The 2011-12 season of Serie A ended on an emotional note as some of the legends of the golden generation of Italian football decided to end their love affair with Italian football. Unlike the English Premier League, Serie A was wrapped up in the penultimate round itself with Juventus emerging as the champions for an unprecedented twenty eighth time and remained undefeated in the league. By doing so, the Bianconeri became only the second Italian club to win the Scudetto with an undefeated season after the legendary 1991-92 squad of A.C. Milan’s.
The Perfect Ending – Grazie Ragazzi
The past one week has been emotional for Milanisti across the globe, in more than one way. If going down to their bitter rivals Inter which subsequently ended their challenge for the Scudetto was not enough, the news of the departure of Milan’s entire golden generation made sure that almost every Milan fan was moved to tears over the past one week. It has not just been the fans who have thanked the players but the players have also replicated their feelings towards the fans for the love which the fans have showered upon the legends who played for them in the holy red and black jersey for more than decade now.
The likes of Nesta, Inzaghi and Gattuso had all held a press conference prior to Milan’s last league encounter against Novara and all of them had announced that they would be moving away from Milan at the end of the season after each of them played for more than a decade in the red and black colors. Besides theses three Milan legends, Zambrotta, Van Bommel and Flavio Roma also took a call to end their Rossoneri career at the end of the season. Although Van Bommel played in Milan for only eighteen months, he was one of the main reason behind Milan’s last year’s success and the Dutchman could not control his emotions while he was shown a farewell video in an interview at Milanello.
The choreography of the Curva Sud was at its best as Gattuso wore the captain’s armband one last time with both Nesta and Inzaghi starting on the bench for the home side. Novara who have been relegated to Serie B dominated the first half of the match and almost turned out to be the party poopers for the Milan legends as an unmarked Garcia’s gave the lead to the visitors after Milan’s defense was caught napping. Injuries and Milan have gone hand in hand throughout this season as this time it was Boateng who limped off in the tenth minute making way for Flamini.
Milan went into the halftime after playing one of their worst forty five minutes of the season but came back as a rejuvenated outfit. Milan straightaway went on an offensive and ten minutes into the second half parity was restored after Flamini scored after he was set up brilliantly by Cassano. Milan went all out for the winner once they has tasted blood but they were missing the final touch and that is when Allegri introduced Pippo Inzaghi which received unarguably the biggest cheer of the match. The thirty eight year old was all charged up for his 300th appearance for Milan and by seeing the way he was getting in positions one might think he was criminally underplayed by Allegri throughout the season.
Ten minutes from time Liverpool-bound Aquilani made way for Nesta as the crowd went into a frenzy seeing all their departing senators on the pitch together for one last time. Nesta’s first pass was a cross to Seedorf who played a beautiful one-two-one with captain Gattuso before the Dutchman lobbed the ball to a waiting Inzaghi in the box who rolled back the years as he brilliantly chested down the ball before slotting it past Fontana into the back of the net sending the entire crowd into a delirium.
Seeing Pippo score and then celebrate was probably on the wish list of every Italian football fan and in the 82nd minute they had the wish fulfilled as the striker went towards his beloved Curva Sud to celebrate with his fanatic fans who have loved him immensely throughout these years.
The match ended with the score of 2-1 in favor of the Rossoneri as Milan came from behind to pick up a remarkable farewell win for their senators. Post-match, the San Siro gave an emotional farewell to their legends as Galliani thanked all their departing players by showering them with all the credit for Milan’s European domination in the past decade.
It was also expected to be Seedorf’s last match in Milan colors but going by the looks of the things he might postpone his trip to Brazil by a year.
The new Champions crowned at home
There were similar scenes at the new Juventus stadium as fans of the newly crowned champions of Italy got ready to celebrate the title with their team and the entire management while the Bianconeri took on Atlanta. Ecstatic after winning the title the Bianconeri fans must have had a lump in their throat knowing that it could be the last time that they will get to see their captain the irreplaceable - Alessandro Del Piero in the legendary jersey which has been like second skin for him for almost two decades now.
