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2013/2015 - The playoffs and the pitch invasion of San Siro

2013/2015 - The playoffs and the pitch invasion of San Siro

The second year in Serie B of the Volpi’s era began with great enthusiasm and the aim of the promotion playoffs inflamed the ambitious square of La Spezia, which saw the concrete possibility of becoming one of the greatest. In the retreat of San Vito di Cadore, Spezia restarted from Giovanni Stroppa, young coach, but with already a bench of Serie A behind. As sporting director was entrusted Giancarlo Romairone, back from the rewarding experience at Pro Vercelli, while only a few players were confirmed: captain Marco Sansovini, Paolo Sammarco, Nicola Madonna, Andrea Bovo, Filippo Porcari, and Lorenzo Lollo. Young promises joined the club, such as goalkeeper Nicola Leali on loan from Juventus, the Icelandic Magnusson, and the Brazilian Appelt, but also more experienced players such as defenders Baldanzeddu, Lisuzzo, Migliore, Borghese, and Ceccarelli. In midfield, experienced players such as the Chilean Seymour, Rivas, and Carrozza arrived in Spezia, while in attack, Nicola Ferrari and Giulio Ebagua were the ones who reawoke the dreams of the Spezia fans.

The team of the new president Lamberto Tacoli, offered immediately two great performances in the preliminary rounds of Tim Cup, overcoming first the Pro Patria at the extra time, thanks to the goals of Lisuzzo, Ceccarelli, Sansovini, and Ebagua, and then beating Genoa, in a very hot summer derby played in Picco, decided by the amazing save of Nicola Leali on the penalty of Lodi. The beginning of the championship was dated August 24th, but the debut was not the best and the match against Cittadella ended in a goalless draw. The first success came the following day, when the Aquile beat Castellammare, imposing 2-1. Meanwhile, Lollo and Porcari left the club in the direction of Carpi. In the first round the Aquile never managed to take flight, alternating positive results, such as the home success against Palermo, to setbacks and victories missed, entering and exiting systematically from the playoffs area, so the best news came from Coppa Italia, where the Aquile earned historic access to the eighth-finals, where they would meet Milan in San Siro, after beating even Pescara with a 3-0.

In the meantime, the corporate leaders changed, in fact, at the end of November, President Tacoli gave way to the new general manager Umberto Marino, who would take office in December.  After the bad defeat against Varese on December 14th, also the technical part changed, with Devis Mangia who took the place of Giovanni Stroppa. The start of the new coach was perfect, with the victories in the first two matches against Virtus Lanciano and Bari. In January, with the reopening of the market, experienced players such as Marco Sansovini, Andrea Bovo, Martino Borghese and Luca Ceccarelli left, but arrived players of great perspective as Matteo Bianchetti, Niko Datkovic, Savvas Gentsoglou, the fantasist Nicola Bellomo, Matteo Scozzarella, and Pasquale Schiattarella who was given the captain’s armband. The 15th of January was certainly a day that the fans would not forget it was the day of the historic eighth final played at the “Meazza” against AC Milan, with over 7000 Spezia fans arrived in the historic Milanese stadium. Spezia, 70 years after the legendary feat of the VVF. La Spezia against Grande Torino at the Arena in Milan (a feat commemorated with a plaque at the Milanese facility), tried to perform a new miracle. But AC Milan, fresh from the exoneration of coach Allegri, wanted to do well in front of the new coach Seedorf present in the stands; the Rossoneri found the double advantage already in the first part of the game with Robinho and Pazzini and virtually closed the match at the beginning of the recovery thanks to the goal of the new player Honda. However, the fans never stopped supporting the team of Mr. Mangia and their colors, so much enthusiasm found the right prize at 90th minute with the goal signed by Nicola Ferrari. The roar at the time of the goal would remain forever among the most beautiful pages of Spezia Calcio, a goal that from the point of view of the result wasn’t necessary, but from the sentimental point of view remained priceless. The experience of Mr. Mangia in Spezia continued with fluctuating results, especially it was at the Picco that Spezia struggled to find continuity. At the penultimate game of the season, thanks to the success against Bari, the Aquile were still able to enter the playoffs area, gambling everything in the insidious match against Latina. The 0-0, along with the defeat of Siena in Varese, gave the Aquile the historic aim of the playoffs for the top series. Spezia would be on stage at the “Braglia” of Modena, guests of the formation led by Alfredo Novellino, classified in fifth place at the end of the championship. The victory was the only possible result to continue the dream, but a goal of Signori before the 90th minute condemned Spezia to elimination. That season remained however a season to remember, in which the Aquile laid the foundation for an important future, a future that would start from the historic third consecutive participation of the club aquilotto to Serie B.

