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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

May 17, 2003: Lazio Brescia 3-1

Updated: May 17

Lazio clinch Champions League place despite superb Baggio


Baggio scores and sets up other chances but Lazio roar back and conquer victory and elite European football for next year



The season so far


This was Lazio's first season without homegrown and possibly best defender in the world Alessandro Nesta. Due to financial difficulties Lazio had been forced to sell their captain to Milan. To make matters worse Milan and Juventus had secretly agreed to keep their bids low, so Lazio were also forced to sell Hernán Crespo to Inter.


Fortunately Lazio had a new manager. The disappointing Alberto Zaccheroni had been replaced by former player and scudetto winner Roberto Mancini.


Mancini found quite a different squad from the one he had left as a player only two years earlier. No more Pavel Nedved, Juan Sebastian Veron, Marcelo Salas, Alen Boksic and obviously Nesta.


From the previous season Lazio had also let go of midfielders Ivan de la Peña (Espanyol), Gaizka Mendieta (Barcelona - loan) and Karel Poborský (Sparta Prague).


Joining Mancini’s Lazio were defender Massimo Oddo (Verona), forwards Enrico Chiesa (Fiorentina) and Bernardo Corradi (Inter). In the Autumn session, midfielder Nikola Lazetić had been added (Como - loan).


The season had started well for Lazio. They had won all the first 7 away games (including Juventus) and in December were even briefly top of the table. In the new year however, they had slowed down and had 6 consecutive draws in Serie A (including the derby). They then beat Empoli 4-1 and had since won 3, drawn 3 (including Inter and Juventus) and lost 1. Lazio were currently in 4th position after 14 wins, 15 draws and 3 defeats.


This against Brescia was a key match for Lazio's Champions League ambitions. With two matches to go the table read 4) Lazio 57 5) Chievo 54 6) Parma 53 7) Udinese 50. The 4th place gave access to a preliminary CL round to get into the group stage. A win today would clinch it for Lazio.


In the UEFA Cup Lazio had been knocked out in the semi-final by Porto who would go on to lift the cup. On their cup run Lazio had eliminated Xanthi, Red Star Belgrade, Sturm Graz, Wisla Krakow and Beşiktaş.


In the Coppa Italia the Biancocelesti had been knocked out by Roma in the semi-finals. The Giallorossi would play Milan home and away on May 20 and 31.


Today's opposition Brescia were having a good season. The "Rondinelle" (Little Swallows) had charismatic Roman Carlo Mazzone as manager and had Roberto Baggio in their team plus other quality players such as Stephen Appiah, Jonathan Bachini, Francelino Matuzalem, Luca Toni, Pep Guardiola, plus, in a Lazio perspective, future players Igli Tare, Antonio Filippini and Matteo Sereni.


So far, this season the Lombards had won 9 (including Juventus), drawn 14 (including Lazio 0-0) and lost 9. They were in 9th position with a chance of a rare European adventure. A week earlier they had defeated Milan 1-0 at home. Top scorer was Baggio with 10 league goals.


So, a match between two motivated teams still with objectives, not always at a surplus at the end of serie A.


The match: Saturday, May 17, 2003, Stadio Olimpico, Rome


A massive 70,000 crowd turned up on a warm, sunny May day to cheer Lazio on to the Champions League.


There was a certain party atmosphere in the air. A full stadium, Champions League possibilities and also it was the Olympic Stadium's 50th birthday.


Lazio started strongly forcing several corners and Sinisa Mihajlovic went close with two free kicks, one just wide and the other well saved by Sereni. Brescia however were also dangerous with a Matuzalem shot blocked by Beppe Favalli. The Lombards had a good midfield, both muscular and technical with Appiah, Guardiola and Matuzalem and held their own.


In fact, in the 20th minute the "Rondinelle"(Little Swallows) took the lead. A through ball by Appiah went behind the Lazio defence and Baggio let the ball catch up with him inside the area on the right and then superbly lobbed the ball into the opposite corner. What happened next is something I have never witnessed at a Lazio game before, the majority of the crowd stood up and applauded in recognition of a good goal but mainly of a footballing genius. Lazio 0 Brescia 1.


Lazio reacted well and put continuous pressure on the visitors defence. Mihajlovic had another free kick saved by Sereni. In the 31st minute Lazio lost Simone Inzaghi to injury and he was replaced by Bernardo Corradi. The Senese immediately had a chance but his header went high.


In the 39th minute Lazio were awarded a penalty. Brescia defender Markus Schopp clumsily fell on Dejan Stankovic in an aerial challenge and Massimiliano Saccani pointed to the penalty spot. Mihajlovic stepped up and his powerful strike gave Sereni no chance. Lazio 1 Brescia 1.


Brescia, again with a Baggio invention, almost went straight back in front. The "Divin Codino" put Appiah one-on-one with the keeper but the "Cinghialone" (Wild Boar) Angelo Peruzzi narrowed the angle and saved into corner.


Just before halftime Lazio took the lead. In the 45th minute a Gilberto Martinez blunder let Claudio Lopez in on the right side of the area, El Piojo's perfect low cross set up the easiest of goals for César to make it Lazio 2 Brescia 1 at the break.


