Thanks to a popular American beer commercial, this is how we tended to greet each other at the turn of the century. At the same time, Westlife topped the UK charts with ‘I have a Dream’ and Stuart Little was all the rage at the box office.
With the world having survived the Y2K scare, it was business as usual for the sporting world. France were preparing to host a memorable (if somewhat heart-breaking) European Championships, Sydney had been lined up as host for the 2000 Olympic Games and Tiger Woods was all set to continue his dominance of golf.
Meanwhile, in Serie A, there was a red-hot title race in progress.
Sven-Goran Eriksson’s Lazio were the early pace setters taking top spot in week five, remaining there until a shock week 15 defeat away to Venezia – a result that would see Juventus overtake their rivals thanks to Filippo Inzaghi’s single goal against Verona.
The night before their week 16 clash with Bologna, as hundreds of fans gathered in Piazza della Lierta for the club’s centenary celebrations, their title rivals, Juventus, gifted them an ideal birthday present by failing to beat Parma at the Tardini. The 1-1 scoreline meant Lazio, due to welcome Francesco Guidolin’s men to the party celebrations on Sunday afternoon, would reclaim top spot with a win.
The Stadio Olimpico was packed to the rafters and the crowd were full of expectation on what would be a memorable day in the club’s history. The fans were soon off their seats as Lazio started the brighter, Marcelo Salas setting the tone by almost catching Gianluca Pagliuca of his line with an audacious chip from the edge of the box.
Despite Lazio’s early dominance, it was the visitors who almost opened the scoring when a lovely weighted pass from Pierre Wome found Beppe Signori, whose effort crashed off the bar.
The home support were on the edge of their seats again when Sinisa Mihajlovic brought the best out of Pagliuca with an outrageous free kick. On the half hour mark, Mihajlovic had another opportunity to beat the keeper, this time from the penalty spot. However, the fiery Serb lost his footing, ballooning his spot kick, high and wide.
Fortunately for Lazio, Mihajlovic’s blushes would be spared. A lovely ball from Nestor Sensini found Pavel Nedved whose effort cannoned back of the cross bar only to land on the head of Marcelo Salas, who nodded home to give Lazio a 1-0 lead at the break.
Early in the second half, Singnori continued to menace Lazio as he looked to pull his side back into the game. After 51 minutes, his cross found Kennett Andersson who powered his header home to level the game, silencing the home crowd.
As Pagliuca continued to frustrate the Lazio attack, Erikkson reacted, bringing on Fabrizio Ravanelli for Juan Veron in an attempt to bolster the attack. With Lazio pouring forward going into the final quarter, Pavel Nedved found himself on the end of a Sergio Conceicao cross and thumped his header past Pagliuca, sparking wild celebrations.
However, Nedved would quickly go from hero to villain, picking up a second booking in the 83rd minute to leave Lazio a man short going into the final minutes. But as Bologna pressed for an equaliser, Lazio broke. Somehow, Ravanelli found himself stumbling though the Bologna defence and poked home a clumsy goal to seal all three points and put the home side back on top of Serie A.
The team from Rome would only lose two more games that season, finishing with seven wins and a draw (including a 0-1 win at Juventus) to snatch the title from the Bianconeri by a single point. The perfect finish to an incredible centenary year.
Words by: @giovd86