Monday September 16 2013
Fear and fury in Florence

There have been some bad days in the history of Fiorentina, but few can match their clash with Cagliari. Giancarlo Rinaldi reports on the weekend round of games and how the Viola’s chance to join Napoli at the top of the table ended in disaster.

The agony had echoes of a bitter February nearly 15 years ago. When Mario Gomez crumpled to the ground on Sunday it was hard not to cast your mind back to the 1998-99 season when Gabriel Omar Batistuta suffered similar pain against Milan. It was an injury which killed off Florentine dreams of a third Scudetto.

It is way too early, of course, to consider the present-day Viola anything like genuine contenders, but this weekend they had a shot at joining Rafa Benitez’s Napoli at the helm of Serie A. What could have been a celebration at the Stadio Artemio Franchi turned into a nightmare. Anything that could go wrong pretty much did so.

There was an injury to influential winger Juan Cuadrado before the collapse of their German hitman which is likely to rule him out for quite some time. Then, having seized the lead through Borja Valero, they saw Mauricio Pinilla grab a late equaliser to increase their frustration. That emotion went through the roof when shouts for a penalty on Giuseppe Rossi were waved away and David Pizarro was red-carded for his protests. Even the normally unflappable Vincenzo Montella was raging at the final whistle.

There is a bit of a back story to all of this, of course. Last season, Pizarro seemed set to quit Serie A after the events of the final game of the campaign which handed Milan a place in the Champions League at Fiorentina’s expense. His feelings – rightly or wrongly – were that some decisions which go in favour of Italy’s big boys are never given to the League’s lesser lights.

Montella, too, had a point to prove with his post-match comments. He suggested that some players seem to get away with protesting about a referee’s decisions much more forcefully than his Chilean midfielder. It is not too hard to find plenty of examples of match officials turning a blind eye or a deaf ear to such incidents every weekend. Whatever your view, the end result is that Fiorentina have probably lost three key players for varying lengths of time. With a busy run of fixtures on the horizon, they will have their work cut out to cope.

Their opportunity to go joint-top had been set up by a typically tense Derby d’Italia on Saturday which underlined a couple of things we already thought we knew about this season. Firstly, this Inter side are no longer the pushovers they were last year as a Mauro Icardi strike – his fourth in three games against Juve – threatened to give them the win. Secondly, the Bianconeri have lost none of their in-built resilience – which was underlined by an immediate and impressive reply from Arturo Vidal. There were encouraging signs for fans of both sides throughout an intense encounter.

Their share of the spoils allowed Napoli to move top on their own – at least until Roma face Parma on Monday night – with a hard-fought victory over Atalanta. It took them some time to break down the resistance of the Bergamaschi and it needed the introduction of the in-form Marek Hamsik to swing the game. He helped to set up Gonzalo Higuain to break the deadlock before Jose Callejon confirmed his immediate impact on Serie A by clinching the points.

Saturday’s other match was one to give Celtic fans encouragement and nightmares in equal measure ahead of their Champions League clash with Milan. An Alessio Cerci-inspired Torino side looked on the way to beating the Rossoneri when they were two goals clear with just minutes to go. But a comical strike from Sulley Muntari and an injury time penalty from Mario Balotelli – how many times will we say that this season? – salvaged a point. Max Allegri could not bring himself to watch while his striker successfully converted the spot-kick with ice cool nerves. This team is never beaten until the 90th minute and, sometimes, beyond.

There was no need to wait quite so late to celebrate for Genoa in the Derby della Lanterna. Under-pressure boss Fabio Liverani got a tonic which was as emphatic as it was surprising with a 3-0 drubbing of Sampdoria. It was ludicrous that the young manager was reckoned to be facing the sack just a couple of games into the season but such is the madness of Serie A. No wonder he could not resist the temptation to go and celebrate with his own players and fans. It was both perfectly understandable and thoroughly deserved.

