There may have been more unusual things in football but probably not many. When Fiorentina fans are happy to hear of a Juventus penalty, the world has surely gone crazy. Whatever next? Luis Suarez for the Nobel Peace Prize?
Yet the two bitter rivals of Serie A have a bit of recent history in ganging up on Milan. Last year there was more than one Bianconero who punched the air when the much-maligned Amauri got the Viola a win at San Siro. If you live long enough, perhaps, anything can happen in Calcio.
In truth, Florentine fans might have been among the most animated followers of the weekend’s big match at the Juventus Stadium. After all the noxious nastiness of the last campaign, this encounter failed to scale the heights. It was no all-action thriller, more of a thought-provoking slog for much of its duration.
Fans of the Bianconeri will care little about that. They already had a stranglehold on the Scudetto and now they have pretty much got it in a death grip. Milan, for their part, threw a lifeline to chasing Fiorentina with Marco Amelia’s clear foul on Kwadwo Asamoah which resulted in Arturo Vidal’s sweet penalty conversion to win the match.
“Let’s focus on playing these last five games as best we can and try to keep our gap over our rivals,” said Rossonero boss Massimiliano Allegri. “But we don’t need to be scared, the team is playing well. We did well against a Juventus side which is dominating the League. Mistakes like the one we made on the penalty can happen.”
Not that the Florentines did things the easy way in closing the gap on Milan. With a 3-0 lead and total dominance over Torino for most of the first half, the Viola should have cruised to victory in front of a packed Artemio Franchi. Instead, they left the door open by conceding a goal before half-time and then two former employees – Mario Santana and Alessio Cerci – levelled the match. Only a super sub goal by Romulo spared Vincenzo Montella’s blushes.
“We could have ended up losing but in the end I think we were worth the win,” said the Fiorentina boss. “My team let its concentration slip but the important thing was it had the strength to react.”
There will have been more mixed feelings about Juve’s victory in Naples. It extinguished any lingering title hope for Walter Mazzarri’s men but it did cement their second spot a little bit more. However, just like in Florence, they tortured their own support in a most sadistic manner.
The San Paolo witnessed some extraordinary events. The home side slipped behind to Victor Ibarbo, took the lead through an own goal and an Edinson Cavani strike and then looked like throwing away the points to a lovely Marco Sau equaliser. A delightful Lorenzo Insigne goal in injury time, however, had the stadium rocking like days of old.
“It looked like a cursed game, we could have thrown the points away,” admitted Mazzarri. “But the team did well against a side which had gained more points than us in the second half of the season. We struggled but we showed the strength needed to get this totally deserved victory.”
Down the table a little, most of the Europa League contenders missed their chance to keep up the pressure on Fiorentina. Defeat for Lazio on Saturday at the hands of Udinese and a surprising draw between Roma and Pescara were missed chances for the capital clubs. The only team to keep the pace, but in an unconvincing way, was Inter. The jeers turned to cheers when Tommaso Rocchi scuffed home a winner late in the day against equally struggling-for-form Parma.
“This was a very important win because of our injury crisis,” said Andrea Stramaccioni. “The boys gave a show of pride to our fans and President. Before the game Moratti came into the dressing room to encourage us. Today Inter could give no more, the fans understood and supported us.”
There was also a sting in the tail to the Sicilian derby which looked to be going Catania’s way thanks to Pablo Barrientos. An injury time strike by Josip Ilicic – who seems to have found his goalscoring mojo – got Palermo a potentially precious point. It provoked angry scenes at the final whistle with home goalkeeper Mariano Andujar seeing red.
The Rosanero could have done with more from the match but, around them, things remained pretty much unchanged. A home defeat for Siena and a draw for Genoa meant they stay locked with Giuseppe Sannino’s side in what looks like a three-way fight to avoid the two places in Serie B next season alongside Pescara. There are likely to be more fiery match finishes to come before that particular issue is decided. And who knows who they might all have to turn to for help?