Gabriel Batistuta is no stranger to setting goal scoring records, and towards the end of November 1994, he broke one which had stood for over 30 years. Sampdoria were the visitors to Florence that Sunday afternoon, for a game which promised plenty of goals. The previous season, Samp had scored more goals than any other team in Serie A, while at this stage of the 94/95 season, Fiorentina were top of the goal charts.
Ruud Gullit had been Sampdoria’s top scorer in 93/94, and after a brief spell back at Milan, he had now returned to Samp. This was just his second game since his return, but at the start of the season, he had scored for Milan against Sampdoria in the Supercoppa, which Milan won after a penalty shoot-out. Sinisa Mihajlović had missed the final penalty for Samp in that defeat, and he was in the starting line-up against Fiorentina, along with the likes of Roberto Mancini, David Platt, Walter Zenga, and Attilio Lombardo. Ex-Fiorentina defender, and another future manager, Pietro Vierchowod was also in the visitor’s side.
Sergio Santarini had previously managed Fiorentina, together with Technical Director, Sven-Göran Eriksson, for two seasons, and the pair were now in charge at Sampdoria for the third season. Claudio Ranieri was still on the bench for the Viola, having brought them back up from Serie B the previous season.
Batigol had scored 16 league goals in that promotion campaign and had now taken Fiorentina close to the top of Serie A having scored in each of their opening 10 league games. The Argentinian had scored 12 goals in the process, and there were eight points between the sides going into this game. Fiorentina had lost just once, away to Inter, while Sampdoria had already suffered three defeats. The previous week, while Sampdoria were held to a draw at home by Torino, Fiorentina had come from behind to win 5-2 at Napoli. Batistuta had scored the last two goals of that game to continue his scoring run.
Sampdoria had the better of the opening half, but it took a penalty to break the deadlock. Mihajlović had earlier had a free-kick punched away by Francesco Toldo, and Mancini had fired high when set up by Lombardo. Six minutes before the break, and disaster struck for the home side when the referee pointed to the spot. Angelo Carbone had replaced the injured Fabrizio Di Mauro after just ten minutes, and it was his foul on Lombardo which brought the penalty. The Fiorentina protests for an offside were in vain, and David Platt put away the spot-kick for his first goal since the opening day of the season.
Fifteen minutes after the break, and the referee pointed to the same penalty spot. This time Rui Costa’s pass had put Daniele Carnasciali through on goal, and although Mihajlović looked to have won the ball with his tackle, Roberto Bettin awarded the penalty. In front of the Curva Fiesole, it was Batistuta against Walter Zenga, and his drive straight down the middle left the Italian keeper with no chance. Bati raced to the corner flag to celebrate, as the Franchi erupted, with plenty of Argentinian flags to be seen in the crowd.
Ezio Pasciutti’s 32-year-old record had finally been broken. Batistuta had actually scored in 13 consecutive Serie A games, although not in the same season. With almost twenty minutes still to play, Fiorentina found themselves down to ten men, when Gianluca Luppi received his second booking of the game for his foul on Lombardo. Just two minutes later though, Fiorentina took the lead, and it looked at first as if Bati had scored again. It did take a decisive deflection off Vierchowod however, and so went down as an own-goal.
Fiorentina were now hanging on for a win, and they received a let off with four minutes remaining when a Claudio Bellucci goal was ruled out for an offside offence by Gullit. With just two minutes left however, the visitors found the equalizer. Mancini’s corner-kick was met by the head of Gullit, who powered the ball home past Toldo, to break Fiorentina hearts.
When Fiorentina had taken the lead, there was the typical cry from the crowd, demanding that Vittorio Cecchi Gori take his place on the marble balustrade in front of his director’s box to celebrate. Never one to turn down an opportunity to be the centre of attention, Vittorio duly obliged. After the game however, he promised it would be the last time, as it seemed to have just brought bad luck. He also admitted that a draw was a fair result, and not a bad one for a Fiorentina side which had been reduced to ten men and also seen three players replaced because of injury. He complimented Ruud Gullit, but said he would never swap him for Batistuta. His only complaint about the referee was his harsh booking for Bati after his goal celebration.
Bati himself suggested that the referees should show more yellow cards for dirty tackles than for goal celebrations. He did say that he would have preferred to have beaten the record without the help of penalties, and was also sorry that his mother wouldn’t have seen the goal: every time he takes a penalty, she hides in the bathroom. Bati also spoke about wanting to continue his scoring run against Juventus the following week, not for himself, he had already broken the record, but for the Viola fans, as he knows what it means to them to win against their rivals.
Fiorentina lost that game in Turin 3-2, without a goal from Batistuta. The team would continue to score plenty of goals, finishing as second highest scorers that season behind Lazio. Gabriel Batistuta would end the season as Capocannoniere, with 26 goals. Samp and the Viola played out another 2-2 draw at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, where Bati scored and Gullit bagged a brace. Fiorentina also knocked Sampdoria out of the Coppa Italia, but by the end of the season, when Fiorentina lost their last two games, Samp leapfrogged them in the table to finish in 8th place with Fiorentina in 10th.
With plenty of goals scored, it was an entertaining season for Viola fans, but with plenty of crazy results. They beat Napoli 5-2 and 4-0, but lost to Juventus 1-4 at home, they beat Torino 6-3, but lost 8-2 at Lazio. Sampdoria went all the way to the semi-final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup. Their two-legged tie with Arsenal ended 5-5 on aggregate and went to a penalty shootout at the Ferraris. After both sides missed two of their penalties, the tie was decided when David Seaman saved Lombardo’s effort.
Gabriel Batistuta’s record of most consecutive Serie A appearances with at least one goal scored, in a single season, has still not been broken. It was equalled though, by a Sampdoria, and ex-Fiorentina player, Fabio Quagliarella, in 2019. His run went from the 10th round of the 2018/19 season to the 21st, and the penultimate game of that streak came against Fiorentina.
It was another high-scoring draw at the Franchi, which saw another penalty for Samp, and another sending off for Fiorentina. Ex-Sampdoria player, Luis Muriel, had put Fiorentina ahead, before Edimilson Fernandes managed to earn himself a second yellow card inside the opening 40 minutes. Samp levelled the game before the break, Muriel put Fiorentina back in front with twenty minutes to play, before Quagliarella bagged his two goals.
The first of those came from a penalty and the second, with five minutes left in the game, looked to have given the visitors the victory. In the final minute however, Fiorentina seized the last chance of the game. Federico Chiesa’s cross into the box was headed on by Samp’s Albin Ekdal, and Germán Pezzella managed to get on the end of it to save a point for Fiorentina.
Quagliarella too, needed a penalty to level Bati’s record, scoring two from the spot in the next game against Udinese. Fabio also finished the season as Serie A’s top scorer, with 26 goals, just like Batistuta in that 94/95 season. The following season, they say Cristiano Ronaldo also equalled the record, but having sat out one game during that run, can we really say it’s the same?
One thing which is different about Bati’s record, is that his started at the beginning of the season. So, the record for ‘Most consecutive Serie A appearances with at least one goal scored since the start of a single season’ still belongs solely to Fiorentina’s Gabriel Batistuta.