Other Sunday success stories came for Livorno, Lazio and Verona which gave their League positions a much more healthy look. While Sassuolo have looked out of their depth so far, the other newly-promoted sides, the Amaranto and Gialloblu, appear to have settled in well. As for the capital club, they had far too much firepower for Chievo and look sure to be in the upper reaches of the table for the rest of the season.

A final share of the points was produced by the two impresarios of Udinese and Bologna. A typically wonderful free-kick from Alessandro Diamanti looked like it might have given the Rossoblu all three points but Toto Di Natale had other ideas and ensured it ended level. It was his first goal of the campaign for the boys from the Friuli – but you can rest assured it will not be his last.

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Have your say...
"Rightly or wrongly..."

"Whatever your view..."

on the 17th September, 2013 at 9:24pm
I'm not sure how much longer I want to keep watching the Milan games (as opposed to reading the updates). Since the second half of last season I'm sure I've seen the same match a dozen times: the opposition sits behind the ball; Milan pass the ball around aimlessly just behind the halfway line; they give the ball away with clumsy passing; the opposition goes on a fast counter-attack; they score [OR] they miss because of a defensive intervention or – more likely – because of Abbiati.
on the 17th September, 2013 at 2:40pm
I would say that Celtic fans have more to be encouraged about than not, to say nothing of nightmares. It seems like Providence and Berlusconi are both conspiring to make Allegri's job as difficult as possible. In his second season there was an absurd injury crisis. In his third season he was put under pressure to make lemonade out of lemons. This season, it's starting to look like he'll have to deal with both problems combined.
on the 17th September, 2013 at 2:30pm
Fiorentina is understandingly a high quality team, and I as a supporter to the viola, not really optimistic on challenging for Scudetto but could very likely be 3rd or if refereeing side was 50% fair they might end up 2nd. They are not under pressure like Juve, Inter, Milan but they certainly has what it takes to gaze through Top 3 (even with all the injuries at the current time)
on the 17th September, 2013 at 11:04am

The most One-eyed man a live?
The penalty ras clear Yes , what wasent clear was why torino didn't get the substitute when the ball where out of play moments earlier.
The first goal wasent as clear either as it easly could have Been judged as a offside.
Then tske the last game last year against torino in a count and everybody exept the diavolo starting to see a pathern.
on the 17th September, 2013 at 10:35am
All this early season chat about Fiorentina being league title contenders is very surprising. For me, they don't have the depth that makes them a contender, and also not even that much start-studded quality in their 1st 11 to put up a serious challenge.

Top 5 at best. They'll be miles behind Napoli and Juve come next May.
on the 16th September, 2013 at 5:47pm

Monti is a great player. Not sure why you dislike him. Cristante will get hes time eventually but monti is clearly the better pick. Saying you get glad when a player gets injured seems rather harsh to me. Clearly you're not a Milan fan.
on the 16th September, 2013 at 4:36pm
@Barry Schmid

If you would have watched the game against Torino you would admit the penalty milan was given was such a easy call for the ref. CLEAR penalty. Like not even up for debate.

So please watch the games then talk.
on the 16th September, 2013 at 4:31pm
@ Udo I had a rant in the Kaka blog. I completley I agree with you re the midfield. How does Allegri not see this? There's no point in talking about transfers but how he has suddenly decided Emanuelson is good enough for left back? And now the injuries. The whole thing is just ridiculous and embarrassing.

@ Barry Schmid it was a clear cut penalty and Poli has the bruises to show for it. It doesn't make me feel any less embarrassed.
on the 16th September, 2013 at 4:19pm
Is there another team that is saved by late penalty kicks more than AC Milan? I think not. Really, it's as predictable as the sun rising in the East.
on the 16th September, 2013 at 12:28pm
milan were very disappointing to say the least. For the upteenth time allegri played with an immobile mf trio against a fluid opposition...he never learns. Boy, i was glad when monty got injured. Whoever gave him the armband needs to rip him off it. As for zaccardo...i rest my case. I will love to c cristante play instead of monty.
on the 16th September, 2013 at 9:33am

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