The Gigliati returned from Anfield with three points and the leadership of Group E in the bag. The tifosi welcomed their heroes at the Peretola airport in Florence with chants and songs to show their appreciation for a historic achievement, as la Viola became the third Italian team to leave Anfield victorious in European competitions.
Fiorentina will be the only seeded Italian team for the Round of 16 Draw which takes place next week on December 18. The last gasp victory essentially guarantees the club additional revenue as the three points won translates into better financial return than a single point. The hero of the evening was on-form striker Alberto Gilardino who is having one of his best seasons considering his contribution and invaluable goals. He assisted on Martin Jorgensen’s fine strike before expertly taking his late winner with stride.
Gilardino’s positive form has been a much needed relief for Coach Cesare Prandelli given the continued absence of Adrian Mutu and the intermittent presence of Stevan Jovetic who is struggling with injury and fitness woes. The accomplishment by la Viola is even more eye-catching considering some critics placed Liverpool followed by Lyon as the two teams to likely emerge from this group. The Gigliati gave little attention to names and history as they proceeded to win the last five games in the group following the controversial defeat to Lyon. The French were perhaps worthy winners but the manner of Gilardino’s unfair sending-off for a supposed intentional elbow tipped proceedings in Lyon’s favour.
The club’s management, coaching staff and players were all visibly pleased with the result which gives Italy some credibility in the midst of questions raised about the standards of Serie A. The Italians will now be represented by both Milan sides and the Tuscan club following the Bianconeri’s shameful exit to Bayern Munich. Coach Prandelli admitted earlier in the season he was uncertain whether his players can finish on top of the group but he insisted his side can achieve positive results against any team when playing to the devised strategy. The players proved the validity of his words as they mounted a comeback after falling behind at half-time in an intimidating environment.
Despite the significance of topping the group, Prandelli opted to make a number of changes as Marco Marchionni and Juan Manuel Vargas started from the bench. The respected Coach was obviously keeping an eye on the weekend trip to Chievo. The Mussi Volanti will offer a tricky test as they are quite the balanced side capable of grinding results both home and away. They have already amassed 21 points to exceed expectations and rank above the likes of Lazio and Palermo. In fact, la Viola will enter the clash with only a three-point advantage in the standings.
The Coach will be gunning for victory as he acknowledges the next game will be against second place Milan who are going through a positive patch highlighted by their European qualification and their meteoric surge through the standings. Montenegrin sensation Jovetic was rested against the Reds as he will likely be featuring from the start against the Chievo in preparation for the Rossoneri encounter. The ability of the Coach to rotate his lineup and make necessary changes without compromising the result contrasts with Bianconeri Coach Ciro Ferrara’s lack of experience and limited managerial knowledge. Despite having a considerably bigger budget in Turin, Ferrara has been struggling to once again show players alone cannot achieve success. This in itself is a testimony to the rising stock of Coach Prandelli who continues to impress given the limited resources when compared with the elite sides, the Nerazzurri, Rossoneri and Bianconeri.
La Viola’s management has certainly struck gold when it hired Prandelli to be the architect for the club’s revival and rise as a force to be reckoned with in Italy and Europe. It is too soon to gauge Fiorentina’s European campaign and how it will end but, as crazy as this may sound, clubs on the continent will probably prefer to face either of the Milan sides as opposed to the Tuscan club. The dynamics often dictate the outcome of games as Inter have shown time and again how pressure to achieve in Europe can lead to mediocre results. The same applies to il Diavolo who have Real Madrid’s away win in Marseille to thank for qualification.
Look for the Gigliati to play the role of spoilers in Europe with the club having nothing to lose after exceeding all expectations. A kind draw next week may perhaps pave the way for a charge to the European semi-finals!
Fiorentina Club Focus
Viola continue to grind out results – September 15, 2009
La Viola lose Gilardino and the points – September 18, 2009
Fatigue catching up with la Viola – September 22, 2009
Della Valle Resigns as Fiorentina triumph over Sampdoria – September 25, 2009
La Viola finally win away as De Silvestri makes debut – September 29, 2009
The beginning of the Jovetic era in Florence? – October 2, 2009
Two points lost and a wasted opportunity – October 6, 2009
Good news all round – October 9, 2009
International Week (Republic of Ireland-Italy, Italy-Cyprus)
Transfer rumours abound as Gilardino fires la Nazionale to South Africa – October 13, 2009
Gilardino shines again as la Viola eye the Bianconeri’s scalp – October 16, 2009
La Viola holds firm against Juventus – October 20, 2009
Crucial win over Debrecen, Manchester United prepare bid for Jovetić? – October 23, 2009
La Viola going through a rough patch – October 30, 2009
Marchionni brace completes Fiorentina rebound – November 3, 2009
Prandelli and co. march on against Debrecen – November 6, 2009
La Viola edge Udinese as Marchionni and Montolivo earn Azzurri recall – November 10, 2009
Vargas to stay as Prandelli praises Jovetic – November 20, 2009
Injuries taking their toll as Lyon clash looms – November 24, 2009
la Viola through to the round of 16 in Europe – November 28, 2009
La Viola’s resistance broken from the penalty spot – December 1, 2009
Must-win game to remain close to Champions League spots – December 4, 2009
Race for fourth continues as Fiorentina travel to Anfield – December 8, 2009
Historic win as Tifosi give warm reception – December 11, 2009