Fiorentina were confident heading into this one, as Crotone were winless in Serie A and had just 1 point from a draw at home. The recent goal explosion from the Viola had the fans ready for an attacking clinic, but the rain started coming down in buckets a few hours before kickoff, soaking the field completely through.
The first 22 minutes were absolutely chaotic. The ball disobeyed the laws of physics, leading to some entertaining moments with grown men sliding 3 meters when they went to ground, but it certainly wasn’t football. Referee Claudio Gavillucci stopped it and, after tossing the ball around to see that, yes, the pitch was unplayable, called a halt to proceedings. Both teams trudged into the tunnel to see if they’d be able to resume. Big shout out here to the Fiorentina fans, who stayed out in the uncovered stands, singing and shouting the entire time.
After an hour or more of watching, Gavillucci decided to continue the match, much to everyone’s surprise. The decision certainly suited the visitors, as they had no interest in actually passing the ball around a pitch that simply wouldn’t allow for that kind of activity anyways. Disaster struck in the 24th minute, though, when Ciprian Tatarusanu spilled a Marcelo Trotta shot that Diego Falcinelli reacted quickest to, poking it home under the Romanian number 1.
Crotone immediately withdrew 9 men into the box to try and hang on, hoping that a passing team like Fiorentina would have their rhythm disrupted by the meteorological conditions. They weren’t wholly wrong; the Viola struggled to build anything on the waterlogged grass of the Franchi and went into halftime with a shocking deficit against what’s been far and away the worst team in the league.
Fiorentina started the second half much more brightly, in part due to an astute move from Paulo Sousa: he removed leftback Maxi Olivera and threw on striker Nikola Kalinic, shifting his team to more of a 3-4-1-2. Fiorentina kept the ball in the Crotone half pretty much the rest of the period, swinging in a series of crosses to Kalinic and Khouma Babacar.
The best chances, though, came from Josip Ilicic, who spun in a number of dangerous free kicks that easily could have scored. Crotone keeper Alex Cordaz, though, had the match of his life, denying the Viola at every turn. The closest one was at the hour mark, when Josip perfectly placed a shot that squirted under Cordaz, only to see it cleared off the line. In the 82nd minute, Cristian Tello got in behind the defense, only to see Cordaz parry his attempt, too.
But the Crotone custodian could do nothing in the 84th minute, when Tello swung in a corner that dropped to Davide Astori on the back post. The Italian international duly swept home, bringing the scores level and igniting some hope for the Viola. Tello nearly proved the hero when he went on a run that started in his own half and carried the ball into the Crotone area, only to be knocked over when he tried to cut it back. Gavillucci waved play on. One more tremendous Cordaz save—this time on Mauro Zarate—and it was all over.
While the 2 dropped points is frustrating and could have major repercussions at the end of the year, it’s hard to fault the team too much for dropping them. The conditions of the pitch and the weather in general turned this one into a free-for-all more than a soccer game. It’ll doubtless lead to renewed calls for Sousa to step down, but this one really isn’t his fault. It was just a series of unlucky, unfortunate, and unpredictable events.
Also, another pair of earthquakes hit central Italy during this match. Remember, yall, this is just a sport. There’s way bigger stuff happening out there.
Honestly, I’m not doing ratings this game because it’s not fair to the players. Can’t criticize a guy for not doing well when the ball literally stops dead on the pitch sometimes for no reason other than how wet it is.