During the golden generation of Inter’s successful years in the 80s, Hellas Verona remained one of Nerazzurri’s most difficult opponents. Despite having star players and title contending side, Inter found it difficult to pick up three points against Verona, going on a stretch of six seasons where they managed to do that just once.
Before Leicester City shocked the world by winning the 2015-16 EPL title, it was Osvaldo Bagnoli’s Hellas Verona side that accomplished a similar astonishing feat by winning the title in 1984-85 Serie A season, holding off challenges from the Nerazzurri, Torino and a Gianluca Vialli led Sampdoria side.
Following that win and for the remainder of the decade, Verona maintained themselves as a strong mid-table side and became one of Inter’s toughest opponents. Following their relegation in 1990, they returned for yet another Serie A season a year later.
As they travelled to Milan to face Inter in round three, the home side were looking to continue the winning momentum under new manager, Corrado Orrico.
Inter’s Starting Lineup was Zenga in goal with Antonio Paganin, Andi Brehme, Riccardo Ferri, and Beppe Bergomi in defence with Alessandro Bianchi, Nicola Berti Stefano Desideri, Lothar Matthaus and Davide Fontolan in midfield behind Jurgen Klinsmann up front.
Hellas Verona’s starting lineup was Gregori, Tommasi, Polonia, Piubelli, C. Pin, E. Rossi, Fanna, Magrin, Raducioiu, Pryiz, A. Icardi
Before the match kicked off, Walter Zenga received the award for UEFA Goalkeeper of the year in front of a packed San Siro with standing ovation from the Nerazzurri faithful.
As the match got underway, the Inter controlled majority of the possession with Klinsmann playing as solo striker and his German counterpart and reigning Ballon D’or winner Lothar Matthaus orchestrating the attack from the midfield.
The high-pressure offense of Inter kept Verona in their own defensive half. Unable to keep up with the runs into the box from Nerazzurri midfielders, Verona conceded a penalty early in the first half when Davide Fontolan was brought down inside the penalty box by Cleto Polonia. Matthaus stepped upto the spot, struck a power shot to the bottom left corner, however Attilio Gregori’s tremendous reflexes saved the penalty to keep the score leveled at 0-0.
Verona defended in numbers and played patiently in attack, relying only on counter-attack opportunities as the home side committed men forward seeking the early goal. The visitors pushed forward on the wings using the pace of their fullbacks to provide the width for the strikers.
Zenga, like his rival on opposite goal, was in tremendous form and comfortably dealt with Verona attack. On the other end, Gregori was having a phenomenal match, making one acrobatic save after the other, as Nerazzurri shots came flying in from outside the box, high, low, powerful or well-placed finesse, the Verona goal-keeper saved them all.
Before half-time, Inter got yet another goal-scoring opportunity as Nicola Berti was brought down inside the box. Having missed the first shot, instead of the regular penalty taker, Andreas Brehme stepped up to the spot and struck a powerful low to the bottom right this time, however Gregori anticipated it perfectly and saved his second penalty shot of the match.
However the save was not defended well by Verona and Inter midfielder Stefano Desideri headed home the rebound, giving the home side a crucial lead.
Seeing the fantastic form of Verona goal-keeper, Inter replaced midfielder Fontolan with attacker Massimo Ciocci to partner upfront with Jurgen Klinsmann. The move created a lot more space for Klinsmann to run into and was looking more dangerous right from the start of second half.
At the fifty-fifth minute mark, the Klinsmann-Ciocci partnership put the German through on goal and he dribbled around Gregori to score, however the goal was called off for Klinsmann being off-side.
Verona grew in confidence with the star performance from their shot stopper. Their attack was developing more rhythm as match grew on and tension on the Nerazzurri sidelines continued, looking for the second goal. While the attack benefitted with half-time substitution by the home side, it gave more space in midfield to the visitors.
However, it was Verona’s sloppy defense that gave away another penalty as Klinsmann was blatantly kicked on the legs. Ciocci stepped up and completely mistimed his shot, sending it straight into Curva Nord.
As the match headed towards a nail-biting finish, a Verona handball gifted Nerazzurri yet another penalty. Desideri, having scored the first goal, struck a well-placed shot past Gregori to score Inter’s second goal of the match. Despite conceding, Gregori guessed right and managed to get his hands on the ball, however the power of the shot meant it couldn’t be stopped.
Despite a world-class performance from Attilio Gregori, saving a record three penalty shots in the match, Inter managed to get a crucial 2-0 win at home to continue their positive start under new manager and secured their second win against Hellas Verona in over eight years.