Udinese 2 - FIORENTINA 2
Fiorentina fans both in Italy and abroad had trouble watching this frenetic stop-start game. Away supporters were technically banned at the Friuli due to stadium reconstruction, while the multitude of late Serie A kickoffs (and more importantly, the timing of Barcelona vs. Real Madrid) made television viewing options next to zero. All the same, the odd neutral that watched this game likely enjoyed this entertaining game more than the frustrated Fiorentina faithful.
Udinese has been one of Fiorentina's bogey teams of recent times, with the notable exception of the (very nervous) two-legged victory in the Coppa Italia semifinal last year. Combine that with Fiorentina arriving on the back of an incredible tour-de-force of games (and successes), it was inevitable that mental if not physical tiredness was going to play a large part. Andrea Stramaccioni set up his team to be tough to beat, conceding the ball to Fiorentina and keeping things tight at the back. Vincenzo Montella elected to start the game without lock-pickers Matias Fernandez and Mohammed Salah, and with David Pizarro still coming back from injury; this lack of invention soon began to tell as the Viola were unable to create clear cut opportunities.
The home side defensively doubled up well on Joaquin, denied Gomez the ball in the first half, and a poor Borja Valero was unable to get the Fiore maneuver going. In other words, the Udinese game plan worked to perfection, and the hosts took the lead through their defender Molla Wague, who poked home after a bouncing ball wasn't cleared from a corner kick. After 15', the game set itself up to be very difficult for Montella to manage. The stats (for once) tell the story of the game: Fiorentina had nearly 60% possession, but were outshot by Udinese (12-10).
For a short spell in the second half, however, it all changed in a flash. A brilliant free kick delivery finally gave Mario Gomez a chance in the box, and he nodded it home perfectly. Only moments later, the brilliant Milan Badelj robbed Udinese in their own half and found Josip Ilicic, who slid it across to Gomez, who once again finished tidily. On 54' Fiorentina were stunningly in front, and looked ready for another huge victory.
But Udinese were not to be kept from a share of the spoils on this Sunday night, and created several excellent chances through their pace on the wings, "pace" being a subject that Manuel Pasqual and Nenad Tomovic know very little about. The equalizer came less than 10 minutes after the go-ahead goal from Gomez, with Panagiotis Kone embarrassing Nenad Tomovic on a ball that reached him at the back post.
All in all, a draw away in Udine isn't a bad result, but the fact that Fiorentina held the lead in the second half makes it a bit disappointing. Mario Gomez certainly thought so, and had strong words to spark his teammates after the game. "It was important to start the second half well and we did so, but if we want to fight for 3rd place we can't lose 2 points like this. Were we tired? No, we always play with a different team, there are lots of teams that play every 3 days. It's a question of the desire to win." It's precisely that winning attitude that Fiorentina fans have grown accustomed to over the past month, and, perhaps because of the past spell of extended good form and cynicism, Borja Valero was more philosophical today. "We can lose two points, it's a shame, and we could have won, but we can lose them."