Viola fans will go to bed happy tonight, awash in their dreams of Champions League play next season. We are so happy because our CL dreams have refused to become nightmares, and our team continues to win its important matches. With today’s win over Palermo, Fiorentina sits (temporarily, at least) seven points ahead of their nearest competitor for fourth place in Series A. Its probably safe to presume that gap will again close to four points again in the morning, but it is nice to be in a situation where the pressure is on our competitors: Milan and either Samp or Udinese MUST win tomorrow or they are out of contention for the Champions League, I think. If there is a loser in the Samp-Udinese game, particularly, than that team is almost certainly out of chances to get fourth. Not only will they be seven back with four to play, but there will be three teams above them. So critical things happen tomorrow. But first, a quick look back at the Viola.
Pazzini starts things quick with a good run and dangerous shot within three minutes; but Palermo is also putting on a lot of pressure. In the 10th Kuzmanovic has a dangerous shot but is saved. Bassy Frey returns the favor for the Viola a few minutes later with two nice stops of his own. In the 13th the ref doesn’t call a PK when Santana is taken down in the box; I threw my notebook against the wall. (And Santana was ineffectual the rest of the game.) Mutu heads one off the post in the 20th, a move which happened because he out-jumped two other defenders. After the 20th minute the game slows a bit, but in the 30th Donadel slams a laser in the lower left corner off two separate rebounds from different shots; his goal makes in 1-0 and that would be all the scoring we would see for today. Palermo’s Jankovic has a terrifying run into the box in the 40th, but his shot goes wide and we go into the half 1-0.
Palermo piles up the yellows in the second half. In the 54th Mutu blows by two defenders to get into the box and crosses it to the spot, but no one is there to put it home. Basically, the rest of the club is back defending, so Mutu’s great move goes for naught. Most of the second half goes like this, with Fiorentina VERY intent on protecting their lead. Not very pretty to watch, mind you, but effective. I will gladly take the three points. Anyway, in the 72nd Rinaudo gets his second yellow and marching orders. Unfortuntaly, the dismissal seems to galvanize Palermo and the ten men remaining spend the last twenty minutes launching attack after dangerous attack at Fiorentina. The Viola could have made in 2-0 but substitute Bobo Vieri can put home the rebound off a free kick in the 74th. In the 77th Bassy makes two HUGE, three-points-saving saves, the second of which might be one of the saves of the season. In the last ten minutes Dario Dainelli is cut on the top of his head and is just DRIPPING blood everywhere the remainder of the match, but stays in the game. Palermo is gutsy in launching all of those attacks, but after five minutes of extra time Fiorentina’s resolute defending pays off and they leave their home fans happy with the 1-0 win.
Fiorentina didn’t play with the flair they are known for under the Great Man, but the practical play results in three points and another step closer to Champions League football. The Viola are now left with four to play, all of which are winnable. If they continue to do what they did today, pretty or not, we will see them in Europe next year.
I will be back tomorrow or Monday with a look back at the weekend as a whole and a look forward to Scotland!