Send In The Clown; Fior 2-2 AC Milan

Maurizio Lagana

The biggest clown of all played the largest part in this match....

In my preview I detailed the three ring circus that is AC Milan, but I neglected to mention the ref, Paolo Tagliavento, who turned out to be the biggest clown of all and who decided to steal the show and put himself in the center of the main ring and make the show all about the guy wearing the yellow shirt.

Tagliavento called 37 fouls, gave out 7 yellows and a highly dubious red card, along with giving two penalties, plus a free kick on a Balotelli dive that led directly to Milan's second goal.

He also ignored at least two fouls on Milan that could've been yellow cards. One, early on Muntari, could've resulted in a second yellow later and the second, a clear late foul on Montolivo that should've been his second yellow as well.

At least one of the penalties he called was very weak and he ignored two other calls that could've been penalties as well.

All this goes to show that there is still a serious problem in Italy with the officials and Serie A and the Federation continues to blindly ignore the issue. I don't think that corruption is still the issue, I believe the problem is sheer incompetence.

Perhaps with more accountability from the Federation, and more stringent training for the refs, there might be a difference, but since no one will admit the problem, this is what we're stuck with. Arranged results and a mockery of what was once one of the finest of leagues.

Recap

Fiorentina Coach Vincenzo Montella once again had to juggle his lineup as Gonzalo Rodriguez was unavailble to to yellow card accumulation. In front of goalie Emiliano Viviano he played Facundo Roncaglia, Stefan Savic, Nenad Tomovic and Manuel Pasqual.

Borja Valero returned from his suspension to take up his normal position on the left next to David Pizarro and Alberto Aquilani. Juan Cuadrado, Stevan Jovetic and Adem Ljajic rounded out the Viola lineup.

AC Milan's coach Massimiliano Allegri had to make do without Team Captain Massimo Ambrosini due to a knock, but had former Viola Giampaolo Pazzini back from injury.He also fielded a 4-3-3 formation.

Milan brought a back line into today's match that hadn't allowed a league goal in 5 matches, although Barcelona had seared them for 4 goals and knocked them out of the Champions League. Christian Abbiati held the net keeping duties, with a back line of Ignazio Abate, Christian Zapata, Philippe Mexes and Mattia De Sciglio.

Former Viola and first class rat bastard Riccardo Montolivo moved over to the central midfielder position to fill in for Ambrosini, while Mathieu Flamini filled into his slot on the right and Sulley Muntari play out left.

Mohawk triplets Stephan El Shaarawy, Mario Balotelli and Kevin-Prince Boateng played up front.

The match started out with Fiorentina, but fouls were eventually called on Cuadrado and Aquilani killing the attack.

Milan countered back in minute 7, earning a corner kick, which came to Montolivo who sent it wide.

A few minutes later, Muntari made a bad foul on Aquilani. Practically any other ref in Italy would've given the yellow card, except the clown in charge today declined to show it.

It only took another 7 minutes for Montolivo to show his true class, or lack thereof. Pizarro, dribbling himself into trouble and seemingly fouled, got up and stood over the ball, allowing Montolivo to steal it and send it right into the goal.

Montolivo, who up to that point had been heavily jeered and whistled put his arms out in a gesture very similar to how current coach Montella used to celebrate and allowed his teammates to mob him. Whether the gesture was meant to mock the current coach or whether Montolivo is just a lousy douche bag, only he knows.

Regardless, the truth of the matter is that this Viola squad is exponentially better in talent, quality and class without him, and Montolivo leaving could perhaps be the best thing that ever happened to this team.

Both squads exchanged shots for the next 20 plus minutes, although none were really dangerous until Jovetic earned a free kick deep in Milan's territory. Pasqual took the shot and just missed the corner or the net.

Sadly for Fiorentina, Savic was hurt on the play and had to come out for Marvin Commper.

Four minutes later, Montolivo crossed a ball to El Mohawk who headed it strongly and straight on goal, but Viviano came up big and made the save.

Fiorentina came up with a strong counter immediately after the save, with Ljajic charging down the field and Montolivo reached out and dragged him down from behind, earning a yellow card. some ref's might have given a red for that, but there were defenders out to either side, so the clear path to the goal couldn't be established and it would've been a harsh call.

