A magical evening

Last year the great saturday night at Bentegodi against Juventus

Richard Hough

The column of the week from Richard Hough for all the Verona-lovers speaking english

Juventus return to the Bentegodi on Saturday evening for the first time since that magical evening last February when Hellas celebrated a rare victory against the Turin giants.Hellas were flying high, on a seven-game unbeaten run, which included an impressive draw against Milan at the San Siro and, if anything, an even more impressive point against an in-form Lazio at the Olimpico.With two points and, just as importantly, two highly impressive performances on the road, the sense of excitement and optimism ahead of that Saturday night prime time spectacle against Juventus was enormous. All week, fans (and even the odd ex-player) tried desperately to get hold of tickets, but with 28,654 briefs sold, the event was soon declared a sell-out. Sure enough, when Saturday came there were long queues of fans waiting to enter the stadium and, as kick-off approached, only a handful of empty seats anywhere in the stadium.Despite a certain degree of optimism going into that match, there was a strong sense of resignation when Kumbulla's opening goal was chalked off for a marginal offside. In fact, it was Juventus who eventually took the lead thanks to a trademark Ronaldo solo effort after sixty-five minutes. Despite going a goal down, the mood around the stadium and, more importantly, on the pitch, remained defiant.Fabio Borini's equaliser ten minutes later was no less than Verona deserved and the 86th minute penalty was just reward for a performance of quality, character and determination. And who else would you want, but Giampaolo Pazzini to step up to convert the spot kick for a historic three points?Reflecting on that night as he joined his former teammates at their Peschiera del Garda training ground this week, Pazzini identified that game and that goal as one of the most significant of his career. He could barely have known then as he slotted that penalty home in front of a delirious Curva Sud that it would be the last goal of his playing career and that it would be the last time fans were allowed into the Bentegodi.Commenting on the impact Juric has made since his arrival in Verona, Pazzini explained that the man from Spalato has changed many things: “He has given Verona a specific identity and really improved so many players.”In October, Hellas brought a point back from the Allianz Stadium, thanks to a rare goal by Andrea Favili, and, with decent recent form against the big clubs, Hellas will certainly hope to take something from Juventus on Saturday. In doing so they will undoubtedly be helped by the absence of Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Juan Cuadrado and Arthur, as well as Danilo, Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala.Hellas, on the other hand, will be without Ceccherini, Colley and Kalinic, but will be boosted by the return from suspension of Federico Dimarco, the attacking wingback currently on loan from Inter. Juventus sit just four points behind Milan in fourth place with a game in hand, so they have plenty to play for. Whatever happens, Saturday night at the Bentegodi is one you certainly don’t want to miss!


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