Today was just one of those days. It was one of those days where Spring was springing, the sun was shinning, and everyone on your favorite football team played their best match in months. It was the kind of game where your star forward scores two goals and may not have even been the man of the match, (Montolivo was a force of nature) where your ‘keeper saves a penalty kick, and where you start to think that you may, just may, see your club play in the UEFA Cup final.
Today in Eindhoven Fiorentina defeated PSV in the second leg of their UEFA Cup quarterfinal, sending the Viola to the semis and giving every fan of Italian football another two matches (at least) to cheer on the peninsula. Fiorentina won the match 2-0, a game they began to dominate in the 10th minute and never really let up. PSV played gutsy and quite well at times, (they could have had three goals) but the Viola played better: they could have had five or six if the ball had bounced differently. In all it was one of those matches where the team that played better won, and now Viola fans can look forward not only to a dogfight in the league but potential silverware in Europe as well.
Fiorentina attacks right out of the gate, but PSV looks bright early. In the 5th our defense looks shaky and Bassy Frey has to make a good save a few moments later. Things begin to change for the good in the 10th when Riccardo Montolivo (who was superb all ninety minutes) chipped a beauty into the box that led to a corner. Gamberini missed an open header a moment later, but Fiorentina had found their groove. Santana was marauding down the right and Montolivo was setting things up on a platter from the center. Pazzini has a good chance in the 21st that goes lacking, but the chances and corners are starting to pile up. Liverani looks better than last week and Montolivo has another nice move in the 27th. PSV’s most dangerous moment of the first half comes in the 36th, but Koevermans is ruled offside.
The big moment comes in the 37th, When Mutu blasts an AWESOME free kick from 30 yards out and puts it in the top left corner. Like our old friend Luca Toni with Bayern, our star striker was stepping up when called upon. (You can see the goal here.) With that one kick he had destroyed PSV’s away-goal advantage and had placed Fiorentina in the driver’s seat. We would go into the break 1-0.
Both teams come out intent on keeping the attack alive, although Fiorentina is now keenly looking for the counter. Montolivo seems to be intercepting every pass PSV attempts. Gamberini plays great defense in the box on a PSV breakaway. Then, in the 53rd, Pazzini is fed the ball on a counter and gets 1-on-1 with the keeper; Gomes stones him, but Mutu is all over the rebound and the Viola go up 2-0. There is much hooping and holleren’ at my house as we realize PSV has to score three now to advance. (Fiorentina are up 3-1 on aggregate with 2 away goals.)
Montolivo almost gets another one in the 54th, and another in the 58th. There’s a hysterical moment in the 63rd when Fiorentina and Mutu almost get a third after some bungling by Gomes. Finally the PSV keeper covers up the ball, and so Mutu starts to jokingly pull the keeper back over the line. The boys are obviously in both good form and humor tonight.
PSV has a number of chances to get back into it (their best opportunity from open play was probably in the 75th) and in the 80th they are awarded a questionable PK off an Ujfalusi bump. When Bassy saves the kick, I actually jump off the couch and yell “Yeah, BITCH!” My wife then looks at me with some loving concern.
The game ends 2-0, and, except for some worries over a knee injury Frey may have picked up in the dying moments, it was nearly a perfect match. Fiorentina advances to the semis.
A great match by Fiorentina. Everyone on the team played very, very well except (in my mind) Donadel, who made many poor passes and kept getting beat in midfield. But otherwise just great stuff all around. Mutu played like a star, Monto was a man possessed, and Frey was Frey. If the boys played like this every week there would be no worries about Champions League qualification. They came out tonight to get an early goal (they did) and then attack on the counter, hoping to get another (they did) while also playing good defense (they did). What more can you ask?
Fiorentina next get Rangers, with the winners going on to the final. (Presumably to play Bayern; THAT game was great, by the way). Rangers are a great club and I have the utmost respect for them. However, if the Viola play them like they played tonight, then we can beat Rangers.
In the meantime, there is no rest for the weary. The Viola have yet another game on Sunday, vs. the team in blue from Milan. I don’t know how they do it; I can barely keep up with the blogging, never mind actually playing the games.
Still, we will talk about Inter tomorrow and Saturday. Tonight is for reflecting on this wonderful cup run, and for daring to imagine that we just might be able to see our own club hoist that trophy in a few weeks.
Forza Viola and good night, everyone.