At minute 40 however, as Tomovic clashed with El Mohawk and his arm came up inadvertently, Tagliavento quickly showed the red card. he was subsequently mobbed by Viola players but to no avail. Fiorentina were sent to ten men and it looked as if the wheels were coming off the wagon.

The rest of the half became a rough and tumble affair as two yellow cards were shown in fairly quick succession, one for Cuadrado, although a questionable card it was as Balotelli clearly looked to have exaggerated the contact, as he did all match long.

The other yellow was on Muntari, and that yellow could have easily been his second, which would've resulted in an expulsion.

Shortly before the end of the half, Montolivo came in late on his man, kicking him in the legs clearly after the ball had been passed, but both Tagliavento and his sideline ref ignored the foul, which, by the letter of the law, should also have been a yellow card, Montolivo's second, which also should've resulted in an expulsion.

To further add salt to Fiorentina's wounds, Jovetic, who had been injured in last weeks match, had to come out, being replaced by Romulo.

As the whistle blew for the end of the half, things couldn't look any bleaker for La Viola and actually things would only get worse.

Milan, quite wisely, substituted Antonio Nocerini for Muntari, thus removing the chance of another stupid foul which could have evened up the manpower.

Milan quickly took the offensive, taking the next three shots, the third from a free kick granted for another Balotelli dive and which resulted in the second Milan goal, a nice cross from Montolivo to Flamini who tipped it into the corner for a 2-0 lead.

Fiorentina didn't hang their heads and give up however. They tightened their belts, gritted their teeth, went back to work and started pushing back and that mind set quickly paid dividends as Adem Ljajic dribbled into the box, into a group of Milan defenders and fell over, seemingly with little if any contact and once again Tagliavento made himself the center of attention by giving Fiorentina the penalty shot.

Ljajic stepped up to the spot in minute 66 and made no mistake and Fiorentina came back to life, took back the momentum and never really relinquished it for the rest of the match. Milan were only able to muster three more shots, none of which were on net for the rest of the match.

Fiorentina, however, continued to press forward, making it seem like Milan were the team with a man down as Juan Cuadrado stood up De Sciglio at the side of the box, drove past the him and forced the young defender to trip him, forcing Tagliavento into another penalty call, one of the few calls the ref seemed to get right.

This time Pizarro stepped up to the spot, perhaps looking for redemption for his errors of the first half. Milan's goalie guessed right, but the shot had so much power it went into the net regardless.

The circus-like atmosphere wasn't over yet as Milan brought in first youngster Niang and then Pazzini to try to get the winning goal late and they very nearly got the opportunity.

Pasqual was side by side with Abate in the box and the Milan player went to the ground, another ref might have given a penalty then, but Tagliavento seemed to have had enough of being the center of attention and let the contact go and Roncaglia had a ball go off his hand in the zone. His arm was clearly out from his body, but it was hard to say he intentionally handled it. and that was let go as well.

Both squads probably left the field feeling aggrieved and possibly feeling lucky at the same time but a point is a point and the result insures Fiorentina owns the tie breaker with Milan, due to the victory at the San Siro earlier.

Milan remains in third place and Fiorentina remain in fourth, pending Lazio's Monday match in the Roman Darby. Inter had a chance to overtake La Viola but lost to Fiorentina's next opponent, Atalanta, in a 7 goal thriller.

