Another one from the Forza Milan of July 2003 by the legendary Carlo Pellegatti. Enjoy!
Accade in Luglio: Battere la Juve è di...rigore. (It happened in July: Beating Juve is "di rigore").
(Italian play of words).
In Rome as in Manchester, thirty years ago: Milan faces the Bianconeri in the finale of the Italian Cup that the ragazzi win after the penalty session following a very hard fought game, venging the bitterness of Verona. Hero of the match, Villiam Vecchi, today, Dida's maestro.
By Carlo Pellegatti.
The opponent: Juventus. Reward: a Cup. The victory: at the penalyt kicks. The hero: the Milan keeper. It seems that one is writing about the latest, amazing, moving match in Manchester, however, the game in question was thirty years ago, on July 01 1973, when Milan won its third Coppa Italia. 1973, An unforgettable year, the year of Salonicco, of Verona, of Rome. Not only for the intense sensations that this team offered to the rossoneri fans, but also because this Milan was one of the most spectacular, classic, devastating of human memory. Rocco, believed to be a defensive coach, fielded a very offensive minded team strenghtened by the defensive experts such as Schnellinger, Rosato and Anquilletti but with a forward line that most times had simultaneously together, Bigon, Benetti, Prati, Rivera and Chiarugi. Five stars as talented as the ones of today's team for their class, their style, their pride and their will to win. And this Milan won and convinced, playing in both Serie A and Cup Winners' Cup, games of extraordinary beauty. No one can forget the 4-1 away against Sampdoria, or the magnificient goal of an ever inspired and simply magic Gianni Rivera in Vicenza, beaten 3-0.
It was not only a beautiful Milan, but also a concrete, solid, compact, never giving up team that used these qualities to perfection during the Cup Winners' Cup final, won with difficulty in Salonicco (Greece). Down 1-0 after only 6 minutes of play after Chiarugi's goal, the match turned into an assault from the English players of Leeds, towards the goal of Milan, forcing the heroic Milan defence into a perfect performance, with the keeper, Vecchi, the absolute hero of the game. Three days later, on May 20th, 1973, a fatal and unforgettable date for the Milan fans.
I still have in front of my eyes, the highway between Milano and Venezia of this sunday morning, with a long, very long Rossonero flag with a golden star, long of 140 kilometres, held on top of hundreds of cars and buses. The joy and enthusiasm of the Rossoneri fans, unaware of the sad and dramatic afternoon that they were about to experience, a striking contrast with the sadness, sorrowness in their faces, bathed by their tears at the end of the match. Indeed, Juventus won, at the 90th minute, a season dominated by the Rossoneri, that in Verona, for some still unknown reasons, collapsed in what is still to date, one of the great mysteries of modern football.
Only a few years later, we realized that this match, this day, represented a turning point for the Milan fans. Tthat day, a kind of generational passage occured. A lot of the fans, perhaps due to the great delusion felt that day, stopped following the Ragazzi in all the away games, friends of numerous travels, of so many long and tiring campaigns, of so many card games in the buses that left at 1 am the previous night to go to Roma or Napoli. But let us get back to these days. Milan loses the title of the Star (10th Scudetto) on May 20th, 1973, however, one week later, we cannot miss the beginning of the Coppa Italia campaign in Bergamo.After this game, the anger increased in the team and in all of us fans, as we all knew that Verona represented just an accident. A unique accident, black and incredible. Indeed because in Bergamo, the Ragazzi retrieved their real level, the one, just as an exemple among many others, against Bologna that they beat in front of 90,000 fans at the San Siro in a superb performance. Against Atalanta, Bigon and Chiarugi, secured the result early on as they scored inside the first 15 minutes and the team played a solid match. The team coached by Rocco was in the group B in the Coppa Italia along side Cagliari, Napoli and Atalanta while group A included Inter, Juventus, Reggiana and Bologna. The teams in each group would play each other twice, home and away in a mini-league type with the first team in each group would qualify for the final.
The following sunday, the team had a natural "day off" following a series of intensive and stressful games caused the team to lose at home against Cagliari, a loss that would not however, jeopardize Milan's chances in the Italian Cup that in the following 4 games, won all of them, Napoli home and away, Atalanta at the San Siro and Cagliari away. A secure path leading to a well deserved final but with a great dissapointment: in a splendid form, Gianni Rivera was suspended from the final thanks to Francescon of Padova for a foul, perhaps his first of the whole season.
In the other group, it was Juve who qualified giving the chance to a revenge of the robbery of Verona. Bettega opened scored right away for Bianconeri, but in the 5th minute of second half, Benetti, tied the game with a penalty. In the second half, the men of Cesto Vycpalek (Juve's coach), lead by Capello and Halle had a physical problem (calo) but the Rossoneri didn't manage to take advantage of it. The result didn't change not even in the overtime and thus, off we went to the penalty kicks. The 80,000 fans of the Olimpico of Roma, just like the players, were taken by the intense emotions of the game and exhausted the heat. Shnellinger was the first to go to the penalty spot. "Wolkswagen", as he was nicknamed by Rocco, didn't miss his shot. 1-0 for Milan. Then, Causio's turn came. Villiam Vecchi dived on his left and saved the "Barone's" shot.
A scream of joy was transformed right away into a scream of dissapointment: Angonese, the ref of the match, decided to have the shot retaken and in his second tentative, Causio scored. Next, Benetti's turn, who with a shot on the right of Zoff put the Rossoneri back into the lead. From this moment on, the Villiam Vecchi show started: first he saved the shot from Anastasi, diving on his right and blocking the ball, then, returned the hard but central shot of Bettega, while in the time being, Chiarugi and Biasolo secured the decisive lead for Milan. Milan scored again with Magherini, after the Juve defender, Spinosi, having sent the ball outside of the net. The last penalty was taken by Cuccureddu: saved yet again by Vecchi, but the inflexible Angonese ordered the shot to be retaken and on the second try, the defender from Sardagna, scored a useless goal.
The hero of Salonicco Vecchi had emulated his exploits 45 days later, thanks to his grinta, his style, his class and his courage. Zoff, the great Zoff, this time around, had to bow in front of his colleague that had lead his teammates to a victory that the taste of the big revenge on the Juventini rivals. The Milan of that season was very strong, the strongest. Only destiny prevented it from conquering the Scudetto of the Star (10th Scudetto) with six years of anticipation, but this Coppa Italia made it clear to all, critics and fans, the great qualities of this Milan squad, lead by a fabulous Gianni Rivera with the collaboration of the solid and concrete Bigon, of the funambulist Chiarugi, of the hard working Benetti. However, in that night, the greatest of all of them, was Villiam Vecchi, that 30 years later, has relived the exact same sensations of this July 01st, 1973 through his pupil, Dida. Cool on his line and implacable like him, against the same black and white jerseys. An incredible story that has repeated itself. A Milan story."