The third consecutive year in Serie B started with the appointment of Guido Angelozzi as sporting director, while the technical guidance of the first team was entrusted to the Croatian Nenad Bjelica, at his debut in Italian football and back from the experience in the Champions League with Austria Vienna. With the advent of the coach from Osijek, the team became more and more international: there was the Spanish Juande, the Argentine Valentini and Chichizola, the Montenegrin Marko Bakic and the Croatian Situm and Milos, and the new Italian arrivals, such as Filippo De Col, Gennaro Acampora, Roberto Gagliardini, Timothy Nocchi, Juri Cisotti, and Matteo Ardemagni. The Aquile worked hard during the retreat in Moena and since the first weeks it was evident the innovation brought to Italy by coach Bjelica; in fact, the methods of the coach from Osijek was very different from the one usually applied in Italian football, with greater attention to the ball and to the psychological aspect of each element, rather than to the simple and prolonged dry work.

The friendly matches were a crescendo of great performances, in which a wild Andrea Catellani showed off immediately, systematically scoring in the first matches. In the first official match, it was the fullback De Col who scored the winning goal, the one that allowed the Aquile to overcome Lecce in the Tim Cup, on the ground of the "Picco". However, unlike the previous season, the journey in Coppa Italia ended in the third round, when the Aquile fell in extra time at the "Curi" of Perugia, with the hosts victorious for 2-1. The same result also ended the debut in the championship, with Varese victorious between the walls of the "Ossola".

In the last days of the market arrived also the expert central defender Felice Piccolo and the Croatian midfielders Dario Canadjija and Josip Brezovec, leader of Rijeka and immediately protagonist at the debut with the white jersey on the second day of the championship, with Spezia that overcame Frosinone and the number 30 aquilotto that earned the standing ovation of the Viale Fieschi stadium.

Despite always convincing performances, Spezia had several difficulties, but since the ninth day, the white jersey collected a series of positive results that brought the team of coach Bjelica to the top of the standings, thanks to prestigious successes such as the one against Catania at the "Picco" or the one in the derby against Livorno at the "Picchi”. The first half of the season ended with the round success obtained at the "San Nicola" in Bari and with the Aquile in the fourth position, just one length away from the duo composed by Bologna and Frosinone. To confirm themselves in the top positions, there were several activities in the January market, in fact, in Spezia arrived the Spanish fantasist Miguel De Las Cuevas, the expert Brazilian forward Nenè, the external offensive players Zoran Kvrzic and Alen Stevanovic in addition to the defenders Matteo Bianchetti, Antonio Luna and Matija Katanec, while Ebagua, Ardemagni, Schiattarella, Sammarco, Ceccarelli, and Culina left.

The second half of the season did not begin in the best way the first victory came only on the sixth day against Modena, in a spectacular match that ended on 3-2 for the men of mister Bjelica. After that match, the Aquilotti raised again, so after having beaten among others Livorno for 3-0, the Whites closed the regular season in fifth place in the standings, just one length from the duo composed by Vicenza and Bologna, with 67 points collected, a record in Serie B with the rule of three points, a result that guaranteed the Eagles access to the preliminary round playoffs, against Avellino.

In a fervent Picco, Tuesday, May 26th the men of mister Bjelica took the field against Avellino, but at the end of an exhausting match that lasted 120 minutes, were the guests who celebrated the passage of the turn, strong of the goal signed by Comi in the first overtime, after the draw by Zito and Brezovec.