In the 95th minute of the football match against Milan in Serie A round 15 on December 3, 2017, the score was 1-2 in favor of the visitors, and Bevenento- a famous football star, was awarded a free kick. Benevento goalkeeper Alberto Brignoli ran straight into the penalty area with fragile hope, regaining a point for the home team. That was the moment when so much pent-up pressure was relieved. “Crazy” is the most authentic expression of the feeling at that time.
Benevento entered December as the worst starting team in Serie A history, with the first 14 games lost in the season, becoming the topic of gossip and mockery of the Italian football industry. The mayor of the city was also concerned that the team would make Benevento a joke. There was a coach, when put under pressure on performance, took Benevento out to defend the press: “Hey, it could have been a lot worse. At least we weren’t Benevento.”
When the ball was hooked into the Milan penalty area, Brignoli did what few other goalkeepers could do. Benevento’s goalkeeper closed his eyes, instead of just passively receiving a cross, flying bravely, shaking his head to drive the ball toward the far corner of the goal. Donnarumma completely gave up. The fans present on the Ciro Vigorito field shouted with great joy. Brignoli not only helped Benevento get his first point in Serie A, but also became the first goalkeeper to score on this playground, after Massimo Taibi in 2001.
“What magic is this?”, Many fans questioned suspiciously when Benevento’s team – a city known for its witchcraft – “enchanted” the fans. Not long after that, Benevento won the match for the first time, defeating Chievo 1-0 in round 19. They added former Tottenham midfielder Sandro, and 1.94m high striker Cheick Diabate in January 2018. With the wise direction of coach Roberto De Zerbi, Benevento played their best football.
But even if Zoccolara, Janna and Manolonga – the strongest trilogy of witches in Benevento’s legends – stay up all night around the cauldron trying to create miracles to help the team stay in Serie A, that’s too late. Brignoli’s header only brought an unforgettable moment, but could not change the team’s destiny. They had to return to Serie B after just one season.
Nearly three years later, Benevento was again in the Serie A sun, this time with Filippo Inzaghi – the once infamous striker of Italian football – on the steering bench. This Southern Italian team set a record in Serie B when promoted seven rounds early last season, and was determined to make a very different impression from themselves in the 2017-2018 season.
Their determination was shown in the opening match, at Sampdoria’s Luigi Ferraris field on 26/9. Inzaghi teachers and students soon received two goals immediately after less than 20 minutes of the match. Goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipo passed the ball straight into Federico Bonazzoli’s foot, letting him cross for Fabio Quagliarella to easily cushion the opening in the eighth minute. Ten minutes later, defender Benevento let Omar Colley escape, allowing him to comfortably receive Antonio Candreve’s cross, doubling the lead for Sampdoria.
That beginning was a real challenge for Inzaghi. Former Juventus and Milan striker impatiently moved around in the technical area as if he wanted to put his shoes on the field directly. Ghosts of failure in the past appeared. As a coach, he was fired by Milan and Bologna after only a short time, and so far, these experiences are mentioned more than he ever brought Venezia from Serie C to Serie B, or to emptiness. Serie B championship against Benevento itself last season.