Lazio, Marseille, the ‘Olimpico’ stadium and Europe. Four clues, four key elements. Four like nets in one memorable night for Simone Inzaghi. On March 14, 2000, 21 and a half years ago, the former Biancoceleste striker and former coach scored four Champions League goals in a single game. A feat that no other Italian player has ever succeeded in, in an evening that has directly entered the history of the Capitoline club and of Italian football.
Tonight Lazio and Marseille return to face each other in Europe, but this time not in the Champions League but in the Europa League. Inzaghi will be missing at the Olimpico, the absolute protagonist of that March evening 21 years ago. For a strange twist of fate, biancocelesti and transalpini compete again just a few months after the turbulent farewell between Inzaghi and the Capitoline society.
The 1999/2000 season is linked to winning the second league title in the club’s history. One – but the most important together with the Cup Winners’ Cup won in Birmingham against Mallorca – of the many trophies won under the presidency of Sergio Cragnotti. A triumphal year, with the successes in the Italian Cup and Supercoppa Italia as well as the Tricolore, in which difficult moments were not lacking.
Chosen by Goal
One of the most complicated periods experienced by Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Lazio is precisely March 2000. The Biancocelesti have great aspirations, but risk seeing all their seasonal goals vanish within a few days. In the league, Juventus makes the escape tests with a +6 that worries the Capitoline not a little, while in the Champions League the challenge against Marseille at the Olimpico del March 14 it is already an inside or outside.
In Group D of the second group stage, the one that replaced the round of 16, Chelsea and Feyenoord lead the standings with 7 points; Lazio chases with 5 points, while Marseille closes at 3. The home match against the transalpines is one of those in which you cannot go wrong so as not to risk not placing in the top two and failing to access the quarterfinals.
The negative results are reflected in the mood of the square, which is experiencing a complicated moment. The company even thinks about the change of coach, with Cragnotti it has already made an exploratory survey with Sacchi in case of Eriksson’s exemption, once again labeled as the one who “plays well but does not win”. And the club tries to shake the fans with a particular initiative to fill the Olimpico: whoever buys the coupon for the match against Marseille will have the opportunity to enter the stadium also on the occasion of one of the next two league matches against Perugia. and Venice.
Eriksson decides to take a little out of balance with respect to usual and deploy the two strikers. Boksic is the guarantee, while Inzaghi ‘takes advantage’ of Salas’ injury and barefoot Mancini and Ravanelli. The two play together for the second time since 1 ‘. In the 4-4-2 of the Swedish coach, the defensive quartet is formed by Negro, Nesta, Mihajlovic and Pancaro in front of Marchegiani. Conceicao and Nedved move on the outside while in the middle of the field there is the almost unprecedented pair formed by Stankovic-Simeone.
The Marseille arrives at the challenge without four owners, with the coach Bernard Casoni who prefers to keep them for the championship. In Ligue 1, Olympique are in dire straits with only one point ahead of the relegation zone and the Champions League is not a priority. At the Olimpico we see a great ex, Ivan De la Peña: the Spaniard leads the midfield of the transalpines.
Less than one playing time for Lazio is enough to highlight all the defensive shortcomings of Marseille. Casoni chooses to risk something and play with a rather high rearguard, but who will prove unable to know how to move adequately to leave the Lazio strikers offside. To take advantage is Simone Inzaghi, who signs a hat-trick in 38 minutes.
‘Inzaghino’, who arrived in the summer for 30 billion lire after the 15 goals with which he dragged Piacenza to safety, took advantage of a delicious touch with Nedved’s right winger in the 17 ‘and beats at the net with his right from the inside of the penalty area. Slightly different script in the 38th minute, with Conceicao who from the right finds Inzaghi in the area, ready to beat the opposing goalkeeper. The trio arrives a few seconds later: Conceicao again the ball, then Boksic explodes the left on the fly that finds the opposition of a not perfect Porato. The Marseille goalkeeper does not hold the ball, which ends up in Inzaghi for the easy tap-in.
The game seems to have already been closed at half-time, but in the first quarter of an hour of the second half Lazio risks complicating everything. Leroy heads the 1-3 goal on the development of the free kick beaten by De la Peña. The network, together with the entry of Bakayoko, revives Marseille, who try to raise the pace and are persistently looking for the second goal.
But shortly after comes the umpteenth inattention of the OM defense: Abardonado irregularly stops Inzaghi in the penalty area, granting the penalty to the Biancocelesti. On the spot there is Simone himself, who chooses not to cross and is rejected by Porato.
Poker nuanced, but only for a short time: in the 71st minute, Conceicao collects Nedved’s cross from the left, checks and kicks. The conclusion of the Portuguese is dampened by an opponent: Inzaghi is the quickest of all to throw himself on the ball and sign the fourth personal network.
In the final, Boksic scores the final 5-1: the Croatian takes advantage of an empty exit from Porato and heads the ball into the net.
“A good feeling. I feel a lot of joy and a hint of regret because I could score five goals. But I missed the penalty and then in the end it was a very easy opportunity. But I was tired and I no longer had the right clarity, too bad I wasn’t able to improve Van Basten “.
Four goals like the ‘Swan of Utrecht’. A historic poker, which however does not leave Inzaghi completely satisfied, a perfectionist, who comments with a hint of regret the super performance against Marseille.
The current Inter manager is in the small circle of goalscorers who have scored four goals in a Champions League match. The last to have succeeded was Sebastien Haller with Ajax in the Lisbon match against Sporting on 15 September. With them Shevchenko, Prso, Van Nistelrooy, Messi, Gomis, Gomez, Lewandowski and Ibrahimovic.
“I’m the only Italian to have scored four goals in a Champions League match. I always remember this record with pride and it’s nice to talk about it. The penalty? The goalkeeper was good because I shot well” Inzaghi later told.
Lazio’s journey will be interrupted in the quarterfinals against Valencia, finalist in Paris against Real Madrid. But the 1999/2000 edition will remain unforgettable for Inzaghi: the biancoceleste forward graduated as vice top scorer of the competition with 9 goals, four of which were scored in that magical evening at the Olimpico against Marseille.