Really exciting stuff at the Stadio Artemio Franchi of Florence today. The match itself was quite enjoyable to watch, with plenty of opportunities for either side (even though in the end, Inter-”bulldozing tank”-nazionale got the upper hand again, through goals of Jiménez and Cruz). The real class act however was at the end of match, when the entire Fiorentina team lined up close to the stadium tunnel and awaited their Inter opponents to shake hands, one by one (just like in rugby matches). With the heart-warming tribute of the Viola fans to their coach Cesare Prandelli (who recently lost his wife Manuela due to a long-time illness), we’d wish to see things like that more often on a soccer pitch, things which at the end of the day, matter more perhaps than the 3 points in the league rankings.
As for the match itself, this was another exam which Inter passed with flying colors. Surfing the wave of their Champions League victories and the good results against Roma and against Juve (win and away draw respectively), Roberto Mancini’s boys got rid of the Viola obstacle, by earning a 2-0 away victory at the Stadio Franchi of Florence. Providing the Inter glory: Jiménez and Cruz, two players which coincidentally had gotten on the scoresheet earlier this week against Fenerbahce, and who tonight contributed to add another match to Inter’s loss-less Serie A streak.
Before the match begun, the entire Franchi stadium paid tribute to Cesare Prandelli and his wife Manuela, with a long round of applause and hundreds of white roses thrown off from the Franchi stands, to precede the traditional minute of silence. Then, the Fiorentina coach concentrated his mind on soccer (for a full 90 minutes at least) in which he had to deal with pretty much an improvised defensive set-up (due to a last-minute injury of Dario Dainelli). This forced the repositioning of Alessandro Potenza to the right wing and Tomas Ujfalusi in the center.
Prandelli’s football worries didn’t limit to his defense however, because the easiness by which the Inter players breezed through the first 45 minutes of play was almost alarming. A true football lesson for Fiorentina it might be said, which can be effectively summarized by two words: Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The magnificent Swede needed two touches on the ball: the first to set up Luis Jimenez on the right side of the box, the second to set up Julio Cruz on the left side. One-touch passes, transformed into assists because the two South Americans didn’t fail the winning finish: 45 minutes and it was 2-0 Inter.
Fiorentina in all this? They kept alive through the efforts of Giampaolo Pazzini, who was desperately trying to find some space for the finish, but the Inter defense (Walter Samuel and Julio Cesar above all) were very much on their guard. On the other end Inter were having fun: Ibrahimovic came close to his 13th Inter goal of the season, while Maicon was being absolutely devastating with his forward dribbles and runs into space. Not only that, but Roberto Mancini’s team were only marginally affected when they lost one of their key players (Olivier Dacourt) to injury after 20 minutes of play: the Inter coach simply replaced the Frenchman with Maxwell, and pushed Cristian Chivu at the heart of the Nerazzurri midfield (a move which already proved successful in the Champions League this week).
In the 2nd half, Fiorentina finally got a more territorial possession of the ball inside the Inter half, but Christian Vieri’s (on for Pazzini) and Adrian Mutu’s efforts were still hitting solid rock in an Inter defense composed of sturdy Samuel and Cordoba. Meanwhile, Zlatan was starting a one-on-one war with Viola keeper Sebastien Frey, who was absolutely determined in keeping a tight lock onto his goal (aside from the 2 tallies of the first half, that is). Biggest testament to this fact, was the 3-chances-in-succession obtained by the Swede in minute 55, which found on every single occasion the French keeper ready for the parry (the 3rd shot was over the bar). Brilliant skills by the Frey (so good in fact, that he earned the fist high-five by Zlatan, picture that).
With 60 minutes left, Prandelli took out a tired Fabio Liverani for Mario Santana (back from injury), and the Argentine gave the Viola midfield a little bit more spark. However, even Vieri’s best efforts to get on the end of Mutu’s crosses weren’t enough. The match ended on a golden chance for Fiorentina in the 90th, when Franco Semioli exploited a pin-point cross by Mutu and slammed a header from point-blank range into what seemed an almost-guaranteed goal. Julio Cesar however somehow managed to keep it out, summoning his best puppet impression and extending his leg for a jump-parry (you have to see it to understand what I’m talking about). Too late and not enough for Fiorentina, 2-0 Inter the final score.
|GOALSCORERS: 10’ Jimenez (I), 45’ Cruz (I)|
|FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey – Potenza, Ujfalusi, Gamberini, Pasqua – Kuzmanovic (46’ Jorgensen), Liverani (59’ Santana), Donadel – Semioli, Pazzini (46’ Vieri), Mutu. (bench: Lupatelli, Balzaretti, Osvaldo, Gobbi). Coach: Prandelli|
|INTER (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar – Maicon, Cordoba, Samuel, Chivu – J.Zanetti, Dacourt (21’ Maxwell), Cambiasso – Jimenez (82’ Materazzi) – Ibrahimovic, Cruz (73’ Suazo). (bench: Orlandoni, Burdisso, Pelè, Crespo). Coach: Mancini|