The title celebrations got underway in the first ten minutes as Marrone slotted in from a Borriello’s pass to give the hosts an early lead. Playing in the den of the champions can be nerve-racking experience and Atlanta players were feeling the heat from the moment they set foot inside the stadium. Perfect farewells were the order of the day as Del Piero scored what most likely would be his last goal for the Bianconeri near the half hour mark after scoring from outside the box which led to never before seen scenes of joy among the home fans.
The respect Del Piero commands can be gauged from the reception which he got when he was substituted, ten minutes into the second half. The striker went on to a take a farewell lap of sorts with the game still on and had tears in his eyes seeing the response of the people around the stadium.
Atalanta never looked like scoring and had only two shots at the target for the entire duration of the match although they did get one on the score sheet but only through an own goal by Juventus fullback Lichtsteiner. The game although ended on a sour note for the Old Lady as Giorgio Chiellini limped off after picking up a thigh injury and has been ruled out of their Coppa Italia final against Napoli which is in a week’s time. Barzagli, who replaced Chiellini two minutes from time, had an immediate impact on the game and secured the three points for the Turin-based club after he converted from the spot in the injury time to give a famous win which rounded off a perfect league campaign for the Bianconeri.
Battle for Europe
While Milan and Juventus gave fitting farewells to their stars, the battle for a place in Europe was getting extremely intense. Udinese, Lazio, Napoli and Inter all were fighting to secure the elusive Champions league qualifying round spot which in the end went to Udinese after they scored a goal on either side of the half against Catania and secured the last podium place on the league table. Di Natale scored the first twenty minutes into the match as Fabbrini doubled the lead near the hour mark to secure the third place for Francesco Guidoline’s men.
Meanwhile, a brace from Dossena helped Napoli to earn three points from their final league fixture after Destro’s sixth minute goal had cancelled Dossena’s strike in the third minute. This win enabled them to qualify for the Europa league as they finished fifth and snatched the last European spot of Serie A. The side from Naples must be disappointed as they have missed out on a place in the Champions League after having qualified for the premier European competition last year and would have to be satisfied with playing in the Europa league for this year at least.
Lazio played host to Inter in the clash of the week in Rome and it was the side from Milan who drew first blood after Diego Milito converted from the spot barely second from halftime to give Stramaccioni’s men the lead going into the break. The thought of missing out on Europe for 2012-13 season would have been the talking point for both the teams during the sides half time talk and Lazio came out all guns blazing for the final forty five minutes of the season.
The same Inter side which shocked their cousins Milan in the derby last week by four goals to two looked rattled in the second half as strikes from Kozak and Candreva in the space of five minutes turned the tide of the match in the favor of the hosts. Kozak almost scored his second and team’s third in the injury time but the Nerazzurri’s keeper kept the shot at bay but the deflected ball landed in the path of Mauri as he tapped in to secure the fourth place for Lazio and with that a chance to play in the Europa League for the next season breaking the hearts of the Nerazzurri.
Going into the final day of the season it was still not certain which would be the final team who would get relegated and join Novara and Cesena in Serie B from the top flight of Italian football. While Genoa only needed a point to safeguard themselves, it was a more complex situation for Lecce.
Lecce only stood a chance to remain in Serie A if they managed to pick up an away win and Genoa suffered a home loss, none of which eventually happened as Genoa went on win thanks to two second half strikes by Gilardino and Sculli which sealed their and Lecce’s fate for the next season. Lecce meanwhile, conceded a late second half goal to Chievo Verona as they finished six points adrift from Genoa at 18th position and would ply their trade in Serie B for the upcoming season.
TheHardTackle congratulates Juventus F.C. for the Italian title and for making their way back into the elite European competition for the upcoming season.
For final week’s results and final standings, click here.