Verona is a town which evokes many bad memories for AC Milan fans and history repeated itself on Saturday when newly-promoted Hellas-Verona FC defeated the Rossoneri 2-1.
On 20 May 1973, Nereo Rocco's Milan famously lost the Scudetto in what was then labelled 'Fatal Verona', losing 5-3 there in the last match of the season to hand the title to Juventus. A 2-1 defeat against already relegated Verona in 1990 was also fatal for Arrigo Sacchi's Milan, allowing SSC Napoli to win the Scudetto.
The season only kicked off on Saturday but a Verona side returning to Serie A football after an 11-year absence gave Milan had another night to forget at the Stadio Bentegodi. After taking an early lead through Andrea Poli, the Rossoneri were punished by Luca Toni with two headers that led the 36-year-old to be described as "a lion" by Massimiliano Allegri.
"There was a bit of tension ahead of the match because we knew we were facing a very strong side in our first home game," Toni said. "However we played really well, especially the way we reacted after their early goal, We must play with this enthusiasm for the rest of the campaign. I will try to help the team as much as I can."
Toni, who joined Verona in the summer, has now scored 111 goals in Serie A during a career in which he has worn the shirts of Vicenza Calcio, Brescia Calcio, US Città di Palermo, ACF Fiorentina, AS Roma, Genoa CFC and Juventus. "I feel in good form and I have fun," added the former FC Bayern München striker. "Playing alongside so many young players, I feel young as well. I have earned a lot during my career; now I play only because I love this sport."
"Toni played a fantastic game," added Verona coach Andrea Mandorlini. "Everybody knows his qualities; he has been one of the best strikers in Italy for many years. Many of our players were making their Serie A debuts against Milan and I'm proud with the way they reacted after a bad start to the game."
Milan coach Allegri, whose side welcome PSV Eindhoven in the return leg of the UEFA Champions League play-offs on Wednesday with the score at 1-1, joined in the praise for the former Italy striker. "Toni set the example and fought like a lion; that should be our spirit on the pitch," he said. "We must play with more hunger to bring home good results. We were only a team for 13 minutes. I am more angry than worried, we need a different mentality. Verona deserved the victory and that should make us reflect."
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