Fiorentina edged themselves further away from the relegation mire with a 1-0 victory over Chievo Verona on Sunday in Serie A. Alessio Cerci was the hero, tapping into an empty net ten minutes from time to give La Viola their third win in four league and cup games. The Champions League hopefuls are beginning to find form at the right time and an assault on the European places is still a possibility.
The scarf-clad Sinisa Mihajlovic looked an imposing threat on the touchline and his stance certainly filtered through to his players as they battled their way to victory over their high-flying opponents.
The first chance of an undistinguished first half fell to an unlikely source in Per Kroldrup. The defender was played in by Alberto Gilardino but his close-range effort was well blocked by Stefano Sorrentino at his near post. Gilardino was then the architect again as he provided for Mario Santana but Sorrentino stood firm once more.
The newly reformed Adrian Mutu, full of determination and spirit, tried in vain on three occasions to win back the hearts of La Viola faithful but was unable to force the breakthrough.
Goalkeeper Artur Boruc was making his league debut after his summer switch from Celtic. The Polish stopper was called into action on the stroke of half-time when he denied Davide Moscardelli’s left-footed drive.
Mihajlovic’s words at half-time definitely inspired his troops as there was more determination and style on show after the break. Juan Manual Vargas provided a cross for Gilardino but his close-range header forced a good save from Sorrentino. Mutu then came close on two more occasions either side of a Vargas effort which again stinged the fingertips of Sorrentino.
However, with just ten minutes remaining, substitute Cerci applied the final touches after some great work from Gilardino and Mutu. The resulting goalmouth scramble worked kindly for the former Roma man and he could not miss with the goal at his mercy.
There was still time for Chievo to ruin Fiorentina’s hard work and Kevin Constant shot wastefully wide, then forced Boruc into action with a flick from close range but the Viola held on to claim the three points.
The win catapults Fiorentina up to 11th in the table and they are now just three points from catching Sampdoria in sixth place. A small turn in fortune has certainly stemmed the tide looming over Mihajlovic a few weeks ago, and his position as Coach is being cemented further by each game they play.
The news of Sebastian Frey’s injury looked a damaging blow for the Viola, typifying the season so far with its busy treatment table, but Boruc certainly stepped up to the plate in Sunday’s contest.
The keeper, who has endured a frustrating start to his Viola career, has now finally been handed the chance to earn his crust, and on Sunday took it with aplomb – not that it surprised Poland legend Zbigniew Boniek, who revealed last week he thought Boruc should have been Fiorentina’s number one anyway.
“Boruc is undoubtedly stronger than Frey. He has personality, he never lets the ball slip and I like the way he conducts himself in goal,” the former Juventus and Roma star commented.
“He is the Polish international goalkeeper and he has proven himself in the Champions League and was one of the best goalkeepers of the last European Championships,” he concluded.
No doubt Boniek’s words could be perceived as bias towards his fellow countryman, and they certainly bemused a section of Viola fans, but with Frey out for the rest of the season, Boruc will now be under the spotlight regardless.
Next up for Fiorentina is a trip to the capital to take on Roma. Their opponents are perched in seventh place after a fantastic 2-0 win against their rivals and league leaders Lazio. La Viola must now step up another gear to gain something from Wednesday’s fixture, but judging by recent performances, there will be quiet optimism inside the Stadio Olimpico. The faithful will be hoping a rejuvenated Gilardino and the rebirth of Mutu will provide a genuine threat to Claudio Ranieri’s outfit.
Mihajlovic knows he still has a way to go before he can realistically win the hearts of his Club’s fans, but more performances like those of late will go some way to securing a decent season.