In February 1985 struggling Lazio made the trip south to face the Diego Maradona fanfare in Naples. I Biancocelesti had mustered a point the week before at home to Ascoli going into this round 20 fixture, though they had failed to pick up a single point in their previous seven fixtures, including resounding defeats at the hands of Fiorentina and Udinese.As Lazio were looking to hang on to their top flight status, Naples was bursting with enthusiasm. Having broken the word record transfer fee to sign Diego Maradona in the summer of 1984, The Partenopei were going into the Lazio clash six games undefeated with Maradona scoring five goals in those fixtures, form that made Rino Marchesi’s side firm favourites as they welcomed Lazio to the San Paolo.
As the sun covered the pitch it was obvious from the word go, it was going to be a long afternoon for Juan Carlos Lorenzo and his Lazio side; his fellow countryman was about give a footballing masterclass in front of his adoring fans. Napoli’s little number ten fired an early warning shot, picking the ball up a quarter of the way inside the Lazio half. Maradona, on his left foot, pushed the ball between two opponents and took off, holding off the challenges he ran as far as the 18-yard-box before blazing over, a warning shot to Lazio as to what was to come.
At the heart of everything, the Argentine had penalty appeals waved away by referee Pieri. As Maradona threw himself to the ground, the man in black from Genoa looked on unimpressed.
Despite Maradona’s best efforts, Lazio somehow managed to go in goalless at half-time.
The second half started fairly even with Fernando Orsi having to be on his toes in the Lazio goal early on to stop a dangerous Napoli attack, before teammate Michael Laudrup blazed his shot over at the other end. Orsi once again had to be alert as Maradona spectacularly set up a chance via a bicycle kick, however the Lazio ‘keeper was equal to it as he acrobatically turned the shot over the bar. Orsi was beginning to have one of those games – everything Napoli threw at him, he denied.
Despite Orsi’s efforts, Napoli would take the lead just before the hour mark. An attempted header back fell short, allowing Maradona to pounce, smashing the ball home from close range. The Argentine wheeled away to celebrate with his gushing fans while the inquisition began between the shocked Orsi and his defence.
And 1-0 soon became 2-0.
Another defensive calamity for Lazio put the game out of site. Maradona had the ball out wide and clipped in a hopeful cross. Lazio’s Daniele Filisetti stretched trying to clear the ball, but instead it ended up in his own goal despite a tremendous effort from Orsi to keep it out.
The Lazio defence was having a nightmare. It seemed the mere presence of Napoli’s number ten was enough to strike the fear of death into them, and the hosts soon went three up.
A terrible attempt to control the ball from the Lazio defence saw the ball fall to Maradona some 25 yards out. Without even thinking about it he stuck the ball first time, left-footed, into the top right-hand corner, lobbing Orsi to score one of the goals of the season. The sold-out Stadio San Paolo was witnessing something special on the afternoon of 25 February 1985. And if Maradona’s second goal was special, the one he scored to complete his hat-trick was arguable even better.
Standing over a corner, he whipped the ball in with his wand of a left foot, curling it into the top corner of the near post with a little help from the flapping Orsi. 4-0 is how it finished, Lazio were well and truly sitting in the front row of the Maradona show that afternoon, as the little Argentine walked off with the match ball.
These two sides meet in Serie A this Saturday night, both hoping to go into the international break with a win. An intriguing game should be in store as Lazio are quietly going about their business. Six games unbeaten, a win would put them four points clear of Saturday’s opponents. Meanwhile Napol will be hoping to bounce back after last weekend’s 2-1 defeat in Turin at the hands of Juventus and keep in touch with the chasing pack behind the champions.
Words by Giovanni Dougall: @giovannid86