When all seemed done and dusted in the race for the Scudetto, Hellas Verona gave Milan a beating they will never forget
After winning the Serie A title in the previous season, Juventus secured consecutive titles in 1972-73 and they did so in more dramatic circumstances.
This campaign is memorable because of AC Milan’s involvement in high-scoring encounters and the manner they let the Scudetto slip from their grasp.
The Bianconeri purchased two players from Napoli to boost their squad. Jose Altafini went on to score nine goals for Juve in 1972-73 and Dino Zoff went on to play for 11 successful seasons with the Italian giants.
Milan had the tightest defence in 1971-72, conceding 17 goals in 30 matches, but they only scored 36 goals themselves and finished a point behind Juventus. This time the Rossoneri would be more attacking.
In week three AC Milan were involved in the highest-scoring game in Serie A history when they demolished Atalanta 9-3. Pierino Prati got a hat-trick and Alberto Bigon and Gianni Rivera got a brace each in the Diavolo’s humiliation of La Dea.
For Atalanta the defeat was costly as they were eventually relegated despite finishing level with Roma, Sampdoria and Lanerossi Vicenza on 24 points. The Biancorossi had a goal difference of -16 while the Orobici’s was -17.
The loss also prompted Atalanta to give more playing to time youngster Gaetano Scirea. He would stay with La Dea until the end of the 1973-74 Serie B season, before moving to Juventus and becoming a legend in the Bianconeri and Italy defence.
Lazio were newly promoted from Serie B along with Ternana and Palermo but Tommaso Maestrelli’s team were outright leaders in Serie A by week seven on 12 points. The Aquile defeated the Rosanero 2-0 while AC Milan defeated Inter in the Milan Derby 3-2 to stay two points behind.
The Milanese giants shared the lead after week 11 when AC Milan won 3-1 against Lazio and Inter were awarded a 2-0 win against Roma after crowd trouble – 25 people were injured – at the Stadio Olimpico.
Juventus were slowly gaining ground and they were equal first with AC Milan after beating Inter 2-0 in week 14. Both the Bianconeri and the Rossoneri were winter champions with 22 points after 15 rounds but Inter and Lazio were only one point behind them.
La Vecchia Signora and the Diavolo would exchange leads in the title race from weeks 16-19 but Rocco’s side lead outright from weeks 20-25.
Surprisingly, Lazio did not drop off and they were level with AC Milan after beating them 2-1 in week 26. Both sides had 39 points each with four rounds remaining.
Juventus dropped no lower than third in the second half of the season though and they were one point behind the AC Milan after week 28.
Going into the 30th and final round of the 1972-73 season, the Diavolo led the scudetto challenge with 44 points while La Vecchia Signora and the Aquile were one point behind.
Lazio needed to win and for results to go their way but the Aquile unfortunately lost 1-0 to Napoli thanks to a late Oscar Damiani goal.
Juventus did what they needed to do by coming back to win against Roma. Valerio Spadoni gave the Giallorossi the lead but second half goals from Altafini and Antonello Cuccureddu gave Cestmir Vycpalek’s side the 2-1 win.
AC Milan only needed a draw against Hellas Verona and the Gialloblu were only two points above the relegation zone. On paper a Diavolo victory was the likeliest outcome.
Verona were 3-0 up in less than 30 minutes though before Milan pulled a goal back. With less than 20 minutes left, the Gialloblu were 5-1 up and then the Rossoneri scored two consolation goals. Hellas Verona ended-up being 5-3 winners and AC Milan blew their title chances in a match now known as ‘Fatal Verona’.
Juventus ended the season with 45 points and won their 15th scudetto. They also reached the European Cup Final but lost 1-0 to Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam, who won their third consecutive title.
AC Milan would get some consolation in beating the Bianconeri on penalties in the Coppa Italia Final and defeating English side Leeds United 1-0 in a controversial European Cup Winners’ Cup Final.
AC Milan superstar Gianni Rivera was leading goalscorer in the league with 17 goals and he shared that accolade with Paolo Pulici from Torino and Bologna’s Giuseppe Savoldi. Savoldi was on 15 goals going into the final round but he scored two goals in the Felsinei’s 4-2 win against Cagliari.
Palermo and Ternana were relegated after just one season in Serie A, going down with Atalanta. Ternana made their Serie A debut but Corrado Viciani’s offensive ‘gioco corto’ – short-passing – tactics did not work like they did in the Cadetti.
Lazio did more than plenty to stay in Serie A and they just conceded 16 goals. Unfortunately, they only scored 33 and that dented their title hopes but the best was yet to come for the Biancocelesti.