For the second half Mazzone made two substitutions: Fabio Bilica for Schopp and Antonio Filippini for Matuzalem.


The game continued to be balanced. Lazio had a potential goal of the season with Stankovic but his acrobatic scissor kick went just wide. Brescia then pushed harder for an equaliser and forced Lazio on the defensive. Their biggest chance came in the 75th minute. It was Baggio again who teed up Tare in front of Peruzzi but "Angelone" used his body mass to block the Albanian's close range shot.


In the 81st minute Lazio could start dreaming of Champions League nights as they scored their third. "Cesaretto" César's low assist to Lopez, in the area on the left, was finely struck by the Argentinian and his powerful, low, left foot beat Sereni. Lazio 3 Brescia 1.


Lazio got the three points they needed to play with Europe's elite and the 70,000 could start the real party. Today's win combined with Chievo's draw with Roma meant Champions League!


Who played for Lazio


Manager: Mancini


Who played for Brescia


Sereni, Martinez, Petruzzi, Dainelli, Schopp (46' Bilica), Appiah, Guardiola, Matuzalem (46' A.Filippini), Pisano (70' Seric), R. Baggio, Tare

Substitutes: Micillo, Mareco, Alberti, Jadid

Manager: Mazzone


Referee: Saccani


Goals: 20' R. Baggio, 39' Mihajlovic (pen), 45' César, 81' C. Lopez



What happened next


A relaxed Lazio lost the last game of the season 2-1 against an Udinese desperate for UEFA qualification points. Lazio ended up 4th, after 15 wins, 15 draws and 4 defeats. Top scorer was Claudio Lopez with 17 goals (15 in Serie A). So the first season without Nesta, and in the middle of financial difficulties, had turned out to be a positive one.


Brescia drew the last match 2-2 against Modena and ended up 9th. They qualified for the Intertoto Cup after 9 wins, 15 draws and 10 defeats. Top scorer was Roberto Baggio with 12 league goals.


Lazio 2002-03

Competition

Played

Won

Drawn

Lost

Goals scored

Serie A

34

15

15

4

57

Coppa Italia

6

3

1

2

7

UEFA Cup

12

6

4

2

18

Total

52

24

20

8

82

Top five appearances

Player

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

UEFA Cup

Lopez

47

34

4

9

Fiore

46

33

5

8

Stankovic

38

29

2

7

Cesar

36

26

1

9

Corradi

36

32

4

-

Peruzzi

36

30

-

6

Top Five Goal Scorers

Player

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

UEFA Cup

Lopez

17

15

-

2

Corradi

10

10

-

-

Fiore

9

6

1

2

S. Inzaghi

9

4

1

4

Simeone

7

7

-

-

Chiesa

7

2

1

4

Let’s talk about: Roberto Baggio


Source Wikipedia

Today we will make an exception and talk about an opponent but a superb opponent.


Roberto Baggio was born in Caldogno (Vicenza), on February 18, 1967.


He started playing football with his hometown of Caldogno between 1974 and 1980. He then joined nearby Vicenza's youth sector for another three years. He scored 110 goals in 120 games…


He made his debut with the "Lanerossi" at 16 on June 5, 1983 in a C1 game against Piacenza. He played three seasons for the Biancorossi, playing 34 games and scoring 14 goals. In his last year Vicenza were promoted to Serie B, but in May Baggio suffered a serious injury to his right knee, unfortunately it would not be the last in his career.


In 1985 he arrived in Serie A when he joined Fiorentina. The Florentines took Baggio on despite his recent injury. In his first year, under Aldo Agroppi, after a long rehabilitation he played 5 games in Coppa Italia.


The following year, under Eugenio Bersellini, he would play 5 league games with 1 goal (Napoli), 4 in Coppa Italia with 2 goals (Empoli 2) and 1 game in the UEFA Cup.

In 1987-88 he finally started playing regularly. Under Sven-Goran Eriksson and Sergio Santarini, Baggio played 27 league games with 6 goals (Milan, Torino, Pisa, Ascoli, Pescara, Juventus) and 7 in Coppa Italia with 3 goals (Udinese, Livorno, Napoli).


The 1988-89 season saw the "Viola" qualify for the UEFA Cup after a play off against Roma (Roberto Pruzzo the matchwinner of all people). Baggio had become a star and Curva Fiesole fan favourite. He played 30 league games (plus the playoff) with 15 goals (including Lazio) and 10 in Coppa Italia with 9 goals.


The next season the "Gigliati" had a new manager in Bruno Giorgi then replaced by Francesco "Ciccio" Graziani (former Viola player). Fiorentina struggled to stay up and also often had to play far from home as their stadium was being renovated for Italia' 90. They did however get to the UEFA Cup Final but lost to Juventus. Baggio had another excellent season with 32 league appearances and 17 goals (including Lazio), 2 in Coppa Italia with 1 goal (Licata) and 12 in the UEFA Cup with 1 goal (Dinamo Kiev).


