Fiorentina only scraped a thrilling 4-3 victory over 10-man Verona with Borja Valero’s brace, as they go joint fifth with Inter.
The Viola needed a boost after their defeat to Udinese and 0-0 Europa League draw with Pacos Ferreira. With Alberto Aquilani suspended, Mario Gomez and Manuel Pasqual injured, while David Pizarro pulled out in the warm-up to be replaced by Massimo Ambrosini. Matias Vecino received his first Serie A start. Verona were fresh from a shock derby defeat to Chievo and could count on ex-Fiorentina hero Luca Toni in attack.
There was a positive atmosphere at the Stadio Franchi, as Gabriel Batistuta was in the stands and these two clubs have been twinned for over 30 years.
Borja Valero wore the captain’s armband and broke the deadlock within the opening five minutes, as he cut in from the right and smashed low into the near bottom corner. Rafael seemed to be surprised and didn’t get across quickly enough to keep it out.
Less than 60 seconds later it was all square at the Stadio Franchi. Neto only parried a Juan Iturbe strike and ex-Viola man Romulo followed it up to equalise for Verona.
Borja Valero almost made it 2-1 on nine minutes, but the bounce was awkward and he lobbed over the bar, then Ambrosini’s cushioned header was wide.
Instead, Hellas Verona turned the game around completely to lead after 13 minutes. Iturbe hit a screamer from distance that swerved past an uncertain Neto at the near post.
There was incredibly a fourth goal moments later when Borja Valero’s right-foot effort took a deflection off Alejandro Gonzalez to fly under the bar beyond Rafael’s fingertips. It was the Spaniard’s first League brace since 2008.
Giuseppe Rossi is the current Serie A top scorer and almost netted without his knowledge, as Rafael cleared the ball on to the back of his head and it ricocheted just over an open goal.
Neto smothered an Iturbe attempt and Stefan Savic charged down Emil Hallfredsson’s counter-attack, but the Viola went on the counter from that move and Ambrosini went down too dramatically in the box.
Fiorentina restored their advantage just before half-time, as Juan Manuel Vargas hit a powerful angled drive down the left side of the box and Rafael got a hand to it, but was not firm enough as it slotted into the far bottom corner.
Mati Fernandez replaced Vecino and immediately was rather harshly booked for simulation on the edge of the box.
The referee awarded a penalty to Fiorentina and sent off Bosko Jankovic for a handling offence, as he fell and placed his arm across the ball to stop Nenad Tomovic from turning in. There were some suspicions of a Tomovic handball first, but the Verona man’s was more obvious and clearly spotted. Giuseppe Rossi stepped up and confidently sent Rafael the wrong way to open up a two-goal cushion.
Verona would not give in and Toni’s half-volley hit the side-netting, but Gonzalo Rodriguez turned a header inches past the far post from a free kick and Rafael flew to palm away a Rossi screamer. Juan Guillermo Cuadrado dribbled through three different players only to then hit the side-netting.
However, 10-man Hellas got back into it when Neto stuck out a foot to parry Toni’s attempt, but could do nothing on the Jorginho daisy-cutter follow-up.
Rafael had his palms stung by Mati Fernandez, then the Verona goalkeeper parried from a free kick only for Ryder Matos to balloon over from seven yards.
Rafael again got down for a fingertip save to turn Tomovic’s solo effort inches past the far post.
Sent off: Jankovic 53 (V)