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A short story of Fiorentina and Crotone

Gasperini, Jurić, an 800 mile bike ride, Davide Astori..all have a part in the brief history of Fiorentina vs Crotone

ACF Fiorentina v FC Crotone - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

As Crotone have only competed in Serie A for two seasons prior to this one, there’s not a lot of history between the sides. So let’s take a look at the short and recent story of Fiorentina vs FC Crotone at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

Crotone achieved promotion to Serie A for the fist time ever when they surprisingly finished in second place in Serie B in 2015/16. Surprising because they had just managed to avoid relegation from Serie B the previous season, but the new man in charge, Ivan Jurić, attained what no other Crotone manager had ever been able to do.

Which takes us to the 2016/17 season, and the first clash between Fiorentina and Crotone. Viola fans are well aware of Ivan Jurić as a manager these days, his exploits with Hellas Verona bringing him to the attention of a lot of Italian clubs, and he was rumoured to be the man to replace Giuseppe Iachini before Fiorentina decided to keep Beppe on for the start of this season.

Jurić however was not the man in charge when Crotone travelled to take on Fiorentina in October 2016. Having achieved the historic promotion for the club, he decided to take over at Genoa. Not a surprising move when you realize that the man he was replacing there was Gian Piero Gasperini, and if you know the history between these two men.

Gasperini had won promotion to Serie B as manager of Crotone back in 2003/04, when Jurić was a Crotone player. When Gasperini then took over at Genoa in 2006, one of the players he brought to the club was Ivan Jurić. In their first season at the club, they won promotion to Serie A (along with Juventus and Napoli). They remained together at the club for another four seasons, and in their last season there, as Jurić had hung up his boots, he became assistant manager of the club’s Primavera team.

When Gasperini then took over at Inter in 2011 he brought along Jurić as his assistant. The pair didn’t last long at the club but they would continue to work together at Gasperini’s next club, Palermo. Jurić eventually moved back to Genoa to take over the Primavera team before his first job as first team manager with Mantova, and a season later he was at Crotone and taking them up to top flight football. When Gasperini moved on from Genoa to take charge at Atalanta, who else could take over but his former player and assistant, Ivan Jurić.

All of this was a roundabout way of letting you know that the man in charge of Crotone in 2016/17 was Davide Nicola. The man who has just taken charge at Torino, having guided Genoa to safety last season.

When Crotone arrived in Florence for the 10th round of Serie A 2016/17, they were rooted to the bottom of the table, just as they are today. This season after 9 games, they had only managed to achieve 2 points, back in 2016/17 they had an even worse start with only a draw at home with Palermo to show for their efforts.

Fiorentina at that stage of the season had 12 points, 6 ahead of the relegation zone. For a club that were now used to Europa League football, points were needed to get back to challenging for European qualification, and a home win against bottom of the table Crotone was the minimum expected. Just three days prior to this midweek fixture they had recorded a 5-3 win away at another newly promoted team, Cagliari. Nikola Kalinić had scored a hat-trick in that game, but for the match against Crotone Paulo Sousa preferred to start with Khouma Babacar alongside Cristian Tello in attack.

The only other change from that win was Milan Badelj coming in for Borja Valero. Crotone arrived on the back of five defeats in a row, the latest a 2-1 home loss to Napoli. In the Crotone starting lineup that day was Federico Ceccherini. This Wednesday night game in Florence would be played under torrential rain, which caused the game to be stopped early in the first-half. The referee sent both teams back to the dressing rooms for 46 minutes after testing the pitch.

When the game restarted, it was Crotone who looked to have benefitted more from the unexpected break in play. A cross from Aleandro Rosi looked to pose little danger when Ciprian Tătărușanu appeared to have dealt with it, but when the ball slipped from his grasp Diego Falcinelli was quickest to react to stab the ball home. Falcinelli would later join Fiorentina on loan from Sassuolo in January 2018, a move which saw Babacar going in the opposite direction.

Sousa decided to send on Kalinić for the second-half in place of Maxi Olivera. Later on Federico Chiesa came on to replace Federico Bernardeschi. Bernardeschi had gone on loan to Crotone for the 2013/14 season, where he scored 12 goals in 38 games in Serie B. In the second-half Cordaz had his turn to let the ball slip from his hands. A free-kick taken by Iličić looked to have been saved easily before it escaped from under him but defender Gianmarco Ferrari was there to send it behind to safety.