Report Cards

Viviano(7)- had no chance or blame on either goal, made a total of 5 saves, 2 or 3 of the amazing variety. He's making the decision to keep him this summer much easier.
Roncaglia(6)- Took El parrot head out of the match for very long stretches of time, nearly cost them the match with a late handball, but it really didn't look to be deliberate. large improvement over last week and recent performances
Tomovic(5.5)- had a decent match until Tagliavento's moment of madness. Not really to blame.I do wonder where exactly he was on Montolivo's goal. Central defenders should always be behind the ball, no?
Savic(5.5)- subbed out for injury at the half hour mark. same question for him as Tomovic, where were you on the first goal; Commper(6.5)- Came in without having a chance to warm up and shut down Balotelli for most of the match. Mario was relegated to constant diving and playing to the ref's idiocy. I think Commper is going to be a great defender for a long time to come.
Pasqual(6)- helped out a lot on Boateng, had a nice try at a free kick, but still had a lousy day crossing the ball. 0 for 6. I'm still not a fan...
Aquilani(5.5)- along with the rest of the squad, had a lousy first half but played much better in the second.
Pizarro(5)- horrible first half, even though he was fouled by Montolivo before giving up the ball, his insistence in holding the ball far longer than he should was nearly criminal. Scoring the penalty shot partially redeems him, but if this squad is going to finish high in the standings, he's going to have to play much much better
Valero(6)- Pizarro's troubles put Valero out on an island and he suffered some against Milan's midfield, more so in the first half, along with the rest of the squad. played much better in the second
Cuadrado(7)- had a rough first half, along with everyone else, but played his game in the second and clearly earned the tying penalty
Jovetic(5)- never really got into the match. earned a free kick once or twice and had a shot that Abbiati saved. had to be subbed off for injury before the half; Romulo(6)- came in and added some much needed energy to the squad. had some nice wing play and played well in defense
Ljajic(7.5)- man of the match, especially in the second half after Jovetic had to go out. Regardless of if his penalty was deserved, he put himself in place to get the call by supreme dribbling skills and taking it to the Milan defense. subbed late in a defensive move for Migliaccio; Migliaccio(NA)-


Montella(6.5)- the courage the team showed in this trial of tribulation can only be atrributed to this man's influence on them. It would've been easy for this team to fold up their chairs and sit out the rest of the match after going down a man or even after giving up the second goal, but they continued to press forward and push back against Milan and made the most of their chances. Regardless of the effect the ref had on this match, Fiorentina wouldn't have gotten the penalties had they not been press forward trying to make something happen.

ref
Tagliavento(0)- what a complete joke this guy is. Wanted to be the show and insinuated himself into every aspect of this match and basically wound up ruining it. Started out calling everything in Milan's favor, with 10 fouls on Fiorentina to 4 for Milan. Gave the dubious red card, ignored a second yellow on Montolivo and an earlier yellow on Munari, both of which would've even up the numbers of players. ignored what could've been a penalty when Aquilani was pushed down but came out in the second and gave a weak penalty to Ljajic. Could've called a handball on Roncaglia as well. inexplicably bad.

Yellow Cards

Disqualification of one game after the 4th, 8th, 12th, 15th and the 17th yellow card. Past 17, every yellow card is equivalent to a one-match ban. (Players receiving yellow cards in this match have an *, red cards #)

Pizarro (13)
Cuadrado (10) *
Roncaglia (9) *
Rodriguez (8)
Aquilani (5) *
Migliaccio (4)
Valero (4)
Jovetic (3) - one game suspension on the next card.
Pasqual (3) - one game suspension on the next card.
Savic (3) - one game suspension on the next card.
Tomovic (3) # - misses next match, and one game suspension on the next card.
Ljajic (2)
Toni (2)
Fernandez (1)
Viviano(1)

Looking Ahead

Fiorentina move into the final stretch where every match is winnable, and with the exception, perhaps, of the AS Roma match, La Viola should be considered strong favorites in every match.

Complicating matters, as it has all season, are the injuries and suspensions. The status of Jovetic, Savic and even El Hamdaoui and Matias Fernandez will loom large this week, as the defense will be without Tomovic already for suspension and the front line has struggled. If Savic can't go, Commper might get the start, while Luca Toni or Marcelo Larrando look likely to get the nod if Jovetic is out.

Also of concern for Fiorentina fans is the poor road form that Montella's squad continued to show last week, if this team is going to play in Europe next season, a change in that form is a must.

