Nestled on the banks of the Ligurian Sea lies Italian football’s best-kept secret.
Twice a year, 36,600 Genoese pack the Stadio Luigi Ferraris with flares, flags, banners, songs, and chants to produce one of football’s most vibrant and passionate atmospheres. Obscured by the large profiles of derbies like the Derby della Mole, the Derby della Capitale, and the Derby della Madonnina, the Derby della Lanterna maintains a considerable degree of charm due to its small profile, apolitical fanbases, and quintessentially English stadium design.
Home to both Genoa C.F.C. and U.C. Sampdoria, the Stadio Luigi Ferraris becomes a battleground between old blood and new blood on derby day. Named after the city’s iconic lighthouse, the Torre della Lanterna, the local derby is “The most special derby” according to Marcello Lippi. The former Italian national team boss added, “Sampdoria against Genoa is different to all the other derbies. I have had the chances to live all the major derbies and the Lanterna has a particular spice to it”, and remarked that “the Lanterna is less spiteful than the others and that’s what makes it so good.”
Founded in 1893, Genoa derive their intense pride from their status as Italy’s oldest football club. I Rossoblu consider themselves to be the true representatives of Genoa and its history, the griffin on their badge an homage to the two on the city’s coat of arms. Genoa’s salad days came during the early years of professional Italian football, winning five of the first six Prima Categoria titles. Since then, the club has experienced a long and hard decline, and are rapidly approaching the centennial mark since their last title league in 1924.
Despite their 19th-century roots, Sampdoria are calcio’s youngest constituent, having been founded in 1946 from the merger of existing clubs Sampierdarenese and Andrea Doria. Sampdoria honor their heritage through their compound name, as well as the blue with white, red, and black stripes on their jersey and crest, giving them the nickname I Blucerchiati, meaning “blue-circled”. Unlike their rivals, Sampdoria enjoyed far greater success in the second half of the century, winning four Coppa Italia titles and one Scudetto between 1985 and 1994. Il Samp are a breeding ground for bright young talent, having produced the likes of Mauro Icardi, Shkodran Mustafi, Simone Zaza, Patrik Schick, and Milan Škriniar, and are currently relishing the brilliance of young Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira.
The ramifications of Saturday’s derby only served to amplify the energy and passion in the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. A win for Marco Giampaolo’s Sampdoria would tighten their grip on Europa League contention in sixth place with 23 points, while a victory for Ivan Jurić’s Genoa would lift them out of the relegation zone on nine points. The former came into the match in superior form, winning four of their last six, and seeking to extend their derby win streak to three after having done the double last season.
Sampdoria got the ball rolling under the faint haze of the stadium lights, dimmed by the smoke from the flares of the ultras. The opening chances came from Genoa, but Gianluca Lapadula’s acrobatic efforts failed to challenge the opposing keeper on both occasions. Midway through the half, Gastón Ramírez latched onto Dúvan Zapata’s flicked-on header, surprising the crowd with his composure and exquisite piece of skill to chip Mattia Perin from a difficult angle. Genoa’s best chance of the half came soon after, when Aleandro Rosi’s strike from inside the box kissed the woodwork. Early in the second period, Fabio Quagliarella uncharacteristically slotted the ball into the side netting after intercepting a Genoa backpass, failing to double the lead. Genoa responded soon after with a whipped-in cross from Miguel Veloso which found the head of Luca Rigoni, but the forward powered the ball over the net. Lucas Torreira continued to impress, dictating transitional play and winning the ball back all over the pitch. Quagliarella killed the game with his first-ever derby goal- a tap-in from Zapata’s low cross with six minutes left in regulation.
Despite Milan’s road win at Sassuolo on Sunday, the three points from Saturday’s victory kept a four-point buffer between Samp and the 7th-placed Rossoneri. The loss cemented Genoa in the relegation zone, floundering at the foot of the table in 18th place, even on points with Verona. In an effort to catalyze a positive change, the Rossoblu sacked manager Ivan Jurić less than 24 hours after the derby defeat – their seventh loss in their last ten matches.
Davide Ballardini has since been selected to take charge of the dire situation at Italy’s oldest club, while Marco Giampaolo is faced with the daunting task of taking on Turin juggernaut Juventus when the Bianconeri pay a visit to the Luigi Ferraris after the international break.