Fiorentina defeated Catania today in an extremely exciting Series A match that left the Viola three points clear of AC Milan and once again in 4th place in Italy. The win could not have come at a better time, as Fiorentina has recently suffered some setbacks in league play and, in the last 24 hours, had given up their Champions League spot. But the grim Milan draw coupled with this win ensures another week of happiness for the boys in purple.
Fiorentina seemed determined to attack down the right today, perhaps because Prandelli and his staff noticed a weakness on Catania’s part. Whatever the reason, Kuzmanovic and Santana were critical for the Viola in the early going as attack after attack came down the right. This led to a few opportunities in the early going, including a nice little one-two that Pazzini couldn’t put away in the 10th minute and an Adrian Mutu breakaway stopped just short of the box in the 17th. In the 21st, Pazzini just barely missed connecting on a lose ball in front of an open net (that sounds bad, but Pazzini really did have another fine game) and in the 24th the same player had a header go just wide.
Catania was more aggressive as the game played on, but Fiorentina’s work down the right side of the field paid off when Kuzmanovic skillfully headed in a Pazzini cross to put the hosts up 1-0. Mutu almost doubled their lead two minutes later on a bicycle kick that could have been goal of the year, but it went over the bar and the teams entered the half with the Viola winning 1-0.
Fiorentina were quick out of the box in the second half and immediately began working the right again. Frey made a nice save in the 52nd, but extremely worryingly, went out of the game in the 55th with a thigh injury. Predictably, with the Viola’s stalwart goalkeeper out of the game, Catania equalized a few moments later when Vargas scored off a rebounded corner.
Prandelli responded to the equalizer by putting on Jorgenson, but it was Adrian Mutu who responded most grandly of all, by blasting in a magnificent shot from outside the box that put Fiorentina up 2-1. In spite of the fact that Fiorentina (as well as Catania) have some very skillful players, that shot made it clear that Mutu is often the most skilled man on the field wherever he plays, and one of the few true game-changers in Series A.
The last twenty minutes were agonizing for Fiorentina fans. By the 75th Prandelli had used all his substitutes, and thus when Potenza briefly limped off the field the team had to go on with 10 men. Potenza was gamely back in the action quickly, but the last ten minutes seemed to suggest that Catania did have an extra man, as they constantly and dangerously attacked. Things got a bit feisty at the end, especially when Mutu (who has having a hell of a day) did a little dance while holding the ball and killing time in the Catania corner. Regardless, Fiorentina did manage to hold on for an important and satisfying victory.
Worrying, Fiorentina was AGAIN unable to protect a lead. The style and panache they used to come back was thrilling, however, and every fan should be pleased with this much-needed win. I though the defense played very well, (especially without Ujfalusi, something they may have to get used to next season) and the midfield controlled play, excepting Montolivo, who again had a very quiet game. I thought Santana attacked well from a deeper position, and Kuzmanovic’s progress continues to impress me. Mutu and Pizzani had fine games.
As I said, Fiorentina will spend another week in 4th, and can go into their Thursday match with Rosenborg with confidence. There is no rest for the weary, of course, as the Viola have Roma at the Olimpico next week, but at least I can rest easy for another seven days.