This may be the game that people point to and say it was Norbeto Neto's coming of age party. The young Brazilian goalie faced 24 shots from Udinese, made 8 saves, at least three of them of the spectacular variety and led Fiorentina to a 1-0 win at the Stadio Friuli to advance to the Quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia
Fiorentina's Vincenzo Montella was once again forced to juggle his lineup as David Pizarro pulled out of the squad during warmups.
Facundo Roncaglia, Gonzalo Rodriguez and Nenad Tomovic started in front of Neto, while Alberto Aquilani moved over into Pizarro's spot in the middle of the midfield. Matias Fernandez slotted into Aquilani's normal spot next to Juan Cuadrado on the right, while Borja Valero and Manuel Pasqual filled in their normal spots on teh left.
Adem Ljajic returned from injury to play forward with Haris Seferovic.
Despite early comments from Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin that he would field his strongest lineup, Udinese only fielded six starters from Sunday's Serie A draw against Palermo.
Back up goalie Daniele Padelli started in net, with Gabriele Angella, Thomas Heurtaux and Danilo in front of him.
In the midfield, Udinese started Allan, former Viola Andrea Lazzari, Gabriel Silva, Dusan Bašta and Giampiero Pinzi, with Diego Fabbrini and Udi Talisman Antonio Di Natale up front.
The match started off with Udinese pressing and earning an early free kick, which Di Natale skied over the net. Adem ljajic came back with a long shot of his own, but it was easily saved.
In the 8th minute, Udi made a break on net as Gabriel Silva broke free of his defender and Danilo got him the ball, but Silva headed it way over the net.
In the 13th minute, Fernandez got a shot off, but it was just wide. 5 minutes late Fernandez threw himself into the fray and got a hand to the face for his trouble. He had to be carted off and have a bandage plastered over his upper lip.
A few minutes after that, Aquilani dribble the ball through a defender or two, but lost control and dove at a defender with his cleats up and got himself a yellow card.
Play went back and forth until the half hour mark, when Fiorentina was finally given a call by the ref and earned a free kick deep in the Udi zone. Ljajic took the free kick, but it was saved.
6 minutes after that, after some nice play in midfield by Fernandez, controlling a ball by going back towards his own zone, then turning around, Matigol then drove forward and unleashed a pass to Valero who was charging down the sideline. Basta slid to intercept the ball, but was unable to stop it from getting through to Valero, who settled it, dribbled back into the box and shot. The ball deflected up into the air and into the upper corner of the net and Fiorentina were ahead, very much against the run of play, it must be said.
The goal seemed to light a fire under Udi, and they got off the next, and last, three shots of the half, but were unable to break through and it went to the half 1-0 Viola.
The second half started off much the same way the first half had ended, with Udinese getting the first three shots of the half, but Cuadrado was able to earn a free kick fairly deep in the opponents zone and Pasqual stepped up to take the free kick. His shot was just a bit too high and deflected off the cross bar.
The next six shots were from Udinese, so Montella shuffled his deck and brought in Stevan Jovetic for Ljajic.
The move seemed to make an immediate difference as Fiorentina began to take the bulk of possession back from the home team with Fernandez and Jovetic each getting shots off.
Montella then brought on some defensive substitutions, bringing in Romulo for Cuadrado, and a little later, Giulio Migliaccio for Aquilani.
Udinese turned it back around and took the next seven shots, which turned out to be the last of the match, as Neto and the defense stepped it up at the end to keep Udinese out of the goal.
Possession ended up nearly even, with Udinese owning 51%, but shots taken were heavily in the home squads favor 24 to 8, however only 8 Udinese shots were on target, while Fior had 3. Udinese had 10 corner kicks to none for the Viola as well.
19 fouls were called on Fiorentina compared to only 11 on Udinese and several Fiorentina players voiced their displeasure to the ref during, and after, the match.
Neto(8) - 8 saves for the youngster, at least three of them of the "oh my god" variety. My Man of the Match, without question.
Roncaglia(7) - made several saving tackles, forged ahead on offense a few times, still made a few too many rash tackles tho. He needs to calm down just a tiny bit.
Rodriguez(6.5) - had one early back pass that nearly wound up on Di Natale's foot for a goal, but steadied himself and was a rock for teh rest of the match. At least one block on a shot that might have been a goal.
