La Viola have their misfiring front-line to thank after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory against a Roma side now on an unbeaten run of 19 games.
The score-line does no justice to the total dominance Fiorentina enjoyed. From the off it was obvious that the key battle in the game would be in the middle of the park. As it became clear that Roma’s talisman, Francesco Totti was suffering from the effects of a knee injury and fatigue la Viola’s midfield gained the confidence to press up. Newly-appointed skipper Riccardo Montolivo pulled the strings displaying his trademark vision and pinpoint passing to engineer Fiorentina’s early attacking moves.
The inter-play between Montolivio and Juan Manuel Vargas quickly became a feature of Fiorentina’s fluid, attacking play. Vargas was consistently set free on the left as Roma seemed unable to deal with the quality of Montolivio’s passing and Varga’s pace and movement. The ever-impressive Peruvian was almost rewarded for his endeavour in the 18th minute when he picked up a deflected ball on the left side of the area and fired a well-placed shot past Julio Sergio. Unfortunately the goal was disallowed as the linesman deemed the ball had taken a deflection from an offside Fiorentina player in the build up. Vargas proved to be a constant thorn in Roma’s side, forcing a good save from a cross-shot and then moments later testing Julio Sergio again with a venomous low drive.
For all the Viola’s industrious midfield play, a lack of quality up-front prevented them from going into the break with a deserved lead. Montolivo capped a sensational first half display with a counter-attacking run. He showed characteristically exceptional technique carrying the ball from outside his own box to the edge of the Roma area. He gifted Lorenzo De Silvestri a gilt-edged opportunity with a beautifully weighted pass but the defender shot woefully wide under no pressure.
A rejuvenated Roma emerged from the tunnel at half time. Julio Baptista provided a much-needed injection of pace to the Roma attack after coming on for a below-par Totti and inspired a side struggling to impress themselves on the game. The Gigliati were lucky not to find themselves 1-0 down when Mirko Vucinic spurned a golden opportunity scuffing his shot from a John Arne Riise pull-back. Despite Roma’s resurgence, the Fiorentina midfield and defence held firm with the momentum soon shifting to Cesare Prandelli’s men again. Alberto Gilardino beat the offside trap only to fire his shot straight at Julio Sergio from point-blank range. Gilardino’s miss was just one in a catalogue of wasted opportunities for a Viola side desperately missing the cutting edge and work-rate of Adrian Mutu.
Little sympathy could be felt when it was Roma who eventually broke the deadlock via a Vucinic take-down from an 82nd-minute corner. La Viola had every opportunity to get a result from this game and will be left ruing their inability to capitalise on the chances crated by their highly effective midfield. Fiorentina lose ground in the race for Champions League qualification in the fourth consecutive league game. With the future of Mutu thrown into doubt by drug allegations, Prandelli will be wondering where the goals required to move them up into the higher echelons of the table will come from.