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Cagliari 2 – Fiorentina 1: Out of the Driver’s Seat

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Before I say anything else, I must admit that it was nice to watch Fiorentina play a team that was, you know, trying to win the game. It was a very good game, with lots of end-to-end action, and Cagliari played great and deserved to win the match. It’s good to back in Series A.

Aside from the aesthetics of the match, however, it is now clear that Fiorentina fins itself in very deep trouble. Today’s loss, combined with Milan’s impressive and convincing victory over Inter in the Milan derby, has thrown Fiorentina out of 4th place in Series A. They are now a point behind Milan with two games to play. It is still, of course, a very close race, but being out of fourth means that Milan (and not the Viola) now control the destiny of who finishes fourth; if Milan wins out, they will get the CL spot. With any sort of slip-up by Milan, Viola can still finish in the 4th spot, but they can also win out and still finish fifth. In other words, things are grim.

First Half

Happily (I thought) Auquafresca was out of Cagliari, while Montolivo was out on suspension for Fiorentina. Semioli started on the wing in place of Santana. The game started brightly with attacks by both teams, and I wrote in my notebook that “it was nice to be playing a team actually trying to score.” In the 7th Davide Biondini got loose on a breakaway for Cagliari and is only prevented from scoring by a nice save from Bassy Frey. From here until the half the match was largely dominated by Cagliari. In the 20th Jeda scored on a header for Cagliari off a corner to make it 1-0, and for the next ten minutes they continued to attack dangerously. By the 28th the great man had seen enough, so he switched Gobbi to defense (he had been playing in the midfield) and brought on Liverani for Pasqual. Things improved slightly (The Viola had semi-dangerous attacks in the 35th and 42nd) but Cagliari deserved go into the half with the lead.

Second Half

Santana came in for Donadel to start the second half and things do markedly improve. The announcers think that the Viola are now playing a 4-2-4, which seems correct. I like the attacking spirit, but their defense is shambles today, and in the 52nd fiorentina gave up a second goal. At this point I assume we are going to lose the game, but Santana comes back moments later and gets a goal back essentially scored while Cagliari was still celebrating. Over the last 30 minutes both Fiorentina and Cagliari attack impressively, but like in the Rangers game, the Viola just can’t put one in, in spite of gilt-edged chances squandered by Mutu in the 62nd and Pazzini in the 65th and 74th. (Pazzini was also just wide on a bicycle kick in the 92nd that would have been the goal of the decade.) In extra time Mutu stupidly argued a call and received a second yellow; it was bad enough that he missed the last few moments of the match, but he will also miss the next through suspension, just making the task of Fiorentina’s comeback all the harder.

Big Picture

As I said, Fiorentina is now in 5th, a point out of the last champions league spot. I still believe they have the easier schedule over the final two matches, but Milan is clearly a team on the way up while the Viola might be going in the opposite direction. Mutu’s absence will only make next week’s task harder. However, I will allow that the team looked a step slow today and was undoubtedly affected by the heavy playing schedule over the last few weeks. Perhaps having a full week off (not something the boys have enjoyed recently) will give them back the spark they need to finish strong.

One final note: I obviously follow the team very, very closely, but I still found myself shocked when the FSC announcer stated that Fiorentina hadn’t won a road game in the league since the Juve win. That trend MUST change, as the season’s last game is at Torino.

It’s been a tough week for Viola fans everywhere. In the space of fours days we have lost the UEFA Cup and have dropped out of the CL spot in Series A. Let’s use the week to regroup, reenergize, and come back strong. Here’s to a better week coming up.

I’ll be back soon with any Fiorentina notes.