With less than five minutes of the ninety remaining, there was a real danger that Fiorentina would only take a point from their home game with San Marino. But as we’ve seen many times this season, this team has a real fighting spirit and will keep on going until that final whistle.
The team’s preparations for this one may have been overshadowed by the news of Tatiana Bonetti’s move to Atletico Madrid. The manager, Antonio Cincotta was yet again unable to be with the team due to his recent positive Covid19 test, and there are still three players unavailable for the same reason. Stephanie Breitner, Camilla Forcinella and Martina Piemonte had also missed the recent Supercoppa semi-final and final. Added to the injury list this week, which already included Marta Mascarello and Michela Catena, was Cláudia Neto.
San Marino manager Alain Conte also had to deal with numerous players unavailable because of positive Covid tests, and called up three players from the Primavera to the first team squad.
Nicola Melani, standing in for Cincotta, decided to bring Stéphanie Öhrström back in goal, after Katja Schroffenegger had played in both Supercoppa games. Janelle Cordia kept her place at the back from the last league game in December, lining up alongside the ever dependable Louise Quinn and Frederikke Thøgersen. Greta Adami completing the back four, having appeared as a sub in the Supercoppa final.
With Neto unavailable, Bonetti no longer at the club, and Abigail Kim left on the bench, this gave a different look to the team, with Lana Clelland, Sara Baldi and Margherita Monnecchi all starting, in support of our top scorer and almost ever present Daniela Sabatino. The midfield pair of Valery Vigilucci and Tessel Middag completed the line-up.
The first-half at the Gino Bozzi stadium ended scoreless, with Fiorentina unable to create any real clear cut chances. Baldi did play a good ball into Sabatino but Margherita Salvi in the San Marino goal got there first. Then it was San Marino who against the run of play managed to get the ball to Giulia Baldini in the box, but under pressure from Middag her shot hit the side netting.
Monnecchi was then sent through but the keeper was off her line quick to snuff out the danger. Sara Baldi then picked up a poor clearance from the keeper, and after her first attempt was blocked by the Japanese midfielder Shino Kunisawa, with the ball back at her feet, Baldi rounded the San Marino defender Alessia Venturini but Salvi made up for her mistake and got down to save Baldi’s effort.
The last chance of the opening half came from a corner, as we’ve often seen this season it was Louise Quinn who rose highest to meet Clelland’s ball in, but her header was just too high.
After the break Fiorentina re-emerged with Alice Tortelli having replaced Clelland. As they still struggled to get the opening goal, San Marino created another chance. Raffaella Barbieri went past Tortelli but was stopped by Quinn just outside the box, she then managed to play the ball back to Baldini who hit a first-time shot which rocked the crossbar. This was followed by Fiorentina also hitting the crossbar, Middag playing the ball back to Adami who’s long range effort rattled the San Marino goal.
With almost twenty minutes gone in the second-half, Fiorentina made two changes, Martina Zanoli coming on for Cordia and Abigail Kim replacing Monnecchi. Just four minutes later and Fiorentina finally found the net. Adami’s ball into the area was poorly dealt with by Venturini and when the ball fell to Tessel Middag she made no mistake as she scored her first goal for the club.
Things that make me happy... Coffee, lambs in the spring time, a cup of tea and a biscuit, puppies, winning AND when @tesselmiddag scores her first goal for Fiorentina ⚜️ #TheDutchAngel pic.twitter.com/jUSBuEB4kh— Louise Quinn (@louise_quinn4) January 17, 2021
After only six minutes however, the teams were back on level terms. The ever dangerous Baldini was judged to have been fouled in the area by Zanoli and from the spot Barbieri made no mistake, with her fourth successful penalty from four attempts this season.
With the clock ticking down, and just when it seemed that Fiorentina would have to be happy with just a point, Kim recieved the ball out wide, she played it into Sara Baldi, Baldi pulled it on to her left foot and from outside the box hit a beautiful strike into the corner of the goal beyond the diving Salvi.
San Marino made two late changes to try to salvage a draw from this one, Sofia Pirini replaced Baldini and new signing Nika Babnik came on for Nausica Costantini. It was Fiorentina however who made the game safe. With four minutes of added time played, who else but Daniela Sabatino finished off the challenge of San Marino with a beautiful strike from outside the box which went over Salvi and into the roof of the net. Game over and a 3-1 win for the Viola.
Sara Baldi certainly took her chance to shine, she spoke after the game of how the more experienced players such as Louise Quinn had told her to shoot when she had the chance, and she definitely took that advice.
While the performance certainly wasn’t their best to date, as Nicola Melani admitted after the game, the most important thing from this match was to get the three points. Mission accomplished, and with Empoli going down 3-0 at Sassuolo on Saturday, it allowed Fiorentina to join them in fourth place in the table.
Sassuolo continue to impress, recording their eight win from eleven Serie A games this season. They opened the scoring early against Empoli, Kamila Dubcová finding the net after just four minutes. This was the Czech midfielder’s eight league goal of the season, she scored two of those against Fiorentina back in October. Four minutes before half-time and Valeria Pirone who had provided the assist for the first goal, grabbed her seventh of the campaign. Five minutes from the end and Pirone was replaced by Valeria Monterubbiano, and in added time the substitute scored her first of the season.
Also on Saturday, Florentia San Gimignano had a 1-0 win at struggling Pink Bari. German defender Tamar Dongus scoring inside the first twenty minutes. This win put them temporarily ahead of Fiorentina in the table before Sunday’s games.
The other game from Saturday saw Milan keep the pressure on leaders Juventus with a 1-0 win away to Hellas Verona. Much travelled English forward Natasha Dowie scoring the only goal of the game in the first-half, her header finding the bottom corner of the net.
