Heading into their matchup against Genoa, Fiorentina had done something no one thought was possible. They had gone five league matches in a row without conceding a goal. It’s hard to believe considering star defender Gonzalo Rodriguez is out injured and goalkeeper Neto has been shaky to say the least.
Nonetheless, the back line has needed to be solid. Top scorer Giuseppe Rossi missed his third consecutive game due to the knee injury he suffered against Livorno. The false nine experiment with Josip Ilicic versus Torino failed miserably, that resulted in a 0-0 draw. Following Alessandro Matri’s loan move, he scored a brace against Catania, leading the Viola to a 3-0 victory.
Once again, Matri was in the starting XI. Coach Vincenzo Montella needed a win desperately. With Inter dropping points against Fiorentina’s opponent last week and Verona falling to Roma, it was the perfect opportunity for the hosts to move closer to the top three.
A win would bring the Tuscans within a point of third place Napoli and 10 above the fifth placed Nerazzurri. As for Genoa, they entered the Artemio Franchi with 26 points, six behind a Europa League spot. The Grifone have spent the last couple of seasons battling relegation, now they’re in the thick of the race for a European spot.
Since manager Gian Piero Gasperini was rehired, Genoa have won six games, drew five, and lost four. The defeats came at the hands of Juventus, Roma, Cagliari (played with 10 men), and Bologna. To say that Gasperini reinvigorated his team is an understatement.
The match started off with Fiorentina in control. Despite not having Rodriguez, Rossi, Borja Valero and Mario Gomez, the home side were coping just fine without them. Juan Cuadrado and Manuel Pasqual came close to opening the scoring, but were wasteful with their final efforts.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, Luca Antonelli was able to lure Neto out of his goal to close down the angle. It appeared as if the Brazilian clipped Antonelli, prompting the referee to call a penalty for the visitors. After looking at the replays, it was clear that the winger made a meal of the “challenge” and that the hosts were unlucky to have had that go against them.
Former Viola forward Alberto Gilardino calmly converted the spot kick to make it 1-0 for Genoa. The Grifone weren’t messing around, Fiorentina were in for a rough night.
Just six minutes later, the Viola caught a break. Massimo Ambrosini was hauled down as he tried to get his head to a cross. Sebastien De Maio was the culprit, he ended up getting booked for his challenge. Alberto Aquilani scored from 12 yards out to tie up the match.
The drama continued in the closing moments of the first half. Right after the kick off, Antonini received a pass from Francesco Matuzalem and finished in the bottom left corner. Just like that, it was 2-1. That, too, was short lived. Aquilani pounced on the ball after it rattled around a bunch of bodies in the box, and powered it past Mattia Perin.
As the second interval began, it was Fiorentina who attained their first lead of the game and guess who? Aquilani. He got on the end of Joaquin’s through ball and finished calmly in the bottom corner.
That prompted Gasperini to make some substitutions. One of them, Adrian Stoian, was inches away from tying the match with a shot from distance as his chance went over the bar.
Finally, the Grifone found that late goal. Off a corner, Antonini headed the ball towards the middle of the penalty area, which was met by De Maio, who also got his head to it and snuck it past Neto to tie the game 3-3. Suddenly the penalty the defender conceded was a distant memory.
That is how the match ended as Genoa fought heroically to earn a point, while Fiorentina missed an opportunity to move closer to the Partenopei.
Other talking points:
- There was plenty of movement around the table, mainly at the top. Juventus’ 14 game winning streak ended as they drew 1-1 against Lazio. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was sent off, but it was the Bianconeri who had to claw back a point. Their lead at the top is now down to six points.
- Roma took advantage of that slip-up by defeating Hellas Verona at the Bentegodi 3-1. Since their 3-0 defeat at Juventus, the Giallorossi have won five matches in a row in all competitions, including a 1-0 victory over Juve in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals. The Verona game was the first goal they conceded during that run.
- Napoli drew 1-1 with Chievo, dropping points for the second week in a row. Even though the Partenopei are undefeated in eight straight matches, they’ve earned draws in half of those fixtures.
- AC Milan came back to win 2-1 away to Cagliari. What’s more significant is that Mario Balotelli was subjected to racial abuse by the Sardinian supporters. As a result, their stand will be closed for the next match.
- Inter drew 0-0 against Catania as their dry attack continues to come up empty. As for the Rossazzurri, they earned their first point away from home this season.
- Under the radar, Parma have put together a nice unbeaten streak. They haven’t lost since November 2nd (1-0 to Juventus), a run of 10 games (five wins, five draws). It continued thanks to a 1-0 win over Udinese.
- Livorno defeated Sassuolo 3-1, which has since led to Neroverdi manager Eusebio Di Francesco’s sacking on Tuesday.
Other results: Sampdoria 1-1 Bologna; Torino 1-0 Atalanta