April 13th 2003, a sunny Sunday afternoon in Florence, as over 22,000 fans watched the league leaders take on the team at the bottom of the table. This was of course the Serie C2 league table that Fiorentina, or Florentia Viola as they were still called, were leading. Going into this game, Fiorentina were seven points ahead of their nearest challengers Rimini, with five rounds left to play. The season hadn’t been as straightforward as those numbers might have you believe. The owner Diego Della Valle had needed to bring in a new manager after just nine league games, with the team struggling to keep pace with the leading pack. There then followed a struggle at the top with Rimini, but by now, the finishing post was almost within sight.
The opponents that day were Brescello, a side struggling at the foot of the table, and running out of games to claim a play-out place to avoid automatic relegation. The week before they had managed a 1-0 win at home to Poggibonsi to keep those slim survival hopes alive. This was in stark contrast to the previous season, when they had finished third in the Serie C2 Group B campaign. They missed out on promotion when they lost the play-off final to Sambenedettese.
In the Brescello starting lineup in Florence was Andrea Conti, son of Roma legend Bruno, and brother of Daniele. Like his brother, he started his football career with Roma, making two appearances in Serie A back in the 1996/97 season. Unlike his brother, who went on to have a long career with Cagliari, Andrea would spend his career down in the lower leagues with a number of different clubs.
Fiorentina were without their injured captain Angelo Di Livio for this game. Manager Alberto Cavasin went with the following starting eleven: Ivan, Traversa , Cherubini, Ripa, Baronchelli, Andreotti, Ariatti, Longo, Riganò, Nicodemo , Cicconi.
The first half saw the away side defending their goal against numerous Fiorentina attacks and the home side finally made the breakthrough just before the half hour. Massimo Cicconi, set up by Luca Ariatti, scored his third goal since arriving at the club in January from Catania. Shortly after the opening goal and Raffaele Longo almost doubled the lead, but his shot hit the crossbar. A minute later, eight minutes from the break, and another Longo effort was parried away by the Brescello keeper, Ivan Soldano, but Marco Andreotti was there to knock home the rebound.
Fiorentina were very much in control of the game after the break, but were caught much too often by the Brescello offside trap. It wasn’t until eleven minutes from time that they managed to add a third goal. Christian Riganò was on the score sheet yet again, set up by Longo. This was the Viola striker’s 26th league goal of the season, equaling the records of Gabriel Batistuta and Kurt Hamrin.
The final ten minutes of the game saw three more goals, but only the first of those was scored by Fiorentina. Two minutes after scoring, Riganò turned provider when his cross was headed home by Giuseppe Baronchelli. This was the defender’s first goal for the team since he joined in January, just like Cicconi, from Catania.
With six minutes left to play and the Viola 4-0 up, the referee awarded the away side a penalty for a handball by Roberto Ripa. Second half substitute Fausto Ferrari was the man who put away the spot-kick. With the game in added time, there was still time for Ferrari to beat Andrea Ivan once more, the assist coming from Antonio Bernardi. Despite those two late goals, it was a comfortable win for Fiorentina, and one that took them even closer to automatic promotion.
That same day, Rimini were held to a 1-1 draw at Poggibonsi. This gave the Viola a nine-point lead over their nearest challengers, needing just three more points to guarantee automatic promotion. As for Brescello, they were still six points adrift at the bottom of the table, after Sassuolo also lost on the same day at Gualdo.
For Brescello, their situation wouldn’t change and at the end of the season they would find themselves relegated to Serie D. This would eventually lead to the collapse of the club, and the new club, Polisportiva Brescello, now compete in the Emilia-Romagna regional league, the sixth level in Italian football. As for Florentia Viola, they would need to travel to Fano the following week, on Easter Saturday, to see if they could finally celebrate promotion.