Igor Tudor goes down like a sack of potatoes inside the area and referee Gennaro Borriello points immediately to the penalty spot. He is encircled by distraugt protests from the Torino players. Juventus have one last chance to claim the spoils, but in a maze of players objecting the decision, Riccardo Maspero starts jutting his studs in the chalk, slowly digging a hole on the penalty spot. “Just a little with the right, then some with the left.”
An inspiring Alessandro Del Piero had helped Juventus to a comfortable 3-0 lead at half-time in the first Derby della Mole of the 2001-02 season, with Tudor scoring between the iconic No10’s brace against the local rivals.
But after the break, the Granata came out a different side. Encouraged by Simone Vergassola in the middle, who had replaced Franco Semioli, the game changed completely and a great goal by Cristiano Lucarelli gave them a glimmer of hope.
The striker made it 3-1 by beating Gianluigi Buffon with one of his mere three career goals against the Old Lady and had started the comeback. Marco Ferrante made it 3-2 from a penalty midway through the half, after Lillian Thuram had caught Granata captain Antonino Asta on a thundering run towards goal on the edge of the area. The match was completely open again, and with 20 minutes to go.
In the 78th minute of the match, Asta cut inside from his right midfield position and chipped the ball to the far post, where it met Ferrante’s head. Buffon only managed to push it wide, but not enough. Maspero, who had come on for Lucarelli, pushed it across the line with a more of sliding tackle than a finish. The incredible comeback was completed. Now, they were gunning for a fourth.
“It was a comeback that makes you believe in what you do,” coach Giancarlo Camolese said. “As long as there’s a tiny bit of hope, we learned to never give up.”
But it wasn’t over. Juventus were trying to recover from the shock. The ball was in the air, heading towards Tudor at the far post. He keeled over and Borriello pointed to the penalty spot. The Torino players were fuming.
“The world crumbled around us,” Maspero recalled. “Normal contact in the area, and he gives the penalty.”
Match official Borriello found himself surrounded by players in Maroon, whilst Marcelo Salas picked up the ball, focused on finishing the job they had started in the first half. The Matador was about to inflict the killer blow on the Bull.
But the Chilean striker was too engrossed on the task at hand and had his back to Maspero, who himself had cruel intentions.
“As everybody was shouting and doing their thing, I started kicking the ground. A little bit with the right, then some with the left. Slowly, the penalty spot vanished.
“It was only a superstitious gesture, there are those who kick the post, indicate to the goalkeeper where they will take the penalty or go to the opponent and whisper that they will miss. But I do this, I dig holes.”
Alessio Tacchinardi, who later confessed that at 3-0 it had been ‘a dream derby’, spotted the sly Torino man, but admittedly pulled him away without completely understanding what was going on.
“I saw Maspero close to the penalty spot and digging a hole, covering up the penalty spot with the dirt,” the former Bianconeri midfielder confessed. “I didn’t really understand what he was doing. But when I saw him close to the penalty spot, I went there and dragged him away.”
Salas, subbed on for Man of the Match Del Piero, returns with the ball in hand, unaware of Maspero’s machinations. He places it right above the hole. The ball won’t stay still, he makes it so with a second, more decisive hand. Then the Matador retracts to take a deep breath.
He approaches the ball at pace and hits with a straight foot to duly smash it into Row Z. The divot dug in had made this less a football penalty and more one taken in rugby. Ricky Maspero became both the villain and the hero of one of the most extraordinary games in the history of the Derby della Mole: Juventus 3-3 Torino.
“I was 100 per cent convinced he was going to miss,” Tacchinardi confessed.
“A comeback like that remains in history, and a comeback like that against Juventus, remains twice,” Maspero added, with no regrets whatsoever. ‘La buca di Maspero’ – Maspero’s divot – remains legend to this day.