Sunday, April 14 9:00 ET Atalanta v Fiorentina
Sunday, April 21 9:00 ET Fiorentina v Torino
Sunday, April 28 9:00 ET Sampdoria v Fiorentina
Sunday, May 5 9:00 ET Fiorentina v AS Roma
Wednesday,May 8 2:45 ET Siena v Fiorentina
Sunday, May 12 9:00 ET Fiorentina v Palermo
Sunday, May 19 2:45 ET US Pescara v Fiorentina


Other Teams

standings
Juventus 71
Napoli 61
Milan 58
Fiorentina 52
Inter 50
Lazio 50
Roma 47
Catania 46


schedules
Napoli
Sunday, Apr 14 2:45 ET AC Milan v Napoli
Sunday, Apr 21 9:00 ET Napoli v Cagliari
Sunday, Apr 28 9:00 ET US Pescara v Napoli
Sunday, May 5 9:00 ET Napoli v Internazionale
Wednesday, May 8 2:45 ET Bologna v Napoli
Sunday, May 12 9:00 ET Napoli v Siena
Sunday, May 19 2:45 ET AS Roma v Napoli

Milan
Sunday, Apr 14 2:45 ET AC Milan v Napoli
Sunday, Apr 21 9:00 ET Juventus v AC Milan
Sunday, Apr 28 9:00 ET AC Milan v Catania
Sunday, May 5 9:00 ET AC Milan v Torino
Wednesday, May 8 2:45 ET US Pescara v AC Milan
Sunday, May 12 9:00 ET AC Milan v AS Roma
Sunday, May 19 2:45 ET Siena v AC Milan

Inter
Sunday, Apr 14 9:00 ET Cagliari v Internazionale
Sunday, Apr 21 9:00 ET Internazionale v Parma
Sunday, Apr 28 9:00 ET Palermo v Internazionale
Sunday, May 5 9:00 ET Napoli v Internazionale
Wednesday, May 8 2:45 ET Internazionale v Lazio
Sunday, May 12 9:00 ET Genoa v Internazionale
Sunday, May 19 2:45 ET Internazionale v Udinese

Lazio
Monday, Apr 8 2:45 ET AS Roma v Lazio
Thursday, Apr 11 3:05 ET Lazio v Fenerbahce (Europa League)
Monday, Apr 15 2:45 ET Lazio v Juventus
Sunday, Apr 21 9:00 ET Udinese v Lazio
Sunday, Apr 28 9:00 ET Parma v Lazio
Sunday, May 5 9:00 ET Lazio v Bologna
Wednesday, May 8 2:45 ET Internazionale v Lazio
Sunday, May 12 9:00 ET Lazio v Sampdoria
Sunday, May 19 2:45 ET Cagliari v Lazio

Catania
Sunday, Apr 14 9:00 ET Chievo Verona v Catania
Sunday, Apr 21 9:00 ET Catania v Palermo
Sunday, Apr 28 9:00 ET AC Milan v Catania
Sunday, May 5 9:00 ET Catania v Siena
Wednesday, May 8 2:45 ET Sampdoria v Catania
Sunday, May 12 9:00 ET Catania v US Pescara
Sunday, May 19 2:45 ET Torino v Catania

AS Roma
Monday, Apr 8 2:45 ET AS Roma v Lazio
Sunday, Apr 14 9:00 ET Torino v AS Roma
Sunday, Apr 21 9:00 ET AS Roma v US Pescara
Sunday, Apr 28 9:00 ET AS Roma v Siena
Sunday, May 5 9:00 ET Fiorentina v AS Roma
Wednesday, May 8 2:45 ET AS Roma v Chievo Verona
Sunday, May 12 9:00 ET AC Milan v AS Roma
Sunday, May 19 2:45 ET AS Roma v Napoli

Quotes

Montella:

“I do not talk about referees. I will only say that at half-time I spoke to Tagliavento and we made a bet that whoever was wrong about the Tomovic incident would buy the other dinner. He was convinced that he was right, but I think I won the bet.

“I think the mentality we are forming this season helped us to have belief and courage, even when 2-0 down in a decisive moment of the match. There was a great reaction and I saw a team that strongly believed in this comeback against a very talented side, even with 10 men.”

re: Jovetic

“He tried and he seemed to be in good shape. I wanted to run the risk, as I knew how important this game was for us. We hope it’s not too serious.

“Nobody made a mistake with Jovetic. Everyone evaluated the situation and took their own share of the risks and responsibility, so there is no problem.”

Prade:

“At the end of the first half we were being robbed, but today we fought with heart and are happy it ended like this,”

“After all that, we even risked a victory at the end of the game. We proved that there are strong foundations here and we play wonderful football.

“There are seven rounds left and many points up for grabs, so why not aim higher than the Europa League places? We are up there. The fans were amazing today, they gave me goosebumps.”

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