Lost in all of our excitement about Fiorentina qualifying for the Champions League (especially for me) is the fact that Fiorentina played and won a league game on the road today without their best outfield player. It seems a little silly to say that the game itself has been lost (it’s all I’ve been thinking about all day) but for me, at least, there may have been a bit more focus on the result and not the match itself. So before we move onto thoughts about the future, I did want to briefly recap a very important match for our beloved Fiorentina.
Torino, who played gutsy, inspired football all day, nearly get a breakaway goal within thirty seconds of the kick. If nothing else, it makes it clear that the boys from Turin came to play. They’ll keep it up for the next ninety minutes. So did Fiorentina, however, who are creating what almost seems to be a scoring chance a minute. Kuzmanovic blows a fairly easy chance in the 3rd, but it won’t be the only opportunity the boys can cash in on today. In the 12th, Santana can’t finish on a magnificent cross by Montolivo. Kuz crosses one into Pazzini in the 14th that also goes wanting. Other chances go by in the 18th and 23rd. I write in my notebook that the wide play is very impressive today, but more importantly, the boys never give up on it. The Viola just kept coming and coming with the crosses. In the 24th Kuz blows one over the bar from outside the box (hopefully those will someday start going in for him) and in the 25th Liverani places a nice free kick saved by Torino keeper Matteo Sereni. Sereni makes another great save off Gamberini two minutes later and was dominant all day. As good a performance from a keeper not named Frey as I’ve seen all year. Monto fires an absolute LAZER in the box a few minutes later, which is also saved. Meanwhile, Torino is not resting on their laurels; they look more and more dangerous on the counter as the game go on, and mount a dangerous attack in the 31st. In the 36th Di Michele nearly gives me a heart attack by “scoring” a goal ruled offside.
I am watching the game on my desktop computer, in my office, because the match was not televised on US television. I also had my laptop opened on the desk, watching the ESPN “gamecast” of the Milan match. I whoop and holler when Udinese goes up 1-0 in their match, but remain concerned about Fiorentina’s lack of finishing as they go into their half drawn at nil.
Fiorentina seems to have the same game plan going into the second (attacking the wings) but also seem to be trying to go about it with a bit more patience. Torino, meanwhile, launches a series of dangerous attacks in the 49th, and Santana dispiritingly has a bad miss he blasts over the bar in the 51st. There’s another great save by Sereni off Osvaldo in the 53rd. By the 57th, Torino has absolutely found their rhythm in the counter-attack, and launch dangerous attacks in the 57th and 60th. Frey is forced to make a very good save in the 61st and a great one in the 65th, as everything seems to be breaking down for the Viola. In the 67th Liverani puts a dangerous shot on goal, but in my notebook I write “can anyone finish?” The club is obviously missing Mutu. In the 71st Osvaldo’s shot is blocked and Semioli’s (who came on for Kuz in the 55th) goes wide.
Everything changes in the 76th, when Osvaldo changes history. His bicycle kick was nothing short of magnificent, the kind of goal worthy of one that clinches a spot in the Champions League, and one that brought fans to their feet from Copley Plaza (not far from where I live) to the Piazza della Signoria. The goal is better seen than described, and can be found here.
The last fifteen minutes of the match are of the type that last forever and yet fly by. Fiorentina understandably slip into defensive mode, and equally understandably some of the wind is taken out of gutsy Torino’s sails. Torino actually have (and take) a few more chances, but generally Fiorentina do a good job of holding onto the ball and get through regular time and three extra minutes. With the win (despite Milan’s impressive 4-1 win at the San Siro) the Viola finish in Fourth place and clinch their spot in next season’s Champions League. It took twenty minutes for the family to convince me to come off the roof.
This is pretty much all I’m going to be talking about here on the blog for the next week or so, for obvious reasons. (This is, of course, unless the wife has the baby.) In the meantime, here a few of the subjects we will be tackling, sans baby, in the next few weeks:
* At some point, we’ll do a season wrap-up, and look back at the 2007-08 season as a whole.
* We’ll consider some of the wider implications of CL qualification, including who will now stay (Prandelli has already said he’s staying, as I suspected, and we’ll see what Frey does; I think he will stick too) and who will come in addition to the players we’ve already signed.
* Later this summer I will try to do at least thumbnail sketches of all of our new signings. I never know much about players outside of the Viola, but I’ll do the best I can.
* Later this summer we will also look back at the guys who were with us have moved on. Ujfalusi is apparently on the way out, and we will see who follows.
* I will also take a quick look at the Euros and check in on the Viola players who are also representing their country, like Adrian Mutu with Romania.
* Finally, we will look at Fiorentina’s summer schedule, including the friendly at home vs. Barcelona and the Champions League qualifying games.
It should be a fun and exciting silly season. Tonight, however, should be reserved for celebrating, so raise a glass for our favorite team and spare a thought for the players and staff that brought us such an exciting season.