What a Sunday, Hellas!

What a Sunday, Hellas!

The match against Roma at the Bentegodi was one of those footballing occasions that will live long in the collective memory here in Verona

Richard Hough

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

Sunday evening at the Bentegodi was one of those footballing occasions that will live long in the collective memory here in Verona. It was right up there with that historic victory against Juventus that seems like a lifetime ago but was, in fact, just 18 months ago. As one well-informed commentator noted post-match, it was like a return to the Bentegodi of the glorious 1980s.


Indeed, Hellas victories against the Romans are rare. In the equivalent fixture last season Hellas were awarded three points because of a player registration irregularity, but before that, you have to go way back to October 1996 for the last time Hellas recorded a victory against the Giallorossi.


Rejuvenated since the arrival of the Special One, Roma had won six consecutive games under Mourinho before coming to the Bentegodi on Sunday evening and had won all three of their opening Serie A fixtures.


Hellas, on the other hand, have endured a calamitous start to the season, having lost their three opening fixtures, sold Mattia Zaccagni, their standout player of the last couple of seasons, on the closing day of the summer transfer window, and dispensed with the services of manager Eusebio Francesco after just three games at the helm.


Performances under the hapless Di Francesco were not half as bad as the stark statistics would have you believe, and those who have been watching Hellas closely would have detected the semblance of a squad capable of much more than the lowly position in the league table would have you believe.


Since the appointment of Croat Igor Tudor was announced last Monday, the club has sought to project an air of competence, resolve and determination, characteristics that so well defined the Juric reign.


Pre-match, the biggest surprise was the inclusion of Brazilian midfielder Daniel Bessa in the starting line-up, his first appearance this season. A slight, creative midfielder, his position is normally occupied by the more imposing figures of Hongla or Tameze, who provide brawn alongside the brains of Illic, himself deputizing for unfortunate Veloso.


Bessa’s was an effective performance, providing order, fluidity and directness, but it was Gianluca Caprari, on loan from Sampdoria as a replacement for Mattia Zaccagni, who most impressed on his second appearance for Hellas. It was his cross into the danger area that eventually found Barak for Verona’s equaliser, and then, just a few minutes later a deft touch inside and his precise diagonal finish into the corner that put Hellas in front. He should have sealed Verona’s fourth with the goal at his mercy and Faraoni screaming for the layoff. He chose to shoot himself, forcing a great finger-tip save from Patricio.


From the old guard, Faraoni capped a typically solid performance with a sensational volley to secure the three-points, while at the back, it was the ever-improving Dawidowicz, long a fans favourite for his energy and enthusiasm, who has now added quality and consistency to his repertoire.


While a first half down-pour send fans scuppering up the terraces for shelter, on the pitch the quality wasn’t diminished by the adverse climatic conditions. Verona’s display was characterised by intensity, courage and confidence, qualities that were lacking in that ill-fated trip to Bologna. Afterwards, Mourinho was honest enough to admit that his side didn’t deserve to win. That was unquestionable. Verona dominated the first half and were extremely unfortunate to go into the break a goal down.


A vital three points that sees Hellas edge out of the relegation zone, ahead of a midweek trip to struggling Salernitana. While the overriding object remains the same, with Igor Tudor beginning his Hellas career with such a convincing result, the future once again looks bright for Verona.