This season will provide one of the most exciting finales to a Serie A campaign in years, with three teams involved in the battle to lift the Scudetto. AC Milan currently top the pile, just ahead of Napoli and then, in third sit current European and world champions Inter.
To find the last time three sides were in contention for the title on the very last day of the Serie A season, the clock has to be spun back to the 1972/73 race, when Milan, Lazio and Juventus struggled for the Scudetto.
The Rossoneri, with legendary midfielder Gianni Rivera in the team, topped the table for a large part of the season and had a steely determination to win the title, because to lift the trophy would mean the "Scudetto della Stella", or the tenth Serie A title, which in Italy gives a side the right to wear a star on their shirt. Currently, Juventus have two stars due to their 27 league titles, while Inter (18 titles) and Milan (17 titles) boast a single star.
At the beginning of March 1973, the Rossoneri, managed by Nereo Rocco – a coach often mentioned as a proponent of "catenaccio" but who often played at least four attacking players in every game – were seven points ahead of Juventus and two points in front of the season’s surprise package Lazio. The Rome side were unexpected challengers, having only moved up from Serie B the previous season. But thanks to the goals of Giorgio Chinaglia and the management of Tommaso Maestrelli, Lazio impressed the entire league with their style of play and all-round passion.
On 22nd April, Lazio beat Milan in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, but within the match there was a mystery: The Rossoneri were losing 2-1 when Luciano Chiarugi, just minutes from full-time, bagged an equaliser. However, the referee Concetto Lo Bello, ruled out the goal for offside. Slow motion footage shown on the Rai TV show Domenica Sportivo later that same night showed without doubt that the goal should clearly have stood. In the following years rumours circulated that Lo Bello had, before the match, entered Lazio’s dressing room and commented: "Come on guys! We have to beat them today." The Sicilian official did not have the greatest of sympathy for Milan and he especially disliked Gianni Rivera.
With that victory, Lazio joined Milan at the top of Serie A, and Juventus, who had won the same day against Lanerossi Vicenza, positioned themselves just two points behind the duo. From that moment onwards confusion reigned. And when the final matchday rolled around, the table read: Milan 44 points, Lazio 43 points, Juventus 43 points.
The Wednesday before the final day of the season Milan were in action in the final of the 1973 Cup Winners Cup. In Salonika, Greece, the Rossoneri came out on top against Leeds United thanks to a free kick from Luciano Chiarugi. For a final, it had been a dull and sometimes violent affair, and at the end Milan were tired and nervous, with thoughts quickly drifting to their vital fixture in Verona the coming Sunday.
Milan’s board asked the Italian Federation for a postponement, but the FIGC replied that all the matches had to be played on the same day and at the same time; as a result the San Siro side headed to Verona with some concern. Lazio meanwhile were travelling to Naples, while Juventus visited the capital to face Roma.
In Verona, Milan looked tired and downhearted straight from the kick-off, and when the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the first half the Rossoneri were 3-1 down. Elsewhere, Lazio were drawing with Napoli and Juventus down 1-0 to Roma. A playoff between Lazio and Milan seemed a distinct possibility, but Cestmyr Vycpalek’s men appeared to be without a chance.
For the second half, Verona continued their destruction of Milan, with the match ending 5-3 for the Scaligeri. Lazio also lost out in the dying minutes. But in Rome the unpredictable happened. The Bianconeri equalised through Brazilian Jose Altafini with only eight minutes left to play. Now, tails up, Juventus kept pushing and found the back of the net again with three minutes left. Midfielder Antonello Cuccreddu’s strike sent the Bianconeri faithful into delirium, whether in the Stadio Olimpico itself or, thanks to the radio, throughout all Italy.
Rocco and his players were desperate with many tears shed in the dressing room in Verona. The team, invited days before to Domenica Sportiva to celebrate their expected "Scudetto della Stella", looked depressed and humiliated; the Rossoneri would have to wait another six years to win their tenth title and add a special yellow star to their shirts.
The Bianconeri were left celebrating one of the most incredible Scudetti in the entire history of Serie A. In the 1970s Juventus would go on to dominate the game in Italy, but continued to find themselves outsiders in Europe.