In the summer of 1990 Baggio was sold to Juventus, a team hated by Fiorentina fans. This started years of protests, initially urban warfare, then the national team having to move from Coverciano (training headquarters) to Milan for their world cup preparation, many fans supporting Argentina against Italy and as late as 1993 whistling Italy and the national anthem in a friendly versus Mexico.


Baggio had a good world cup, in a tournament where a fairer and surely more spectacular final would have been Italy vs England (could not have been any worse than Germany -Argentina).


Protests apart, the fact was that Roby Baggio was off to become a "Gobbo" (hunchback, as Florentines call Juventini). On his return to Florence, playing in black and white stripes, he refused to take a penalty and at the end of the game, picking up a viola scarf went some way towards a sort of pacification. A few years later he would however take a penalty for Juve in Florence, score and celebrate.


He stayed with the Bianconeri for five seasons. After a difficult start under Gigi Maifredi, things improved under Giovanni Trapattoni first and then Marcello Lippi. Baggio won the UEFA Cup in 1993, the Coppa Italia in 1995 and above all the Scudetto in 1995. These were years where Milan were dominating Italian and European football. Baggio played 200 games for the "Zebras" and scored 115 goals. In his time in Turin he continued to be plagued by injuries which limited his playing time. With the rise of young talent Alessandro Del Piero, the "Divin Codino" changed colours.


In the summer of 1995 he became a Rossonero of Milan. He played two seasons for the "Diavolo", first under Capello, then Oscar Tabarez, and finally Arrigo Sacchi. In his first year under Don Fabio they won the Scudetto and Baggio contributed with 7 league goals. His second year was more problematic with an 11th place and he got 5 league goals. He played a total of 67 games and scored 17 goals in his two-year spell.


In 1997 he joined Bologna for a season. It was a great success under Renzo Ulivieri and Baggio scored 22 league goals with the "Felsinei" finishing 8th and qualifying for the Intertoto Cup.


The following year he was back in the "big time" with Inter. His first year was difficult. The Nerazzurri changed manager three times, from Gigi Simoni, Mircea Lucescu, Luciano Castellini to Roy Hodgson. They finished 8th and Baggio played 35 matches scoring 5 league goals, 1 in Coppa Italia and 4 in Champions League. They failed to qualify for the UEFA Cup after losing twice in a double play off against Bologna.


The next year, under Marcello Lippi, he played less, only 18 league games with 6 goals (including a playoff). Inter came 4th and qualified for Champions League in a playoff with Parma and Baggio's leaving present was a decisive brace.


In 2000 he made a surprise move to Brescia but it turned out to be a good choice. In the twilight of his career he delighted fans with four more positive seasons. He made 101 appearances for the "Rondinelle" (Little Swallows) and scored 46 goals. The Lombards finished 8th, 13th (semis of Coppa Italia and Intertoto Final), 9th and 11th. Three years under charismatic Roman Carlo Mazzone and the last under Gianni De Biasi.


At 37 "Raffaello" Baggio called it a day and it was a sad one for Italian football.


Source Wikipedia

At International level level Baggio earned 56 caps and scored 27 goals. He took part in 3 World Cups '90, '94 and '98. In USA 1994 he almost won Italy the title single handedly but was then hampered by an injury in the final against Brazil and missed the decisive penalty in the shoot out. He is Italy's top scorer in World Cups with 9 goals (along with Paolo Rossi and Christian Vieri) and is the only player to have scored in three different tournaments.


In 1993 he won the prestigious FIFA World Player award and the Ballon D'or.


In his private life a curious fact is that he is a Buddhist, adhering to the Japanese Soka Gakkai. He has opened Buddhist and meeting centres in Thiene (Veneto) and in 2014 opened the biggest Buddhist cultural centre in Europe, in Corsico (Milan). He also runs an agricultural business and is an Ambassador for FAO. In 2010 he was given the Peace Summit Award for his social work against hunger and for world peace. He is an extremely popular character especially in Italy but also worldwide.


As a player he was one of the best of his generation. He was what Italians call a "fuoriclasse" (a class apart/outstanding champion). His idol as a kid was Brazilian Zico and he possessed the same elegance. He was nicknamed Raffaello for his masterclass and obviously Divin Codino for his famous ponytail.


Baggio is 1.74 for 73 kilos. He could play in all attacking roles. Michel Platini once described him as a number 9 ½ and this would sometimes cause Baggio some tactical incomprehensions with various managers (Capello, Sacchi, Ulivieri to mention a few). He was technically superb, great touch of the ball and could play with both feet. He could set up goals but was also a goal scorer with amazing dribbling skills and precise shooting abilities. He had a dangerous free kick (21 goals in Serie A) and a reliable penalty taker (68 out of 83 in Serie A) although many will remember him for the USA '94 miss. A goal which maybe sums up his talents could be the one against Czechoslovakia in Italia '90, a mix of speed, agility, balance and precision.


Despite his many injuries Baggio is considered to be one of Italy's all time greats. A perfect combination of agility, elegance, speed and refined skills.


Sources


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