It could be a Scudetto turning point, as Fiorentina beat Milan at San Siro with Juventus-owned Amauri in stoppages! Antonio Cassano also made his comeback.
The Rossoneri saw their lead at the top of the table whittled down to just two points last week, so the pressure was on, especially after Champions League elimination. There were also panic stations at Fiorentina, who had dropped to fourth-from-bottom and ran the very real risk of relegation if they couldn’t stop the slide.
Milan’s injury list remained huge with Alessandro Nesta, Djamel Mesbah and Luca Antonini joining Thiago Silva, Mark van Bommel, Clarence Seedorf, Alexandre Pato, Pippo Inzaghi, Rodney Strasser, Alexander Merkel and Mathieu Flamini. Maxi Lopez got a rare start, while Antonio Cassano was on the bench for the first time since suffering that stroke in late October. The Viola had Riccardo Montolivo and Alessio Cerci suspended along with the sidelined Alessandro Gamberini, Juan Manuel Vargas, Mattia Cassani and Per Kroldrup. Adem Ljajic was chosen ahead of Amauri.
The tension was evident from the start, as after six minutes there was a bitter scuffle between Massimo Ambrosini and Manuel Pasqual in midfield. Fiorentina got off to a much stronger start and dominated possession in the opening stages, Stevan Jovetic’s screamer charged down by Ambrosini and Ljajic curling a free kick over the bar.
Houssine Kharja and Jovetic also skimmed the woodwork from distance. Milan slowly started to get into the game and a Zlatan Ibrahimovic rocket of a free kick stung Artur Boruc’s palms, but Sulley Muntari incredibly fired the follow-up wide from point-blank range!
Nastasic crucially closed down Urby Emanuelson as he pulled the trigger from eight yards on a Maxi Lopez long ball.
The referee pointed to the spot after half an hour when Nastasic was accused of pulling down Maxi Lopez as he tried to get on the end of a Gianluca Zambrotta cross. The contact did not seem particularly strong and Fiorentina protested. Ibrahimovic coolly converted to put Milan in front, sending Boruc the wrong way.
A long-range Ljajic free kick dipped mercilessly right in front of Christian Abbiati and the veteran goalkeeper scrambled it off the line at the last moment.
Maxi Lopez had a great opportunity to double Milan’s lead, but his chest and half-volley from the outside corner of the box smacked against the base of the far post.
Jovetic blasted wide and Ibra burst through a crowd of defenders, but eventually fired over under pressure.
Straight after the restart it was 1-1, as Ignazio Abate was keeping Jovetic in play, so the Montenegrin sprinted clear towards the goal and flashed an angled drive past Abbiati despite the goalkeeper getting a foot to it.
Abate had a shot charged down in the penalty area, but there was controversy when the referee allowed play to go on when his own teammate Pasqual was down with a head injury, but Ljajic passed it straight into Abbiati’s hands to waste a golden opportunity.
Nobody managed to get the decisive touch to a Zambrotta ball across the face of goal, including Maxi Lopez and goalkeeper Boruc.
Fiorentina threatened to go in front when De Silvestri went screaming forward on the counter-attack and Abbiati had his palms stung by the Jovetic finish, then Philippe Mexes risked giving the ball away again during his clearance.
Boruc required a desperate save to deny Maxi Lopez when the Argentine controlled an Ibrahimovic throw-in and shot from point-blank range. Zambrotta’s shot was charged down, the same fate befalling Alberto Aquilani during a very long Milan siege on the Viola box.
There was a very special moment, as Antonio Cassano made his comeback for the first time since suffering a stroke and undergoing heart surgery at the end of October. All of San Siro was on its feet for the returning striker.
In a strangely fitting finale, Fiorentina took the lead with Amauri, a player still owned by their Scudetto rivals Juventus! Mexes made the mistake that allowed Amauri through and he exchanged passes with Jovetic to fire past the on-rushing Abbiati. It was particularly remarkable, as the Viola had the worst away record in Serie A.
Cassano dribbled past De Silvestri in stoppages and tumbled under a small shove in the back, but the referee waved play on this time.