K89R9K Erick Pulgar (Bologna), SEPTEMBER 16, 2017 - Football / Soccer : Italian "Serie A" match between ACF Fiorentina 2-1 Bologna FC at Stadio Artemio Franchi in Firenze, Italy. (Photo by Maurizio Borsari/AFLO)

Sunday’s Apennine derby will go down in the history books. It’s just a shame the record keepers will insist that an asterisk be placed next to the result, a 2-1 win for Fiorentina. Not for any irregularities, let’s be clear. Everything was above board. But the fans in attendance will remember it differently from the pedants in the league who declared Fiorentina’s first goal an own goal, attributing it to Bologna goalkeeper Antonio Mirante, not Jordan Veretout. 

Everyone else gives it to the Frenchman. They want to believe he scored directly from a corner-kick. Because just a couple of minutes later Bologna did exactly the same. God only knows what was going through Erick Pulgar’s head as he stood waiting to take the corner. Let’s say it was along the lines of  “anything you can do, Jordan, I can do better.” To pull it off, though, and get Bologna back into the game by curling one in from the bandierina – or little flag – was just absurd.  

You don’t see a player score directly from a corner every day. The last time it happened in Serie A was a year ago when Atalanta’s Papu Gomez caught Cagliari goalkeeper Rafael by surprise. But twice in the same game? And one for each team? That’s almost unprecedented. The only other case La Repubblica could find was five years ago, a Spanish third division match between Cirbonero and Artajonés. 

Gianluca Di Marzio, the breaking-news ticker made flesh who Sky Italia send to commentate on games when he isn’t digging for transfer stories, could not believe his eyes. But he’ll have heard tales about goals like Veretout’s and Pulgar’s from his father Gianni. 

You see back in the `70s, Gianni was managing Catanzaro down in Calabria, the toe of Italy’s boot. Up front he had a striker with a Super Mario moustache, a guy by the name of Massimo Palanca, your archetypal provincial Italian centre-forward who scored goals for fun no matter what level he played. Imagine Dario Hubner or Igor Protti just in the late `70s. 

Now Palanca is famous for a couple of things. There’s his tiny feet. He is a size five and Pantofola d’Oro, the company he had a boot deal with, used to have to custom make a pair for him. More than the piede piccolo – a common trait among many bombers, see Beppe Signori –  Palanca is probably better known for his uncanny ability to score directly from corners. It was his trademark. 

Just as a cutting inside and finding the top corner from outside of the box is a gol alla Del Piero, or a back-heel a gol alla Bettega, and a lob a gol alla Totti, finding the net from all the way out by the corner flag is a gol alla Palanca. He did it 13 times over the course of his career. 

To Palanca, a corner was like a penalty. He practiced them. “It was definitely my speciality. The fruit of a lot of work during the week. And some trickery.” For instance, whenever Palanca took a corner, one his Catanzaro teammates used to jump early as he struck the ball. His job was simple: block the goalkeeper’s line of sight and “steal time” for Palanca. A moment of indecision from the goalkeeper could be fatal. “Usually the player who performed that role for us was Claudio Ranieri.” 

Palanca’s other assistant was the wind. Catanzaro’s Stadio Communale is a bowl and Palanca was clearly on good terms with Aeolus, using the gusts from the Gulf of Squillace to his advantage. “It was always blowing a gale.” 

Beaten goalkeepers used to puff out their cheeks, wondering if they’d ever live this one down. Mirante and Marco Sportiello know the feeling. The latter’s blushes were spared by Federico Chiesa who won the game for Fiorentina on Sunday with a wonder goal, another madeleine for those of us who grew up watching his father, Enrico. 

But it was the wonder of seeing two goals scored directly from corner kicks that stayed with you after the game. Il bello del calcio, as they say. The beauty of football. It never ceases to amaze.  


By James Horncastle

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