Exciting moments can be missed
23 September ~ Something that I find bizarre in football is fans who leave before the end of matches when there is no pressing need to do so. I only do it, albeit with a heavy heart, when I might miss the last bus home and subject myself to a walk of at least three miles – which feels like ten – from one side of Bergamo to the other. Otherwise, even if the score is 5-0, I stay to the bitter end. You never know what you might miss. What I fail to understand is supporters making their way home when the score is, say, 1-0 or 1-1.
Often they will have been in the ground for anything up to an hour before kick-off but are unwilling to see out the last few minutes. People do not usually walk out of a film just before the denouement or skip the last few pages of a murder mystery, so why leave a football match when the result is still in the balance?
My perseverance was rewarded last Sunday when AlbinoLeffe met Virtus Entella in Lega Pro Prima Divisione (the third tier of Italian football) in Bergamo. Between the 89th and 92nd minutes there was more action than you sometimes see in a whole match. Previously it had been a fairly ordinary contest. Massimo Pesenti had given the home team the lead after 38 minutes and Entella’s 18-year-old substitute Vittorio Argeri had equalised with six minutes to go.
Normally, both teams would then have settled for a draw but when you start with a ten-point penalty, as AlbinoLeffe have done this season, you must always go for the win. So we come to minute number 44 of the second half. AlbinoLeffe’s 19-year-old striker Andrea Belotti is scythed down by Entella defender Alberto Bianchi, who gets a second yellow. Entella replace striker Simone Guerra with Brazilian defender Cesar. The free-kick leads to a corner and when the kick comes in Belotti scores with a thumping header.
At this point Entella make another change. This time it is a defender, Filippo de Col, who comes off and is replaced by striker Mirko Chiarabini. Entella surge forward in search of an equaliser and almost get it as AlbinoLeffe scramble the ball away for a corner. Before the kick is taken Entella goalkeeper Andrea Paroni races forward to join his team-mates in the AlbinoLeffe penalty area.
Most of us have seen this desperate move on a number of occasions and we have surely longed to see it result in a goal into an empty net, provided that it is the opposition’s. How often does it actually happen? The corner is cleared and Belotti picks up the ball with the length of the pitch and no opposition players in front of him. He races forward with substitute Simone Pontiggia just behind him to his left. With an Entella player about to catch him and try to dispossess him, he slides the ball across to Pontiggia, who rolls it into the vacant goal.
AlbinoLeffe win at home for the first time in ten and a half months. Those who left at 1-0 or 1-1 and expected that to be the final score are astonished when they switch on the TV and check the results, while those in the 1,062 crowd who stayed to the end can hardly believe what they have just seen. They may also have seen a star of the future. Remember the name Andrea Belotti because he could soon be performing on a much more prestigious stage. He is potentially a big talent.
I will finish with an invitation to anybody who is interested in this topic to find out what happened in stoppage time in an FA Cup tie between Dartford and Plymouth Argyle in November 1974. Richard Mason