Hellas Verona overturned the 2-0 first leg Serie B promotion play-off final defeat to beat nine-man minnows Cittadella 3-0 and climb back into Serie A.
They join Brescia and Lecce in the top flight next season, who were promoted automatically without going through the Serie B play-offs.
The first leg surprisingly ended with a 2-0 Cittadella home victory thanks to January signing Davide Diaw’s brace. The club from a tiny province of Padova, with 20,000 citizens, weren’t expected to be in the promotion play-offs at all, finishing seventh despite having the smallest salary bill in the entire division and seeking their first ever Serie A experience. Hellas, on the other hand, were relegated last summer and famously won the Scudetto in 1985.
Because Hellas Verona ended the regular season in fifth place, a draw on aggregate in this play-off final would be enough for their qualification. Away goals do not count and there could be no extra time.
Verona went close early on, Alberto Paleari beating away both a Karim Laribi screamer and the Antonio Di Gaudio follow-up.
Mattia Zaccagni sprung the offside trap on a through ball and went clear on goal, firing past Paleari to give Verona the lead 26 minutes in.
It was nearly 2-0 soon after, as Laribi skipped past two down the right and pulled back for Di Gaudio, who couldn’t keep his shot on target under pressure. Paleari rushed off his line for another decisive save on Di Gaudio, while Gabriele Mancini’s solo effort was deflected in a rare Cittadella chance.
Paleari was again decisive on a rocket from Scottish midfielder Liam Henderson, but the siege on Cittadella became even tougher when Luca Parodi received a second yellow card for his clumsy tackle on Luigi Vitale, reducing them to 10 men for the final half-hour.
Veteran Hellas hitman Giampaolo Pazzini came off the bench, but it was Samuele Di Carmine who got the crucial goal that levelled it on aggregate. Vitale rolled across from the left and Di Carmine under pressure from two defenders managed a cheeky back-heel flick from five yards.
With this result, 2-2 on aggregate, Verona would be promoted because they finished the regular season in fifth place, compared to Cittadella’s seventh.
The visitors tried to fight back, Giuseppe Panico hitting the side-netting from close range on a corner, but substitute Federico Proia’s extremely late tackle was his second bookable offence, reducing Cittadella to nine men.
Paleari had performed heroics to keep Cittadella in it, but he rushed off his line to meet a Pazzini pass and allowed Laribi to flick the ball around him, tapping into the empty net for 3-0.
Verona 3-0 Cittadella (3-2 agg)
Zaccagni 26 (V), Di Carmine 70 (V), Laribi 83 (V)
Verona: Silvestri; Faraoni, Dawidowicz, Bianchetti, Vitale; Zaccagni, Gustafson (Munari 76), Henderson (Pazzini 66); Laribi, Di Carmine, Di Gaudio (Matos 56)
Cittadella: Paleari; Parodi, Frare, Adorni, Rizzo; Siega (Proia 50), Iori (Schenetti 77), Branca; Panico; Moncini (Cancellotti 62), Diaw
Sent off: Parodi 61 (C), Proia 77 (C)