Such a shame for Juve… they almost scored another 3 points in a difficult away game, but as is often the case in games like these, one of their ex-players took their hopes away. The Stadio Artemio Franchi of Florence was devoid of all Bianconeri supporters (because the match was considered “at risk”) but it didn’t stop the ‘Old Lady’ from getting on the scoreboard first, thanks a Vincenzo Iaquinta goal exploiting a defensive mistake. However one minute from the end, the Viola obtained a penalty kick after Nicola Legrottaglie handballed a Bobo Vieri header inside the box. Adrian Mutu transformed the spot shot to tie the game to a final 1-1 scoreline.
The match reserved very little tactical surprises: the Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli picked his usual 4-3-3 line-up, fielding attacking trio Semioli-Mutu-Pazzini and leaving Vieri on the bench as a wild card substitute. His colleague Claudio Ranieri on the other hand, opted for a standard 4-4-2 formation with Nicola Legrottaglie preferred to Domenico Criscito in center defense, and Iaquinta getting the start over captain Alessandro Del Piero.
The first half took a while to pick up, because for the initial 15 minutes both teams were stuck into a ‘study period’ mode, observing each other and gradually trying to find their own pace. The first one to push the match into the right direction was Fiorentina’s Adrian Mutu, attempting a stunning 30m volleyed effort that missed the crossbar by only a few inches!
However, while the ‘wake-up call’ was certainly meant for his teammates, Mutu’s effort ended up profiting his opponents instead: minutes later Almirón obtained the ball for Juve in the center, tried to feed it forward but found the header of Alessandro Gamberini. The Viola defender’s clerance however only landed as far as Iaquinta, who cooly controlled the ball and placed an instep shot to the far right of Frey’s goal. 1-0 Juve, and the 4th goal for the ex-Udinese striker. There were some doubts on David Trezeguet (in offside position) obstructing the view of the Viola keeper, but the goal stood.
The Fiorentina reaction did not take very long to come: from the edge of the Juve box, Riccardo Montolivo armed a right-footed effort, Almirón deflected the shot forcing Gigi Buffon to make a supersave with his legs. Onto the other end (no time to breathe in this match): Pavel Nedved armed a shot from outside the box, Frey jumping up to deflect into corner. The confrontation of the two best goalkeepers of Serie A was pretty exciting stuff to watch, as the half ended on a 1-0 scoreline for Juventus.
In the 2nd period, Prandelli decided to bring out his wild card, and put on yet another striker on the field: off Zdravko Kuzmanovic, enter Bobo. Fiorentina’s clear offensive intentions put the Juve defense under pressure, but also left the Viola team very exposed to counter-attacks. On one of these, Iaquinta found himself free into space, ready to slide the ball to Trezeguet onto the right! The Frenchman’s instantaneous strike however found Frey’s feet ready to clear the danger. On the opposite side: a great cross by Franco Semioli found Dario Dainelli’s header, but his effort was over the bar.
More changes for Fiorentina brought in Massimo Gobbi and Anthony Vanden Borre, while Juventus had yet another chance to put the nail in the coffin: great work by Iaquinta on the left side to open up a path for Pavel Nedved. The Czech midfielder could have taken a direct shot on target, but chose instead to pass across for Trezeguet, allowing the Viola defense to clear. On the ensuing rebound, Hasan Salihamidzic’s shot found Frey’s ready hands once again.
Blowing away too many of these scoring chances proved costly for Juve, as 2 minutes from the end of regular time, a cross in the box was hit by Vieri’s header, finding the arm of Legrottaglie. Mutu did the honours to transform the penalty kick, despite Buffon got a slight touch of the ball. 1-1 the final score.
Juventus had just come from two consecutive wins (vs. Reggina and Torino), so in that light a draw vs. Fiorentina may be considered a step backwards. However, given the performance of their players today, the Juve supporters can be reassured: among those deserving of a full vote of confidence we find Vincenzo Iaquinta, absolutely exemplary in his running efforts. Sergio Almiron for his part appeared in better form compared to his recent efforts, and Zdenek Grygera has probably earned himself a fixed starting role as a right-back today. Even Nicola Legrottaglie, who conceded the 89′ minute penalty a bit naively perhaps, can be praised for his otherwise solid performance today.
Fiorentina on their part, showed a lot of resilience and refusal to give up, even after conceding an early goal. This is especially praiseworthy, because the Viola were struggling with fatigue after their 120 minutes in the UEFA Cup midweek. Sebastien Frey is still among the best keepers of Serie A, Mutu gave a solid performance as usual, and Vieri was decisive once again as a 2nd-half substitute by obtaining a penalty kick. Giampaolo Pazzini however still needs to find his best form, and earned yet another early substitution today.
|GOALSCORERS: 23’ Iaquinta (J), 89’ pen. Mutu (F)|
|FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey – Ujfalusi, Gamberini, Dainelli, Balzaretti – Kuzmanovic (46’ Vieri), Donadel, Montolivo – Semioli (67’ Gobbi), Pazzini (67’ Vanden Borre), Mutu. (bench: Lupatelli, Pasqual, Liverani, Pazienza). Coach: Prandelli.|
|JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Grygera, Legrottaglie, Chiellini, Molinaro – Salihamidzic, Nocerino, Almirón, Nedved (71’ Palladino) – Iaquinta (77’ Del Piero), Trezeguet. (bench: Belardi, Birindelli, Zebina, Criscito, Tiago). Coach: Ranieri.|