On Sunday it was business as usual for top of the table Juventus, with a 3-0 win away to Inter. After a scoreless first half, it was Serie A top scorer Cristiana Girelli who opened the scoring from the penalty spot nine minutes after the break. Aurora Gallia and Sofie Junge Pedersen were the other two scorers as Juventus ended the first half of the season with maximum points.
Also on Sunday, Roma remained just a point behind Fiorentina in the table with a 3-2 home win over bottom of the table Napoli. The visitors, without a league win so far this season, took a surprise lead within the first fifteen minutes. Bulgarian forward Evdokiya Popadinova scoring from a Martina Fusini assist. Roma managed to get back on level terms and go in front before half-time with goals from Annamaria Serturini, and Andressa Alves from the penalty spot. Napoli levelled the game with a penalty of their own, put away by French midfielder Sarah Huchet. It was former Fiorentina defender Elisa Bartoli who grabbed the winner for Roma with just over 25 minutes left to play. Another former Fiorentina star, Elena Linari, was an unused substitute for Roma, having just arrived from Bordeaux.
With the first half of the season now complete, here is how the league table looks:
- Juventus 33 points
- Milan 30
- Sassuolo 25
- Empoli 17
- Fiorentina 17
- Roma 16
- Florentia 16
- Inter 14
- Hellas 10
- San Marino 8
- Pink Bari 3
- Napoli 1
Here are Fiorentina’s league results so far:
- 22 August Fiorentina 4-0 Inter
- 30 August Napoli 2-5 Fiorentina
- 6 September Fiorentina 3-2 Florentia
- 3 October Fiorentina 1-3 Sassuolo
- 11 October Juventus 4-0 Fiorentina
- 18 October Fiorentina 0-1 Hellas Verona
- 7 November Roma 2-2 Fiorentina
- 14 November Pink Bari 0-2 Fiorentina
- 5 December Fiorentina 0-1 Milan
- 13 December Empoli 1-1 Fiorentina
- 17 January Fiorentina 3-1 San Marino
- Daniela Sabatino 9
- Marta Mascarello 3
- Tatiana Bonetti 2
- Louise Quinn 1
- Stephanie Breitner 1
- Greta Adami 1
- Abigail Kim 1
- Tessel Middag 1
- Sara Baldi 1
Up next for Fiorentina is an away trip to Inter on Sunday, a lunch-time kick-off, 12:30 CET. When the sides met on the opening day of the season back in August, Fiorentina recorded a 4-0 win. But this Inter side has improved since then, and are just three points behind the Viola in the table, so Fiorentina face another stiff test away from home.
Fiorentina will actually travel to face Inter for two weeks in a row, as the following weekend they will clash in the first leg of their quarter-final tie in the Coppa Italia. The second leg at home will follow two weeks later, and between those Coppa games there will be a home league game against Napoli on February 7th.
The highlights from the first half of the season have undoubtedly been the last minute Champions League win in Prague and the recent Supercoppa semi-final win over Milan. While impressing in the cup competitions, it’s been a tough league campaign so far. The squad lost important players such as Alia Guagni, Ilaria Mauro and Alice Parisi before the season started and most recently Tatiana Bonetti has moved on.
There have however been very impressive performances from the new players, Daniela Sabatino is the second highest goal-scorer in Serie A while also scoring 4 in the Coppa Italia and two very important Champions League goals.
Irish defender Louise Quinn has been a rock at the heart of the defence, and has also shown the danger she possesses in attack, especially with her height and heading ability from set-pieces. This has allowed her score three goals in total so far this season, she opened the scoring in the away win over Bari in the league, in the Champions League she also scored the first goal in the home tie against Slavia, and most recently Quinn grabbed the winner in that Supercoppa win over Milan.
I... I don’t know what to say about the music Florentina have put to Louise Quinn’s first goal for the club pic.twitter.com/UiHAs43XUR— Kathleen McNamee (@kathleen_mcn) November 17, 2020
Who said defenders can't be flashy?— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) January 17, 2021
Louise Quinn may be a centre back but she's still got the flicks ✨pic.twitter.com/GJJbDtWiPg
Tessel Middag has been a consistent performer in the team’s midfield, and her goal in yesterday’s win will surely give her even more confidence. Sara Baldi hasn’t had too many chances to impress so far, but that will surely change, she put in a superb performance yesterday and also grabbed her first league goal, having already scored in the Coppa Italia.
Katja Schroffenegger has shared the goalkeeping duties with club captain Stéphanie Öhrström and has certainly proved herself to be an able replacement. Martina Piemonte has settled in well on her return to Serie A and has also scored 3 goals in the Coppa Italia. Still only 18 years of age, Martina Zanoli has been impressive at the back.
Portuguese international Cláudia Neto has showed her class in the middle of the pitch, and let’s hope she won’t be out for too long with her recent injury. Our latest signing, American Abigail Kim has managed to settle into this squad really well. She has already opened her scoring account in the league in the draw at Empoli and also grabbed the equalizing goal against Milan in the Supercoppa. She brings a lot of pace to the side and gives the team much more attacking options, and has linked up really well with one of our top players this season, Frederikke Thøgersen.
We also have some promising young players coming through, Margherita Monnecchi started yesterday, and the 19 year old is definitely a player to look out for in the future.
It promises to be an exciting second half of the season, along with the Coppa Italia, we also have the Champions League Round of 16 to come. We will finally discover who our opponents will be when the draw takes place on February 16th and those games will take place in March.
Women’s football in Italy still has a long way to go to reach the standards of other leagues, and there is a lot than can be improved upon in terms of professionalism. Until then we will always be at the risk of losing our top players. But this team deserves our full support, they give us 100% all of the time. So as the second half of the season is about to kick off all that’s really left to say is Forza Viola!