Verona utterly dominated Livorno for 70 minutes, but conceded twice in 51 seconds to only squeeze past Livorno 3-2.
Both clubs were promoted from Serie B last summer, but had very different fortunes since. Verona were fighting for a place in Europe while the Amaranto were only now scrambling out of the bottom three with a good run of results, culminating in last week’s win away to Cagliari. Captain Andrea Luci suffered a season-ending knee injury in that game, while Luca Siligardi, Cristian Piccini and banned duo Marco Benassi and Federico Ceccherini missed out. Hellas had Emil Hallfredsson suspended, while Domenico Maietta and Alejandro Gonzalez were sidelined.
There’s a history of bad blood between the sets of supporters, so there were fears of crowd trouble at the Stadio Picchi, but the situation was reassuringly calm.
Luca Toni had the ball in the net after 14 minutes, but play had been halted for Romulo’s handling offence in the build-up.
Verona were again extremely close, as Marquinho was blocked off by Paolo Castellini and the Toni follow-up was palmed over the bar by a brave Francesco Bardi.
Bosko Jankovic whipped in a cross from the left and this time Toni only managed to shin the volley from six yards in a chance he usually buries without problems.
Livorno were under a lot of pressure and Bardi had to flap a deflected Michelangelo Albertazzi cross out from the near top corner, then Toni spun his marker to flash an angled drive across the face of goal.
The Amaranto finally had their first chance after 27 minutes, but Paulinho blasted a free kick into the wall. It was only a brief respite, as Marco Donadel hit a screamer that Bardi fingertipped inches over the bar.
Verona did eventually take the lead, as Bosko Jankovic whipped in a great cross from the left that Toni did not get a touch to. This wrong-footed the goalkeeper and it bounced straight through into the far corner.
Romulo’s well-struck angled drive shaved a coat of paint off the base of the far upright. He got his goal before the break, finishing off a well-worked counter-attack from Juan Iturbe and Toni, trapping the cross with the outside of his boot to then fire in.
Iturbe created a goal out of nothing in first half stoppages. He out-sprinted the defender to reach the touchline and keep a ball in play, then rolled across for Toni’s simplest of tap-ins.
Innocent Emeghara had a good chance after the restart, as he skipped past two challenges before firing just over the bar. At the other end, Iturbe turned wide on the counter in an opportunity for 4-0, but Toni was harshly booked for simulation and will be suspended for next week’s game with Bologna.
Toni took out his frustration on the ball, forcing Bardi to palm a fierce shot out from under the bar. Paulinho’s splendid header forced Rafael into his first real work of the game with a great save. Marquinho somehow failed to score when ballooning a volley over an open goal.
However, Livorno suddenly scored twice in 51 seconds to stage an incredible comeback. First Paulinho curled into the far bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Moments later, Verona lost possession in midfield and Leandro Greco’s quality strike went in off the underside of the bar to shock Hellas supporters.
Verona clung on to the slender lead with their fingernails for the remaining 17 minutes, as Toni turned wide of the near post and Emeghara's control let him down on the counter, but almost threw away a game they had dominated for 70 minutes.