For anyone who has been following Italian football, even for the last 20 years, the name Calcio Padova might not be very familiar. There was a time though when Fiorentina v Padova was a regular occurrence. So why not take a look at some of the highlights of a fixture that has almost 90 years of history?
Calcio Padova is a club that once graced the top tier of Italian football, but since the late 1990’s has been on a mostly downward spiral, including the club going bankrupt. Just like Fiorentina, they too have had their financial troubles, the club going under and having to start again under a temporary new name.
Let’s start with Fiorentina’s last game in Serie A against Padova, which dates back to April 1996, with a crazy 10 goal game at the Franchi, the home side coming out on top. Fiorentina had taken a 3-0 lead with Gabriel Batistuta in the 48th minute, but Padova got to within 1 goal when Goran Vlaović scored two in quick succession around the hour mark, making it 4-3. Further goals from Rui Costa and a Batistuta penalty made the game look secure for the Viola but Padova did manage another goal to make the final score 6-4. Padova ended the season bottom of the table and heading out of Serie A, and have not yet returned.
But our clashes with Calcio Padova go all the way back to 1931, with both clubs in Serie B. Padova had been relegated from Serie A the previous season, while this would be the year that Fiorentina would finally win their first promotion to the top flight. When Padova came to Florence on the 7th June 1931, both sides were battling for one of the two coveted promotion places. The game was played at the Stadio Velodromo Libertas, in Via Bellini, as Fiorentina’s new stadium would not be ready until the start of the following season.
Just a point separated the teams before the game but a 1-0 win for the Viola put them in second place just a point behind Bari. In the end, Fiorentina finished top and would now be competing at the top level of Italian football for the first time. Padova meanwhile would need to wait another season before they too would win promotion.
This gave us our first encounter with Calcio Padova in Serie A at what we now call the Artemio Franchi, back then known as the Giovanni Berta. In November 1932, they played out a 2-2 draw, Padova taking the lead twice but a Vincenzo Sarni goal 5 minutes from time saved a draw for the Viola. At that point, Fiorentina were struggling in the bottom half of the table, 3 points behind Padova. By the end of the season however, and another draw in Padova, Fiorentina ended up in 5th place with Padova back in 14th.
It was Christmas Eve when Padova arrived in Florence for the 1933/34 season, and a resounding 3-0 win for the Viola. Two of those goals came from the Hungarian János Nehadoma. This was a player who having started his career at Pistoiese in Serie B, then had a successful spell in the US, with two Brooklyn clubs, Wanderers and Hakoah. With Brooklyn Wanderers in the 1928/29 season he was joint top scorer in the American Soccer League with 43 goals. He then returned to Pistoia before a spell with Livorno, joining Fiorentina at the start of this season. The Viola finished this season in 6th place while Padova were relegated.
With Padova now in Serie B, Fiorentina joined them there for the 1938/39 season. Padova came to Florence in September, and a 3-1 win for Fiorentina. Fiorentina would finish top of the table at the end of the season, going straight back up to Serie A, while Padova needed to wait for the 1948/49 season for their return to the top.
When they met in the 1949/50 season Fiorentina welcomed an unbeaten Padova side to Florence in November, but Fiorentina ended that nine game run with a 3-0 win. When the sides met again in Padova the following March, Fiorentina again came out on top, but in a much closer affair. The teams served up a seven goal thriller, with Alberto Galassi from the penalty spot giving Fiorentina a 4-3 win.
After another relegation for Padova, they returned to Serie A for the 1955/56 season which would see Fiorentina win their first ever league title. They recorded two 1-0 wins over Padova, in the home game in September Fiorentina eventually grabbed the winner with 10 minutes remaining thanks to a penalty scored by Sergio Cervato. In February of 1956, Guido Gratton got the only goal of that game after six minutes.
Fiorentina stretched their lead at the top to six points over AC Milan with this hard fought victory. By the end of the season, that gap would be doubled as Fiorentina were crowned champions, which also won them a place in the following seasons European Cup, which had only just begun. Padova ended the season in 8th place.
The 1957/58 season saw Fiorentina and Padova meet for the first time in the Coppa Italia. In the first running of the competition since 1943, it would be held after the Serie A season finished. Before that, they would do battle at the top of the table. Fiorentina travelled to Padova in January and took the lead after only 8 minutes through Giuseppe Virgili. Padova did manage to equalize just before the break, and in the second half, a future Fiorentina star, the Swede Kurt Hamrin put Padova 2-1 up. The game finished 3-2 and a rare victory for Padova over Fiorentina.
When the sides met again, for the last game of the season, Juventus were already champions, but there was still a battle for second place to be won. Fiorentina went into the game just a point behind Padova. In the end, Fiorentina put on a show for this last game of the season, already 3-0 up at the break, goals coming from Virgili, Montuori and Julinho. Padova were missing a few of their top players, most noticeably Hamrin, who would join Fiorentina for the following season. Giuseppe Virgili completed his hat-trick with two further goals in the second half, with Fiorentina running up a 6-1 score. A great end to the season for Fiorentina, and Padova did finish in third spot, to this day their highest ever placing.
By the time the teams would meet in Florence at the quarter final stage of the Coppa, Kurt Hamrin had already moved from Padova to Fiorentina, and showed his old club no mercy-after they had taken the lead it was Hamrin who scored the equalizer just before the half hour mark. Two minutes later and another new signing, Gianfranco Petris, scored the Viola winner.
