It’s been a while since Fiorentina have enjoyed a home league win over Roma, and now would be a great time to put that record straight. Okay, in January 2019 we did have that amazing annihilation of Eusebio Di Francesco’s side in the Coppa Italia. That 7-1 win under Stefano Pioli was a rare bright spot in a season which saw Fiorentina go from bad to worse, especially after a change of manager. Vincenzo Montella took over near the end of that campaign, but the following season, a home game against his former club would signal his exit.
In December 2019, a 4-1 win for Roma brought an end to Montella’s second spell in charge. Milan Badelj scored Fiorentina’s only goal that day, in between goals from Edin Džeko, Aleksandar Kolarov, Lorenzo Pellegrini, and Nicolò Zaniolo. Last season saw the return of another former manager when Cesare Prandelli took over from Beppe Iachini. In March of last year, Roma again came away with all three points, after a 2-1 win. Prandelli resigned after another three matches and Iachini returned to the bench. Beppe never got to play a home game against Roma in his two recent spells at the club, but he did lose both of his away games in the capital.
The 2018/19 season saw Roma claim a point in Florence, when Pioli was still in charge of the Viola. Current Roma player Jordan Veretout had put Fiorentina in front from the penalty spot, but a late Florenzi goal meant Pioli’s side had to settle for one point. It was certainly better than the previous season which had seen Roma come away from the Franchi with all three points. Veretout was again on the score sheet, but his goal came between two goals by Brazilian Gerson, who would join Fiorentina on loan the following summer. Giovanni Simeone then headed home a Cristiano Biraghi cross to make it 2-2 at the break. After the interval Roma again took the lead, with Kostas Manolas getting the final touch from a corner. This time the Viola were unable to find an equalising goal, and three minutes from the end Perotti made it 4-2 and it was game over.
Our last league win at home against Roma came back in September 2016. If that doesn’t seem too long ago to some of you, the face that Wojciech Szczęsny was in the Roma goal, Mo Salah was in their side, and both Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti were still involved may change your mind. Luciano Spalletti was on the Roma bench that season, with Paulo Sousa in charge at Fiorentina. Spalletti’s side had made a decent start at this early stage of the season. A 4-0 win on the opening day against Udinese was followed up with a 2-2 draw in Cagliari. A week before the trip to Florence, they had managed to overcome Sampdoria 3-2 thanks to a last minute Totti penalty, in a game which had been interrupted due to heavy rain. After a long delay, that match would continue, but on the same day, Fiorentina’s game in Genoa would need to be postponed after less than half an hours play.
In their two opening games, Sousa’s side had lost at Juventus but had managed a narrow win over Chievo. With the game kicking off on Sunday night, Roma knew that a win would put them ahead of Juventus who had lost at Inter, and level at the top with Napoli. Spalletti’s Roma had gone 20 league games without defeat, but they were already out of this season’s Champions League after defeat to Porto in the play-offs. Their most recent game had been their first group game in the Europa League on the Thursday, a draw away to Czech side Viktoria Plzeň.
While new signing Alisson had been chosen for that game, the Brazilian keeper now at Liverpool, would return to the bench for the trip to Florence. Wojciech Szczęsny was the undisputed Roma number one when it came to the league, and the other reserve keeper alongside Alisson in Florence was former Fiorentina keeper Bogdan Lobont. Having joined Roma back in 2009, he was now mostly involved with helping the goalkeeping coach in training.
Francesco Totti also started this game on the bench, as he would be for most of what would be his final season as a player, causing plenty of tension between the player and the manager. Daniele De Rossi, meanwhile, had been a doubt after the last training session before leaving for Florence, but would recover to take his place in midfield alongside Kevin Strootman, Diego Perotti, Radja Nainggolan, with Mo Salah in support of Edin Džeko.
Fiorentina had recently signed young Polish keeper Bartłomiej Drągowski, but Romanian Ciprian Tătărușanu was still the first choice of Sousa. Gonzalo Rodríguez, Davide Astori and Nenad Tomović made up the back three. In midfield there were some new faces, Carlos Sánchez on loan from Aston Villa and Hrvoje Milić signed from Hajduk Split, while Cristian Tello had his loan spell extended from Barcelona. Alongside those three was Milan Badelj, with Josip Iličić and Borja Valero behind Nikola Kalinić. Borja Valero will also be at the Franchi tonight, as he finally gets to salute the Viola fans at the stadium.
On the Fiorentina bench was 19-year-old Federico Chiesa, but it was the other homegrown talent Federico Bernardeschi who had been expected to start. After impressing in the previous season, his relationship with Sousa had turned a little sour at the start of this campaign. Behind the tension was Bernardeschi expressing publicly, on more than one occasion, that he wished to go back to what he saw as his ideal position, closer to the goal. Sousa’s response, was to bench him for the first four games of the season, including the most recent outing in the Europa League. Fiorentina had also returned from a Europa League away trip on Thursday, after a scoreless draw with Greek side PAOK.
Before kick-off there was a minute’s silence for former Italian President, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who had passed away to days before the game. There were some whistles from the crowd, but the biggest disturbance came from the visiting fans, who preferred to insult the opposition rather than respect the dead.
Roma took control of the opening half, and Džeko had a couple of early chances, sending a header just wide from an Alessandro Florenzi cross and also forcing a save from Tătărușanu. Another fine cross from Florenzi found Džeko with just the keeper to beat, but his first touch let him down and he fired his effort high over the bar. Before that Roma appealed for a penalty in vain, and Spalletti would also complain about the decision after the game. It looked more like a collision between Tomović and Džeko, and Nicola Rizzoli signalled that play could continue.
