Fiorentina were desperately unlucky not to come away with at least a point at home to Juventus on Sunday night, a final scoreline of 2-1 disguising what was an event-filled match. In the first half, the Viola had a goal disallowed when Federico Bernardeschi was incorrectly ruled offside, and had a strong penalty appeal denied to them when Daniele Rugani appeared to have impeded Marcos Alonso by pulling his shirt.
After Mario Mandzukic had put the visitors ahead, Nikola Kalinic leveled the scores and looked to have rescued a point on 81 minutes, but the home fans in the Stadio Artemio Franchi were still celebrating when Alvaro Morata restored the Old Lady's advantage just a minute later. There was late drama when ex-Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado waas adjudged to have fouled Nikola Kalinic, but the Croatian had the penalty saved by Gianluigi Buffon and went on to hit the underside of the bar with a last minute header.
Whilst Viola fans will be sorely disappointed with the defeat, tonight's performance was indicative of the relationship between those supporters and the team that they so passionately follow. A stunning choreography was displayed before the game in the Curva Fiesole, the result of hours of hard work and planning in order to encourage a stirring performance against their rivals from Turin.
With the exception of a 3-1 victory over Sassuolo, Fiorentina came into the difficult fixture on the back of six terrible performances that were lacking heart and fighting spirit, something that usually embodies the Viola even in defeat. Tonight, the team turned those negative displays around, spearheaded by Gonzalo Rodriguez.
The Argentinian led by example in typically assured display and even finished the game playing up front. With 21 career goals in Serie A, this is not as strange as it may seem but it was his defensive work which really set him apart. Statistics courtesy of Whoscored.com show that the Captain made four tackles, six interceptions and one clearance during the match and registered a 92.5% passing success rate. If the Viola are to rebuild their squad in the summer - along with team-mate Borja Valero - Gonzalo must remain at the club.
21- Gonzalo Rodriguez has scored 21 goals in Serie A, at least 11 more than any other defender since 2012/13. Bomber pic.twitter.com/3r5I1R4jvl— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) April 18, 2016
It may be a bitter pill to swallow, and it may seem like a team like Fiorentina who have been so near to success on so many occasions are always the unlucky ones. But Juventus are on an incredible winning streak and have the quality and experience to secure the three points even in the most adverse of circumstances.
If winning was the only way to enjoy the sport, then there would be little support for teams outside of Europe's elite. Tonight, Paulo Sousa's men gave their all and did justice to those fans who unconditionally show their loyalty to the famous purple shirt and to the City. Disappointment is a running theme, but this summer the owners must back the team in order to build a squad capable of mounting a credible challenge next year.