Fiorentina face Cremonese in the second leg of the semi-final in the Coppa Italia at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Going into the return game with a 2-0 advantage, let’s hope we’ve learned the lesson from the Lech Poznań tie.
We can also take a look back at a similar situation in the Coppa Italia, which should serve as a warning to anyone who believes Fiorentina are already into the final. In two-legged semi-finals in the competition, there is one previous occasion in which we faced a return home leg in the same condition as this season.
Back in 1998/99, Fiorentina had won the first leg, 2-0, away to Bologna. The return game turned out to be anything but a formality. On February 18th, without the injured Gabriel Batistuta, Fiorentina came away from the Renato Dell’Ara with the win thanks to goals from Carmine Esposito and Rui Costa.
Giovanni Trapattoni had seen his side’s title challenge fade with the injury to Batistuta against Milan in early February. Now, over a month later, the Argentinian was back in the squad, but given the result of the first leg he was left on the bench for the start of the return in Florence.
Esposito was again up front, this time alongside Anselmo Robbiati. Trap also had Francesco Toldo in goal, and the likes of Rui Costa, Sandro Cois, Christian Amoroso, and Moreno Torricelli in his side.
Former Viola manager Carlo Mazzone was on the Bologna bench, and his side included Francesco Antonioli in goal, Stefano Bettarini on loan from Fiorentina, and Swedish midfielder Klas Ingesson.
There was also a young Brazilian in Mazzone’s side, though not quite as young as people thought at the time. Luciano, or Eriberto, had joined Bologna at the start of that season, but he would later land himself in trouble with the authorities when he admitted he had obtained false papers to hide his real age.
After just 18 minutes of the game in Florence, Bettarini’s cross found Jonatan Binotto who’s slow but precise header was enough to beat Toldo. The goal did little to wake Fiorentina from their slumber, although Trapattoni did replace defender Giulio Falcone with forward Luis Oliveira before the half hour mark.
After the break it only got worse. Trappatoni sent on Guillermo Amor, a player who had seen much success in his long career at Barcelona. Amor would see a little less love from Fiorentina fans, and much less time on the pitch in his two seasons in Florence.
Mazzone, meanwhile, called on two attacking players, Russia’s Igor Simutenkov, and a proven Serie A striker in Giuseppe Signori.
Beppe Signori was now 31 years old and had just joined Bologna at the start of that season. Signori would go on to spend six seasons at the club, and it was his pass back to Binotto which allowed him to score his, and Bologna’s, second goal of the night. Twenty minutes after the break, and the tie was level at 2-2.
Of course, back in those days the away goals rule was very much still in place, so another Bologna goal would spell disaster for Fiorentina. Trapattoni had been hoping to give Batistuta a run out in the last few minutes of a tie which had been expected to be over at that stage.
Instead, Bologna’s second goal saw Batigol immediately replace Esposito. Esposito did have a chance to score in the first half but is effort was well saved by Antonioli.
There were no further goals in normal time, and the game now went into extra-time to decide who would reach the final. Within eight minutes, Fiorentina finally found a goal. Tomáš Řepka’s shot from a corner took a deflection off the back of Cois which took it past Antonioli.
Bologna were unable to find another goal, and two minutes from time Fiorentina sealed the win. Batistuta did have two chances to settle the tie but it was Rui Costa who scored from the penalty spot after he had been taken down by Giovanni Bia.
Fiorentina had suffered and sweated, but in the end came back to claim their place in the final. (They went on to lose out to Parma on away goals)
A 2-0 win is certainly a good result to take into the return leg at home, but nothing should be taken for granted. Fiorentina should know that more than most after their recent scare against the Polish club in Europe. The good news is, Cremonese have never beaten Fiorentina before, but for now, the job is only half completed.