The Derby della Lanterna (Derby of the Lantern) is a reference to the city’s monumental Lighthouse. Though it may not have the panache and stigma of the Milan, Rome or Turin derbies, it is no less ferocious. Like all derbies the world over, the rivalry between the two sides is the pinnacle to both their seasons. If there is a game the fans and players of Genoa and Sampdoria don’t want to lose, it’s this one.
The meeting between the two Genoese sides is always a special occasion. The Stadio Luigi Ferraris has been home to both clubs since the inception of Sampdoria in 1946. On derby days the main stand is open to both sets of supporters for family, friends and colleagues to mingle in their respective colours. The sides have met on 50 occasions in Serie A and the game has been dominated by the Blucerchiati having held the bragging rights on 18 occasions compared to 10 for the Rossoblu, with 22 draws between the teams. With Sampdoria currently residing in 15th position just five points off the drop zone and Genoa in seventh chasing a UEFA cup slot, both sides have more than just pride to play for. This year’s encounter promises to be as equally special as past times.
The earliest Genoese derbies began in the fledgling days of Italian football when Genoa 1893 was the dominating force of Italian football. In 1900 they set a record for the highest marginal victory in a match when they beat neighbours Sampierdarenese 7-0 on their way to winning their third title. Andrea Doria, the other merging team that would create Sampdoria in 1946, joined the Italian Football Championship in 1903, but did not win a game until 1907 when they beat their closest rivals Genoa in a 3-1 victory. By that time Rossoblu had already lifted the title on six occasions.
The first official Sampdoria vs. Genoa encounter was played on the 3rd November 1946 and resulted in a 3-0 victory for the newly founded Blucerchiati. It was one of the rare occasions that the teams were separated by more than the one or two goal margin the matches normally end in. The only other noticeable times are also afforded to Sampdoria, firstly in 1949 when they registered a 5-1 victory, then in 1960 with a 3-0 win and most recently in 1993 when they won by four goals to one.
In the 1990/91 season it was the Rossoblu that emerged victorious in the derby matches, though it was a monumental season that bore pride for both clubs and the city as a whole. Genoa went the whole season without defeat at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, including a 1-1 draw with their archrivals. In the return game, with Samp the home side, Genoa emerged victorious with a 2-1 win in a scintillating game that saw the powerful Brazilian Branco score a memorable winner with a stunning pile-driver from all of 25 yards. Despite the defeat however, Sampdoria went on to lift the Scudetto for the one and only time in their history.
The Derby della Lanterna has produced some outstanding goals and one of the finest to grace the encounter came in 1994 scored by Genoa’s Marciano Vink. The Dutchman won the ball just inside his own half before ghosting past four defenders to rifle the ball into the top corner. It is regarded by many as the best goal ever to be scored in the derby and it is difficult to argue against.
Last season’s encounter saw the first meeting between the sides for four years and the first confrontation in Serie A for almost twelve seasons. It is rare for violence to erupt on derby days, but prior to the game around 200 rival fans clashed in the streets in a pre-planned brawl. It cast a dark shadow over the city which could not be lifted by a game that failed to live up to its billing. The anticipated encounter was a disappointing stalemate in a drab affair that produced no goals and saw little goal-mouth action. With both sides vying for a UEFA cup slot, the return match was much improved both on and off the pitch. Proceedings were not marred by violence and the match was blessed with some outstanding displays of individual brilliance. Sampdoria ran out 1-0 winners with a solitary Christian Maggio strike capitalising on a fantastic run by Antonio Cassano, though with the chances they created, the Blucerchiati perhaps felt they could have won by a greater margin.
Genoa has failed to overcome Sampdoria in the last half dozen meetings and have not recorded an away victory in this fixture since March 2000 when both sides were playing in Serie B. They did overcome their city counterparts the following season however, running out winners by a goal to nil. This time out Gian Piero Gasperini’s men are in a stronger position and the fanatical Genoa tifosi will be hoping their team set the record straight. With Walter Mazzarri’s men in need of points to avoid slipping closer towards a relegation fight, the Derby della Lanterna promises to be another enticing encounter.