1961/62, and Padova’s top scorer from the previous season joins Fiorentina. Aurelio Milani would end up scoring 22 goals this season for the Viola, joint top scorer in Serie A. He would also be a thorn in Padova’s side when the sides met. In November he scored Fiorentina’s second in a 2-1 win at Padova and in the return game would score another two goals as they ran out 3-1 winners after Padova had gone ahead in just the 6th minute.
Padova ended the season relegated to Serie B, and it would be another 32 years before they would return to the top flight, and 25 years before these two clubs would meet again, this time in the Coppa Italia.
In August 1987, in the first round of group matches they met in Padova where a Fiorentina side that included a 20 year old Roberto Baggio won with a single goal from Ramon Diaz. Padova would not win any of their five group matches, and with no draws allowed, they would end up losing three penalty shoot outs from three.
Padova at this point were still battling away in Serie B, and surprisingly it was here where the sides would next meet for the 1993/94 season.
When the sides met early in the season there was just a point between them, with Fiorentina leading the table. The Fiorentina team that took to the field in Padova featured recent Viola manager Stefano Pioli along with current manager, Beppe Iachini. The game finished scoreless but the main talking point would take place on the sidelines. Massimo Orlando had been sent off just before the hour mark, with Padova already down to ten men, for his reaction to a foul. As he made his way to the tunnel, with the typical abuse coming from the Padova fans he decided to react again, giving the middle finger with both hands to the crowd. Worse was to come- having entered the tunnel, he then looked to gain entry back to the pitch, probably wanting to watch the rest of the game. When his path was blocked by a Padova official, Orlando appeared to have thrown a punch. He would end up with a three match ban for this loss of control.
By the time the sides would meet again in February in Florence, Fiorentina were still on top with four points separating them from Padova who were in third place, four promotion spots available. After this 2-0 win for the Viola however, Padova would slip to fourth place.
When the last day of the season came around, Fiorentina had already been confirmed as winners of Serie B, returning to the top flight after just one season. Padova on the other hand were still in a battle for that last promotion spot, with Cesena just one point behind. Cesena would in fact be away to Fiorentina for the final game, while Padova would travel to a Bari side who had gained promotion.
The centre of Padova was packed with fans, ears glued to radios, listening to what was happening not only at Bari but also in Florence. When Cesena went 2-0 up just after the ten minute mark, there were some who accused the Viola of not even trying. Up to now Fiorentina had never lost at home this season, and here they were already two goals down. There were even ironic jeers from the Curva Fiesole, the home fans accusing the team of having sold the game. With not much happening at Bari, there was plenty to follow from the match in Florence. Fiorentina did pull one back, Francesco Baiano from the penalty spot, but just before half-time Cesena scored again.
So with this game at 3-1 and the game in Bari still scoreless, Padova fans were more than just a little nervous. Things got even worse in the second half, with less than fifteen minutes to go Bari took the lead. A couple of minutes later Padova fans hopes were raised a little when Baiano put away another penalty to cut the score in Florence to 3-2. Just two minutes had passed, when Padova were awarded a penalty of their own. The whole of Padova silent, as Giuseppe Galderisi stepped up, and the city centre exploded when he put away his fifth penalty of the season, and definitely the most important one.
With no further goals in either game, Padova and Cesena would have to travel to Cremona ten days later for a winner takes all play-off. After a 2-1 win Padova were heading back to Serie A after a 32 year absence.
With both sides back in Serie A for the 94/95 season, Padova came to the Franchi in October, taking the lead after 27 minutes but just four minutes later the Viola were level. In the second half, in a lively five minute spell, Fiorentina put the game to bed. Rui Costa scored his first ever goal in the purple jersey with seven minutes gone in the second half. Three minutes later and it was 3-1 and only two more minutes had passed when Gabriel Batistuta put away a penalty for what was already his 8th goal of the season.
By the time Fiorentina traveled to Padova the following March, they were both in need of points, Fiorentina to keep their dream of qualifying for Europe alive, Padova just to survive. Thanks to another Rui Costa goal, Fiorentina came away with a valuable 1-0 win. A poor finish to the season though, saw them end up a disappointing 10th in the table.
Padova meanwhile continued to struggle and in the end would need to face another play-off, this time to remain in Serie A. Finishing level on points with Genoa meant a return to Florence for this vital game on June 10th. After a 1-1 draw, penalties were needed to decide which of these teams would live to fight another season in Serie A, and in front of the Curva Ferrovia, it was Padova, to the relief of their 11,000 fans who made the trip, that would emerge victorious- finally a good memory to take away from the Franchi.
Which brings us back to where I began this story, Padova finishing bottom of the table in 1995/96, their last season in the top flight. Fiorentina and Padova still had one more battle though, which would take place just over two years later when they would meet in the Coppa Italia 1998/99 edition.
Fiorentina travelled to Padova for the first leg and came away with a 1-0 win thanks to a goal four minutes from the end from substitute Carmine Esposito. Padova came to the Franchi two weeks later, but with second half goals from Batistuta and Rui Costa it was Fiorentina who went through and it’s taken until now for the two sides to finally meet again over 20 years later.