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Atalanta 2, Fiorentina 2: Viola Blow it at the Death

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26986_hp.jpgFootball can, at times, be an enormously complex game, but there are also relatively simple truisms that one can take from it. On of the most obvious is that good teams protect leads. Fiorentina in recent weeks has been unable to protect their leads, something that has led them to be ousted from the Italian Cup and has caused them to drop three very achievable points in Bergamo today. Fiorentina will remain in fourth place for the immediate future, (i.e. the next few days) but their spot in the Champions League is now, officially, very tenuous.

1st Half

As my friend and fellow Fiorentina blogger Tim predicted earlier, Mutu did not start, so we witnessed a front line of Santana, Semioli, and Pazzini. Pazzini had a nice header early (and was quite good all day) but things were generally quiet in the early going. There was some feistiness, however, after a sharp elbow from Pazzini nailed Manfredi and a few retaliatory fouls followed from Atalanta. (Montolivo and Pazzini were both brutally hacked down at different points.)

Finally, in the 29th minute, Pazzini wonderfully controlled a nice pass from Montolivo and put it in the net while falling down. Watching this was extra nice because, of course, Pazzini usually falls down but does not often score a goal while he does so.

Of course, Atalanta scores less than a minute later on a sloppy corner; Muslimovic essentially strolled into the box unmarked and leveled the game at one-all. Fiorentina enjoyed their lead for about 45 seconds, and we went into the break even.

2nd Half

The second half started with both teams seemingly content to protect what they had; there is little action until the 60th, when Semioli headed in a nice cross by Kuzmanovic to pull ahead 2-1. Within a few moments Jorgenson comes on for Kuzmanovic, Bobo comes on for Pazzini, and it is obvious what Fiorentina will do for the last twenty minutes of the game: protect their lead. Admirably, the team does launch a few half-hearted attacks at goal, but it is the advance started by Vieri in injury time that is the end for the Viola. The keeper controled the half-hearted attack and cleared the ball to midfield, and a series of short passes found the ball at the feet of Muslimovic, who completed his brace and ended the game in a draw. It was a play that had me screaming “No!” over and over again as the ball advanced up the field, (I’m sure the cry was repeated all over the city of Florence) but it was to no avail; Fiorentina, who led the game twice, left with only a point.

Ramifications

The Viola now hold onto their 4th place spot in the league by five points. Their nearest challengers, Milan, have a winnable match at home tomorrow vs. a very feisty Siena team and a Wednesday match against Livorno followed by a Saturday meeting with Parma. Fiorentina’s next match in the league is Sunday vs. Catania; they could potentially be four points behind Milan and in fifth place by that match, if Milan win out. I think I’m going to go eat a box of rat poison.

And a little bit more about me….
Fiorentina still have not won a game I’ve recapped for theoffside.com. Can a blogger bring a team bad luck? I even wore my lucky Luca Toni shirt today, and watched the game on RAI instead of waiting for the English Language replay at eight PM on FSC. If this keeps up I’m going to start recapping Milan’s matches; they could use a few more losses….