The city of Verona is preparing for its first Derby in more than a decade. Luca Cetta recalls the first Serie A showdown and looks ahead to this Saturday’s contest.
For so long Chievo Verona were not even on the radar of Hellas Verona, the big dogs in the city. Yet for the past decade the tiny Campedelli family-led club have upstaged their more illustrious neighbours on the pitch. As Verona floundered through the lower Divisions, Chievo – even then still a distant second in their own city – were for the most part doing battle with the big boys of Italian football.
This Saturday eyes will be fixed on the city for the first Derby della Scala since 2001-02. In a role reversal from recent seasons, it’s the one-time Scudetto winners who are atop the city mountain. The two sides go into the clash in contrasting form – Hellas enjoying a wonderful return to the top flight in sixth place, Chievo struggling at the foot of the table.
Eight games without a win was the trigger for Chievo to fire Giuseppe Sannino. In came Eugenio Corini, the man who led them to a comfortable mid-table finish last term. This may be a baptism of fire, but he is no stranger to the Derby.
On 18 November 2001, the clubs met inside a packed Stadio Marc’Antonio Betegodi. Alberto Malesani’s Verona had started well and sat in seventh spot after nine matches, however they were overshadowed by Luigi Del Neri’s miracle Chievo. Incredibly they led Serie A, in what was their first top flight campaign. The BBC reported that the city of Verona “laid claim to be the Italy’s new football capital.”
The match had it all. Chievo had a goal disallowed, but brimming with confidence, scored twice in quick succession. Luciano – then playing as Eriberto under a false passport – hooked a volley past Fabrizio Ferron in the 33rd minute. Four minutes later, then-captain Corini converted from the spot.
Verona were handed a lifeline with five minutes remaining of a pulsating first half as Massimo Oddo scored a penalty following a foul on Adrian Mutu.
Whatever Malesani said at the interval worked a charm as his team came out firing. Chievo were reduced to 10 men following the dismissal of Massimo Marazzina on the hour. With 20 minutes remaining Salvatore Lanna amazingly netted past his own goalkeeper. It was a preposterous own goal, with Lanna’s attempted clearance on the edge of the penalty area curling perfectly past Cristiano Lupatelli.
The teams were level, but not for long. Chievo’s 10 couldn’t hold out as Mauro Camoranesi ghosted into the penalty area to squirt a close-range effort past Lupatelli. Even then, Chievo could have claimed a point.
Chievo may not be Hellas’ traditional rivals, yet it sure meant something to all involved when the final whistle went. The Flying Donkeys would get revenge by winning the second derby, coming from behind too, in a 2-1 triumph.
Approaching the third Serie A edition of the Verona Derby, Andrea Mandorlini’s men are looking to continue their fantastic opening to the campaign. Luca Toni is turning back the clock, but the boss is getting contributions all over the park – from defender and captain Domenico Maietta to rising stars Jorginho and Juan Iturbe. They lost at Genoa last time out, however can count on a perfect home record – six wins from six – as they prepare for this ‘home’ derby.
Nonetheless, goalkeeper Rafael shifted the pressure towards Chievo, insisting they are favourites. “The favourites? Chievo. They have been in Serie A for many years. We are newly promoted.”
For Corini, it’s a case of getting the most out of those who already know his system. “I will ask for a hand above all from the Old Guard, especially those who already know certain principles,” he said following his appointment. If ever Chievo needed a big performance it’s now, to break their winless streak.
There is little to separate the sides in Derby history. In 10 matches they’ve won four apiece and scored 13 times. Mandorlini’s side will go in as favourites, but should this meeting be anything like 12 years ago it’s going to be a cracker.