Those who know the ins and outs of Calcio know all about the cult that surrounds the legendary Czech coach, Zdenek Zeman. They also know, however, that even though his sides produced some of the peninsula’s most exhilarating football, they would also be known as the loveable losers.
In those fleeting moments in which it all came together, nobody could dream of matching a Zeman side. Beauty in motion may be the phrase, but it was closer to perfection in motion. Indeed, on May 5 1998, that is what was witnessed by those who attended the Stadio Olimpico, as Zeman’s Roma routed Fabio Capello’s AC Milan.The season itself would not be spectacular. Roma eventually finished fourth while for Milan, the result was consistent with the dismal season they endured, finishing a miserable tenth.
The match itself would kick off in the shadow of the ever colourful Curva Sud, yet little did they know that the spectacle would not be in the stands but on the field. Almost immediately the Lupi had the Rossoneri under the cosh, with Paulo Sergio forcing Sebastino Rossi into a decent save down to his left.
The respite for the Milanese side was only temporary as on 16 minutes, Roma had the lead. A long ball forward would cannon off the head of the marauding left-wing back Vincent Candela and into the path of Paulo Sergio. Despite a none too subtle shove in the back by his marker, Sergio got the slightest of flicks on the ball, sending it back into the path of Candela.
The French international, who had been allowed to continue his run unopposed, now found himself dead centre in front of the goal, some 25-30 yards out with the ball bouncing before him. As the ball continued its downward motion Candela struck it sweetly into the bottom right corner past a despairing Rossi.
Four minutes later in was 2-0, Luigi Di Baggio coolly converting a penalty that had been won by a fresh faced Francesco Totti. By 28 minutes it was 3-0, Di Baggio again, this time with a rasper into the top left corner of Rossi’s net from just outside the area.
Milan were shell shocked as players such as Roberto Donadoni, Paolo Maldini, George Weah and Alessandro Costacurta looked everywhere and anywhere for inspiration. The slaughter though was far from finished.
With the half winding down, Sergio led the Milan defence on a merry dance once again, latching onto an inch perfect through ball by Aldair to slot the ball past an advancing Rossi.
Despite his side being four up at the break, Zeman maintained his ice cool death stare. Underneath he was surely ecstatic. The same could certainly not be said for Capello, whose look was one of pure exasperation.
The second half would prove a far less eventful affair as Milan were unable to mount the comeback to match all comebacks. In the end, they couldn’t even take solace in the fact they drew the second half, as with eight minutes remaining, Marco Delvecchio would rub salt in the wound by scoring the Giallorossi’s fifth, a glancing header.
A historic win for the Romans and a defeat of epic proportions for Milan. Just over a year after this 5-0 drubbing, neither Zeman or Capello remained in their respective jobs. For Rudi Garcia and Sinisa Mihajlovic, could history be about to repeat itself?
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