Fiorentina’s only real chance of the first half saw Borja Valero’s header hit the woodwork. Just before the break Mo Salah drove his shot from just outside the area high above Tătărușanu’s goal, and the Curva Fiesole submerged their former player with whistles. After the interval Fiorentina created the first chance, with Milić managing to get in a decent shot from a Tello cross but Szczęsny got a hand to it.
Poor control from Tomović had given the ball to Nainggolan who passed to Perotti, but his effort was easily saved by Tătărușanu. Sousa then made the first change of the game, sending on Bernardeschi for Tello. A corner kick gave Kalinić a great chance all alone in front of goal but his header into the ground bounced kindly into Szczęsny’s hands. A disappointing Mo Salah was then replaced by Stephan El Shaarawy, Khouma Babacar then came on for Iličić and with 12 minutes remaining, Francesco Totti finally made his entrance, with Perotti making way.
Two minutes later and Florenzi’s cross found Nainggolan and his shot came crashing back off the post. Less than two minutes after that scare, Fiorentina finally made the breakthrough and found the winning goal. Milan Badelj took a shot from outside the area which beat Szczęsny. On its way to the goal, the ball passed through the legs of Kalinić who was in an offside position, but Rizzoli judged him to be too far from Szczęsny to have influenced the action. With VAR today, it’s a goal which would possibly see Fiorentina’s celebrations cut short.
There was still time for Roma to threaten an equaliser, but Tătărușanu saved from El Shaarawy and Totti’s long range effort went harmlessly wide, and Fiorentina hung on to claim all three points. On the same day, current Roma boss José Mourinho had also suffered defeat. After Manchester United’s 3-1 loss to Walter Mazzarri’s Watford, the Portuguese manager, just like Spalletti, would also blame the referee for his side’s downfall.
Sousa, meanwhile, was full of praise for his team, while also acknowledging their good fortune “when you play with courage and this intensity you also manage to be good and even lucky against an important team like Roma”. Unfortunately for the Portuguese, good fortune didn’t always help his team, and while Roma finished the season in second place, Fiorentina fell to eight, and also suffered a 4-0 defeat when they faced Spalletti’s side at the Olimpico.
The previous season Mo Salah had opened the scoring and then been sent off as Roma won 2-1 at the Franchi. With three minutes left in the game, and Roma 2-0 up after Gervinho had doubled their lead in the opening half, Salah managed to earn himself two yellow cards in quick succession. After earning a booking for a foul in the Fiorentina area, his gesture of disagreement with Daniele Orsato saw him make his exit before the final whistle. Babacar did pull a goal back right at the end, but Roma held on for the win against Sousa’s side.
Before that defeat, Vincenzo Montella had tried in vain to beat his former club when they came to the Stadio Franchi. For three seasons, Montella’s Fiorentina were unable to defeat Roma in any of their six league meetings. The 2014/15 season, Montella’s last before his more recent return, was his best campaign when it came to clashes with Roma. They had knocked Roma out of the Coppa Italia and followed that up by also dumping them out of the Europa League, having drawn the first leg in Florence. Their league meetings saw Fiorentina fall at the Olimpico on the opening day of the season before welcoming Roma to the Franchi in January.
Mario Gómez had opened the scoring in the opening 20 minutes, only to see former Fiorentina player, Adem Ljajić claim a draw for Roma shortly after the interval. The previous two seasons had seen Montella lose all four league games against his ex-club. In 2013/14 Nainggolan scored the only goal of the match, and the previous season, Montella’s first in charge, it had also taken just one goal for Roma to take all three points. It was another former Viola who did the damage, with Daniel Osvaldo scoring the injury time winner.
In December 2011, Delio Rossi had recently taken over from Siniša Mihajlović, and while it would all go horribly wrong before the season ended, when Roma came to Florence it looked like he was about to turn things around. Luis Enrique was already under pressure on the Roma bench, but after this game he would also have the fans turn against him, having left Totti on the bench for the whole game while suffering a heavy defeat.
After 16 minutes, Juan fouled Stevan Jovetić in the box, and was punished with not just a penalty awarded against him but was also shown the red card. Jovetić stepped up and sent his spot kick past Maarten Stekelenburg. Just before half-time Alessandro Gamberini headed home Riccardo Montolivo’s corner to double Fiorentina’s lead. In the second half, Jovetić brought about another red card when he was hacked down by Fernando Gago who received his second booking of the game and Roma were down to nine men.
With five minutes left on the clock, Roma incredibly now only had eight players on the pitch. This time a Juan Vargas corner was headed towards goal by Gamberini, but Bojan Krkić decided to take on the keeper’s role, raising both arms and sending the ball around the post. Another red card and another penalty. With just a few minutes left, and already two goals up, Jovetić showed his team spirt by allowing substitute Santiago Silva to take the penalty. El Tanque made no mistake, and a 3-0 win was secured with his only ever goal in a Fiorentina shirt.
As we’ve seen, Fiorentina would then go another four home league games against Roma without success. Since Sousa’s victory in 2016, we have gone another four league games at the Franchi without a win over Roma. Maybe the time is just right for another win, and whether it comes from a narrow lucky victory like the last one, or a demolition against a self-destructive Roma as in Delio Rossi’s success, I don’t think Fiorentina fans will really care. At this point of the season, it’s the three points that matter most, and after four consecutive defeats we really need a return to winning ways. Plus, it would also be a great time to gain our first ever win over José Mourinho!