Tomovic(6.5) - Bit of a slow start and seemed to play forward a lot more than I'm comfortable with, but all in all a pretty good match
Cuadrado(5.5) - Horrible day passing the ball, might have gotten a bit frustrated as he was being taken down time after time with no call from the ref. One drive he was clearly pushed over right outside the box and the call was completely ignored. I think he needs some rest and decompression; Romulo(NA) - Only got about 10 minutes in and basically fior was just holding on by then
Fernandez(6) - really hard to rate this guy. He might be an 8 and then a minute later a 4. very inconsistent, but I think overall, he had a decent match. He did serve the ball that eventually led to the goal.
Aquilani(6) - Playing for Pizarro, he was not in his optimum role, and getting a yellow fairly early took him a bit out of his game, but he held his own fairly well; Migliaccio(6) - Saved two balls late and was wide open for a score but Cuadrado idn't get him the ball. Nice to have some iron and backbone to bring in for late in the match
Valero(7.5) - Second man of the match. Wonderful dribbling and a nice shot. he got a bit frustrated late with the officiating as well, but stuck with it.
Pasqual(6.5) - Nearly put another free kick away, but for the cross bar. Was up and down the field a lot as well. Got in the ref's face at the end of the match and told him what he thought of his performance like a captain should.
Ljajic(6) - a bit rusty after his time off, Viola had no forward pressure for much of the match, but he controlled the ball well and linked up with his teammates. all in all an acceptable performance ; Jovetic(6) - Spent a fair amount of the time he was on the pitch on the ground and really didn't get many calls to show for it, thanks ref. had some nice passing plays with the midfield and Seferovic as well. ok
Seferovic(6) - Didn't really stand out, but played under control, linked up well with the other players, but was never really a danger to Udi either. also OK
Montella(6) - I think he did well with the lineup, getting players out there that could do what was needed and made the right sub when necessary. I really think he manages the lineups a lot better than the last two guys, although it must be said that his deck of cards is a lot fuller than last season.
Gianpaolo Calvarese(4) - Bought into nearly every Udinese dive until the last 15 minutes of the match. Seemed like every time an Udi player hit the ground, there was a foul called. Conversely, more often than not if a Fiorentina player hit the ground, nothing was called. Fernandez was hit in the face, no call. An Udi player deliberately knocked a ball out of bounds with his hands, while the free kick was given, no yellow card was issued. 19 fouls were called on Fior, only 11 on Udi and 4 of those 11 fouls were called in the last 10 minutes when the ref seemed to try to even it up. Another one for my hate list...
"Let’s just say compared to other games we did not play well, but the desire to get a result was the same," said Montella.
"Udinese did well and created scoring opportunities, but we were clinical and I really liked the way the team approached it.
"We hope David Pizarro can recover soon, as he had a problem in the warm-up, but it didn’t seem serious."
"Football is made up of incidents. We were close to a goal so many times, but conceded basically an own goal down to a deflection that allowed Fiorentina to qualify," said the Coach.
"The Viola are a great side with a young Coach like Vincenzo Montella who will go far. We lacked the requisite clinical edge and sharpness. It’s a shame, but we played well and I think our fans will stand by us."
In Serie A, Fiorentina have one more match before the winter break, a tricky trip to Sicily to face a Palermo squad fighting relegation. This trip is never easy. Viola will be without Roncaglia due to yellow cards. Pizarro was unable to play today, but they don't think it was serious.
In the Coppa, the next match is a rematch against AS Roma on January 9th. It will be a single elimination match, winner advances to the Semi-finals, which will be home and away.
The regulation states: If two teams that compete for home games on the same field have home matches on the same day, the winner of the Competition or, alternatively, the Company ranked best in the league at the end of the season prior to that which takes place in the Competition shall have the right to play at home, while the other undergoes an inversion of the field.
Since Lazio finished higher than Roma last season, it seems like the match will be played at the Franchi and the League site is stating that fact. It's possible, however, that they may play the match on Tuesday or Thursday in Rome. Stay tuned for the exact day, time and place.
Saturday, December 22 9:00 ET Palermo v Fiorentina
Sunday, January 6 9:00 ET Fiorentina v US Pescara
Official End of the First Half of the Season
Wednesday, January 9 Time TBD Fiorentina v AS Roma (Coppa Italia)
Sunday, January 13 9:00 ET Udinese v Fiorentina
Sunday, January 20 9:00 ET Fiorentina v Napoli
Sunday, January 27 9:00 ET Catania v Fiorentina