The Rossoneri were undergoing a season of transition: after five seasons, four Scudetto titles and a Champions League triumph, Fabio Capello had left AC Milan for Real Madrid in the summer. Sitting in the Diavolo dugout was the Uruguayan Oscar Washington Tabárez, with the likes of Davids, Reiziger, Dugarry, Blomqvist and Vierchowod having been brought in during the transfer window. The campaign hadn’t begun well for the Rossoneri, who had been beaten by Fiorentina at San Siro in the Supercoppa Italiana on 25 August. On the eve of their first league match, the Diavolo needed to iron out a few things. Let’s go back 25 years and remember that opening day encounter between AC Milan and Hellas Verona.
SETTING THE SCENE
8 September 1996, matchday one in Serie A: Gigi Cagni’s Hellas Verona were the visitors to San Siro. AC Milan were the reigning Italian champions but, as previously mentioned, there were a lot of new faces. Meanwhile, Franco Baresi and Mauro Tassotti were about to begin their final seasons in the Rossoneri shirt. Tabárez went for a 4-3-1-2 formation for his first Serie A line-up: Rossi; Panucci, Costacurta, Galli, Maldini; Boban, Albertini, Desailly; Baggio; Simone, Weah.
SIMONE TURNS THINGS AROUND
The early signs weren’t very encouraging from AC Milan’s perspective, with Verona unafraid to attack and taking the lead on the 25-minute mark. Indeed, De Vitis silenced San Siro with a close-range header following a mix-up between Costacurta, Galli and Seba Rossi at the back. The Rossoneri looked to hit back and threatened through Weah at the end of the half, but they went into the break behind. After the restart, Simone grabbed an equaliser, firing past Gregori after bundling his way through in the box. The same player then put the Diavolo in front: George Weah picked him out with the outside of his right foot and the No.23 did the rest, bursting forward and poking the ball into the far corner to make it 2-1. 66 minutes in and the comeback was complete.
The best was still to come, however, because San Siro was about to witness a truly iconic goal. In the 86th minute, a Verona corner fell to Weah in his own box, and the Liberian proceeded to go it alone. Nobody challenged him until the halfway line, after which he made his way through two opposition players, flew past a third and then found the net with a fantastic finish across the goalkeeper. Roberto Baggio then added a fourth to completely kill off the game. After an initial scare, the Rossoneri had emerged victorious.
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