Today at the Artemio Franchi in Florence, Fiorentina almost won, and then finally drew in a hugely important Series A match. The draw threw the race for the fourth and final Champions League spot wide open; the Viola now only hold a slim, 2-point lead over their nearest rivals, AC Milan, (who won again and looked great again) while Sampdoria still sit four points back. I am pretty sure the race for fourth is now a two-horse one (which I will explain in a minute) and I’m scared today’s loss might prove extraordinarily costly for Fiorentina.
Today’s game was an exciting, attacking match. The first half was filled with offensive football and physical play in the midfield. There were a lot of longballs over the top from Samp to Cassano, who seemed dangerous the entire game, while Montolivo and Mutu continued to play well for the Viola.
In the second half, Cristian Maggio opened the scoring for Samp with a strike THAT I DIDN’T SEE. (I’ll get to that in a moment.) Things looked grim for Fiorentina when they didn’t respond by the 75th minute. But in the 78th Mutu chased down a cross and crossed it back into the box where Bobo Vieri (I had no idea he was in the game) headed it home. At this point I probably would have been happy with the draw. But Mutu dribbled past his defender in the 84th and was taken down in the box, winning a penalty. (Which he converted.) I was ecstatic, as the Viola went up 2-1. I then missed all of extra time, until the 94th that is, when I saw Daniele Gastaldello head in a last-second ball to tie the game and end it in a draw. I actually awoke my napping wife because of the screaming.
Getting A Bit Off Track…
As my usual readers know, I like to describe the match in some detail. I take notes and all that. Today’s match, however, was broadcast here in the States on RAI, which means that every few minutes the game was interrupted by a brief bit of music from The William Tell Overture (commonly understood as the Lone Ranger Song) and then an extended update from another match. This happens every few minutes, and thus the viewer (i.e me) misses a bunch of action. Inevitably, I missed the first goal, all of the substitutions, and most of extra time. Why the hell any station would broadcast a game, then cut away, and not even show the goal they neglected to show in the first place, is completely beyond me. I subscribe to RAI (and it’s not cheap) so I can see any Fiorentina games not televised on FSC here in the states. I will probably never cancel my subscription, no matter how lousy the channel is, (half a Viola game is better than none at all) but the station still tries my patience some time.
So what does today’s draw mean? As I said earlier, I believe it is now a two-horse race. In spite of their gutsy comeback, Samp is still four points back and still has three killer games remaining, including matches vs. Roma and Juve. They would presumably have to win out and pass two other teams. Both Milan and Fiorentina, meanwhile, are well placed to get that fourth spot. Fiorentina has, by far, the easier of the schedules (see below) and at least still has a two-point lead. Milan, meanwhile, still has to face Inter, Napoli on the road (always tough), and Udinese, who also looked good today. Fiorentina, however, still has at least one (and hopefully two) more UEFA Cup matches to play. Milan, meanwhile, can focus entirely on the league. Thus I would rate their respective chances about even. And boy does that scare me.
I will be spending the remainder of this week looking forward to the big, big return leg with Rangers on Thursday. I would love to get to the UEFA Cup final, and a win on Thursday would make me forget about today’s events right quick.
Be back soon. Forza Viola!