Today in Florence Fiorentina defeated southern guests Reggina 2-0, thus assuring they hold their four-point lead over nearest rivals AC Milan. Fiorentina remain safe in their Champions League spot with six games left to play in the Series A season. AC Milan won yesterday, thus keeping the gap at four, while today Samp also won and Udinese drew. The Viola are also four up on Samp and five up on the Zebras. See my column from earlier this week on their respective schedules as they come to the finish line.
Today’s game, while ultimately satisfying to the Fiorentina fan, was worrying at times. Reggina dominated for stretches (mostly in the first half) and created a number of good chances to score. Mutu’s late strike somewhat masked the fact that today’s game was a very, very close one, but all credit to Frey and the Fiorentina defense for keeping a clean sheet, and to Pazzini and Mutu for getting goals when they could. I never look askance at three points, so I will take the win and move on to the next match. Still, the Viola fan must be concerned. In today’s game (for instance) Fiorentina had played TWELVE more games then their opponents, Reggina. Fiorentina, of course, had just played a hard-fought match on Thursday night v. PSV. They often looked sluggish and tired today (particularly in the first half) despite the win. We will have to hope that the busy schedule does not catch up to them in the last few weeks of the season.
The Great Man starts with a front line of Pazzini, Mutu and Papa Waigo. Interesting. The first few minutes go by as quickly as the play and Montolivo has a fine long shot from outside the box. In the 9th Reggina get the first of two corners in succession. In the 11th there is a virtual mess in the box; the defense look tired and sloppy; Reggina was the more dangerous team so far. In the 19th and 21st Montolivo takes two more very dangerous shots from outside the box. Is the old, good Montolivo back for the rest of the season? I’m starting to think so.
In the 23rd Donadel slides a nice pass to Pasqual on the left wing (who had a fine game) and he puts a cross on the forehead of Pazzini, who slams it home to make it 1-0 to the home club. Good play by everyone in purple all around. I sit up nervously to see if the club fan FINALLY protect a lead.
In the 25th Mutu almost puts a bicycle kick in (that would have been sweet) but Reggina is really putting pressure on the Viola. Frey makes a great save off a corner in the 29th, Reggina clangs one off the post in the 36th, and I write “sloppy, lucky defense” in my notebook. The half ends with a little more attacking by the Viola, but we go into the break 1-0.
Jorgensen comes in to start the second half for Papa Waigo and makes a world of difference. He calms the team down and creates real threats from the right. He only played a half but might’ve been man of the match. Pazzini has a dangerous shot in the 48th, and Dainelli makes a gorgeous defensive play in his own box to preserve the lead. You can hear the crowd at the Artemio Franchi giving him an ovation even on TV. In the 56th Montolivo shots another laser at the opposing keeper. He didn’t score today, but those shots look deadly. Mark my words; he’s going to put in a bomb from 30 yards out at a critical point in the VERY near future.
Frey makes another huge save in the 58th, and Pasqual nails one off the crossbar in the 59th. In the 65th another Pazzini header is saved. Fiorentina is the better team in the second half, but Reggina, to their credit, keep on fighting.
Bobo comes on for Pazzini in the 70th. To be honest, I was disappointed to see the big guy come on, but all the subs, including Vieri, played very well today. I guess that’s why I call Prandelli the “Great Man.” ‘Cause he knows what he’s doing. Bobo has dangerous moments in the 75th and 78th. Monto has another accurate bomb in the 79th. By the 80th the Viola are just trying to kill off the game, and by the 90th they are desperate. Reggina continues to attack and seems to have more gas. Finally, however, in the 92nd, Fiorentina catches Reggina on the counter, and Bobo unselfishly slides the ball to substitute Gobbi in the box, who flicks it on to Mutu who thunders it into the net, thus making it 2-0 and wrapping up the win. It was a fine win, but closer than the scoreline indicated.
A win is a win, and Fiorentina retain their lead over their rivals. All credit to the Viola for gutting it out when they were beat from a heavy playing schedule and a tough match on Thursday night. As we move ahead we will have to see how they respond to playing all these games; will they continue to look sluggish, or respond to the many challenges? Regardless, today should be reserved for celebrating the important win.
I’ll be back tomorrow with news and notes and again before you know it with a preview of the PSV return leg. The games continue to come fast and furious, so I will do my best to keep the posts the same way.