Before we get to the game, I'd like to take a moment to welcome Ted. I'm happy to have him on board, hopefully now between the two of us we can get more regular posts up here. Life has been getting in the way of blogging recently so this should work out well. On to the game.
It was a back and forth first half at the Castellani in Empoli, with each side creating some chances. For the home team, most of the convincing moves flowed through Giovinco, and an early free kick set up a header which Frey was able to save. The Viola weathered the early pressure from Empoli and came back with a couple of through balls over the top which Pazzini finished off only to have the goals taken back for close offsides calls. Pazzini was active throughout, looking to make the most of his first league start of the new year after his promising performance in the last couple of Coppa Italia matches. In addition, there were the hard fouls typical of a derby match, with yellow cards to Ujfalusi (for swearing at the ref) and Donadel (for a professional foul).
The Viola poured forward right from the start in the second half, creating chance after chance. Mutu found Ujfalusi with a tremendous free kick at the back post, which the Czech International headed home, only for the linesman's flag to go up once again. Shortly thereafter, Prandelli pulled Donadel for Jorgensen, bringing another element of creativity into the midfield. Mutu pushed a header wide after a sublime Santana cross, and shanked a shot high and wide after a great run into the penalty area. Jorgensen found Santana at the back post with a great cross, but Santana couldn't help the ball onto the path of Pazzini who was lurking in the 6 yard box.
Empoli was not completely out of the game, threatening Fiorentina a couple of times in the second half. Frey was forced to make a couple of saves, and Dainelli and Pozzi got tangled up in the box which caused some penalty shouts from the home fans and
Empoli bench (I thought it was dubious at best).
Oddly, after all of the creative buildup and near chances, Fiorentina scored an ugly goal. Pazzini won a knock-down header and Mutu, in the process of trying to close down the clearance, deflected it into the net. Pazzini added a second a few minutes later with a cool finish after a great run and through ball by the late substitute Gobbi. On the balance of play, it was a deserved three points and Ted spoke below about how important this win could be in solidifying 4th place in the table.
Overall, it was good to get a win considering Empoli were such a motivated opponent. I was really worried after Prandelli pulled a tired Santana for Semioli in the 85th minute that the last bit of creative spark would be missing and the game would end with the dreaded 0-0 tie. But, Mutu got his ugly goal and Pazzini added his 4th in the last 3 games in all competitions (ok, 2 were against Ascoli but you gotta start somewhere). I could do without taking off your jersey when you score an insurance goal, but we're going with baby steps here. Why waste a yellow card on that? But, hopefully this keeps his confidence high and more importantly, brings some sharpness to the center-forward position as there are big games lurking.