Cordaz made up for that almost costly error with good saves from both Badelj and Tello. Just when it looked like Crotone were about to record their first win of the season, and first ever victory in Serie A, with five minutes left to play it was defender Davide Astori who would save Fiorentina. When a corner-kick was delivered into the danger area, it was missed by everyone, with a defender’s attempted clearance only finding it’s way to the feet of Astori who made no mistake with his first touch from close range.

At the time this goal set a curious record for being the latest goal scored in Serie A, hitting the net at 11:18pm. That record has since been beaten by Dejan Kulusevski when he scored for Parma v Genoa in June 2020.

Crotone picked up their second point of the season then, and when the sides met again for round 29 of the season in March 2017 they were still deep in relegation trouble. They were now second from bottom, and having only picked up one point in the previous seven games they were still eight points behind Empoli in the safety zone. Despite all this, the club still kept faith with Davide Nicola, unlike their fellow strugglers Pescara and Palermo who had both changed their managers at this stage. Even Genoa had sacked Ivan Jurić in February, although he would return to take charge again in April.

For the game at the Stadio Ezio Scida this time Sousa opted to start with both Chiesa and Kalinić. It would be the Croatian striker who would grab all three points for the visiting side just when it looked like Crotone would earn themselves another draw. Cordaz was in fine form that day in the Crotone goal, but right at the end Kalinić’s lob beat the onrushing keeper, and it was heartbreak for Crotone.

While Paulo Sousa would fail to bring Fiorentina high enough to qualify for Europe, Davide Nicola pulled off a miracle at Crotone. Having spent the whole season in the relegation zone, their run of form towards the end of the season meant that they still had hopes of survival on the last day. They had recorded just one defeat in their previous eight games, away to league winners Juventus, and had managed to win five of those matches.

On that final day of the season, Crotone would need to win at home to Lazio and hope that Empoli would slip up away to an already relegated Palermo. In the end Crotone won 3-1 while Palermo honoured their fixture by defeating Empoli 2-1. At the midway point of the season, Davide Nicola jokingly promised that if his Crotone side managed to somehow avoid relegation he would cycle the 800 miles that separated Crotone from his home city of Turin. Nicola kept his word.

The following season, 2017/18 the sides would again meet in October, this time in Crotone. While Nicola was still in charge for the home side, Stefano Pioli had taken over at Fiorentina. After ten rounds of Serie A, Crotone were doing better than the previous season, already with 6 points in the bag and no longer in the relegation zone. Fiorentina had also improved, and were up in 7th place.

Within the first 20 minutes, Fiorentina found themselves 2-0 down. Goals from Ante Budimir and Marcello Trotta giving the hosts an early lead. Budimir had scored 16 goals for the club in their promotion season from Serie B and was now back at the club on loan from Sampdoria. The Viola pulled a goal back just before the break, Marco Benassi the scorer. There would be no further goals in the second-half though, and Crotone pulled off an important victory.

Davide Astori came in for a lot of criticism after the game, deemed responsible for both the Crotone goals, our captain was always willing to admit his mistakes.

By the time the sides met again at the end of March 2018, Davide Nicola was no longer with the club. He had resigned in December after a 3-0 loss at home to Udinese. Walter Zenga took over, but when they travelled to the Stadio Franchi his side had fallen back into the relegation zone. Fiorentina meanwhile were still recovering from the shocking death of their much loved captain Davide Astori earlier that month.

Since then they had won their two games and were in ninth place in the league. Before the game on Easter Saturday, there was a minute’s silence at the Franchi and in all the grounds around Italy that day as a mark of respect for the death of former Fiorentina manager Emiliano Mondonico.

This time it would be Fiorentina who would get the early goal. After just three minutes, Cordaz parried a shot from Valentin Eysseric and Giovanni Simeone was there to tap home the rebound. No further goals in the first half, and then twelve minutes after the break Marco Capuano received a second yellow card for an elbow on Chiesa and Crotone were down to ten men. Five minutes later and it was Chiesa who grabbed the second and final goal of the game after a 1-2 with Riccardo Saponara.

The players still at both clubs from that last meeting in 2018 include Crotone goalkeeper, and now captain, Alex Cordaz, Lybian midfielder Ahmad Benali and Giovanni Crociata. For Fiorentina, captain Germán Pezzella, Eysseric, and two unused subs that day, Nikola Milenković and Drągowski.

Fiorentina would finish that season in eight place, and there was to be no miracle for Crotone this time around. Two defeats and a draw in their final three games meant a return to Serie B. Now after just two seasons they are back in the top flight, and despite again having a disastrous start to the season, with clear signs of improvement lately they’ll be hoping for another miracle survival.