, Sambenedettese x2). He also scored 2 goals in Coppa Italia (Campobasso, Verona). Bologna finished top of Serie B (Lazio also promoted in 3rd place).


His second season was positive too. He made 29 league appearances with 4 goals (Juventus, Sampdoria, Torino x2) and 4 in Coppa Italia with 3 goals (Spezia x2, Barletta). He also scored 3 goals in the Mitropa Cup where the Emiliani were losing finalists (Banik Ostrawa). Bologna finished 13th in Serie A.


In 1989-90, in October, he ruptured his cruciate knee ligaments and it limited his season to 12 league games with 2 goals (Juventus, Bari). Bologna however had a good campaign and finished 8th, qualifying for the UEFA Cup.


In 1990-91 Maifredi left for Juventus and had it not been for his injury would have taken Poli with him. Instead Poli remained, first under Franco Scoglio and then Gigi Radice, and Bologna were relegated. Poli played 15 league games with 1 goal (Roma), 3 in Coppa Italia with 2 goals (Reggiana, Modena) and 3 games in the UEFA Cup.


It was in this season that Pioli was involved in a nasty incident. At the end of a home game against Juventus he got into an argument with Totò Schillaci. Poli was exaggeratedly accused of punching the Sicilian, something he has always denied. The Italia' 90 hero then threatened him with the words,"I'll have you shot in the mouth". The scuffle made the headlines but from victim Poli became villain and was suddenly "persona non grata". He claims to have been ostracized by the football world ever since.


He stayed on in Serie B. Gigi Maifredi returned after a disappointing spell at Juventus but was replaced by Nedo Sonetti in November. Bologna had a mediocre year finishing 13th. Poli played 31 league games with 2 goals (Lucchese, Casertana).


In 1992, with no big clubs interested in him, he joined Siena in Serie C1. His year with "Robur" was however plagued by injury and he only played 9 league games.


At this point, at 30 years of age, he went down to 6th tier regional level and joined Iperzola (Bologna). In his second year the "Zolesi" were promoted to the National Amateur League (Eccellenza) and in 1996 promoted to Serie C2. In 1997 he was also player manager.


In 1998 he joined Felsina San Lazzaro (Bologna) in Serie D and stayed 4 seasons. He then had a final season with local amateur team Pro Malalbergo.


After retiring he was manager for some local Serie D teams, Felsina San Lazzaro and Boca San Lazzaro.


Since 2009 he has not been involved in football. Like many football players of the past he opened a sports shop in his hometown.


Pioli was an attacking midfielder who usually played on the wing. He was small (1.73) and light (68 kilos) but very quick, dynamic and athletic. He was technical and skilful with excellent dribbling qualities. He probably deserved a better career with his talent but his definite step to the top level was shattered by injury, from which he never recovered completely. He is however one of the few players to have scored in all the top six categories of Italian football.


At Lazio he only played two seasons but is a club hero. His goal against Campobasso is considered one of the most important in their 123 history. It's difficult to rank goals but personally I would put it in the top ten. In no particular order: Giuliano Fiorini (Vicenza '87), Marcelo Salas (Manchester United '99), Diego Simeone (Juventus 2000), Pavel Nedved (Mallorca '99), Fabio Poli (Campobasso '87), Senad Lulic (Roma '13), Giorgio Chinaglia (Foggia '74), Maurilio Prini (Fiorentina '58), Alessandro Nesta (Milan '98) and Alessandro Calori (Perugia Juventus 2000). He is in good company.


Without Fiorini and Pioli's goals there may never have been any of the rest. Poli and "Il Gol di Poli" will live on eternally in Lazio's history.


Lazio Career

Season

Total appearances (goals)

Serie B

Serie B Playoffs

Coppa Italia

1985-86

34 (1)

29 (1)

-

5

1986-87

37 (6)

29 (4)

2 (1)

6 (1)

Total

71 (7)

58 (5)

2 (1)

11 (1)

Sources


Lazio WIki (1)

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