New Delhi: Alberto Gilardino's recreation of Diego Maradona's 1986 Hand of God goal led Fiorentina on their way to a 3-1 win in Sicily over Palermo.
Adrian Mutu bagged a brace, while Fabio Simplicio grabbed Palermo's sole reply in a highly entertaining clash.
The Palermitani, who boasted a perfect home record, were keen to quickly bounce back after their 2-0 defeat to the hands of Sicilian rivals Catania last Sunday. Davide Ballardini’s men knew that a win would help them overtake the Viola in the standings and keep them within sight of the early pace setters.
Cesare Prandelli’s side had been on a fine vein of form in the league with three consecutive victories but they were given a rude awakening midweek in the Champions League as they lost 3-0 to the hands of Bayern Munich.
Palermo were without defender Moris Carrozzieri because he was suspended after his red card against Catania. Adrian Mutu accompanied Alberto Gilardino in the Viola frontline after his lay-off with an elbow injury.
The game started brightly with Fiorentina going extremely close after just four minutes as Kuzmanovic hit the Palermo woodwork with his low drive from the edge of the box.
Palermo were quick to hit back however and began to impose themselves more on the Viola backline. After ten minutes Cavani was put through by a lovely ball from Simplicio but he did little to trouble Frey as he scuffed wide of the Frenchman’s goal. Shortly after Bresciano went close with an ambitious attempt from thirty yards which sprayed over the bar.
After 18 minutes Gilardino broke the deadlock in a rather controversial manner. After a cross from the left by Santana the ball appeared hit the left arm of the Viola marksman as he went to ground with a Palermo defender. This went unseen by Morganti and his assistant leaving the Palermo players feeling a sense of huge injustice as they vented their protests to no avail.
The Viola continued to press and just before the half hour mark Mutu unleashed a bullet from 25 yards but Amelia produced a fine save to put the ball over the crossbar. After the subsequent corner Palermo lifted their tempo and enjoyed a spell of continued pressure on the Viola box. In the 35th minute Frey pulled out a spectacular save after Bresciano was sent through by Miccoli.
On 42 minutes a precise pass to Gilardino was threaded through first time to Mutu leaving him one on one with Amelia. The Romanian kept his cool to slot home doubling the Viola’s lead.
The Viola were flying as shortly after a quick curling shot by Santana from the right could have put the game out of reach but Amelia pulled out another spectacular save to keep the Rosanero within the game.
In the dying minutes of the half Palermo finally hit the back of the Viola net after a low drive from Liverani on the edge of the box was deflected in off Donadel. Unfortunately the goal was ruled out as Simplicio was standing in an offside position within the six yard box.
As the whistle blows for half time it has proved to be an exhilarating first half with end to end action. The Rosanero will be reeling from the ‘Hand of Gila’ and will need some of their own divine intervention to claw themselves back in the second half.
Palermo came out in the second half with a point to prove but it was the Viola who were the first to come closest when a low cross into the box from Mutu left Gilardino with a simple tap in from close range. The Italian should have done better to put the result beyond reach.
This near miss sprung the Sicilians into life. Some good work on the left from Balzaretti set Miccoli free on the left. Miccoli’s subsequent cross was knocked through by Cavani leaving Simplicio free to hammer in from three yards into the roof of the net.
Palermo were piling on the pressure as they searched for an equaliser however they were caught out yet again by a quick Viola break as a low cross from the right into the box was hammered home by Mutu to restore Fiorentina’s two goal lead.
As the second half wore on the game continued in the end to end fashion that it had started with. The Rosanero were slowly getting more and more stretched as they continued to search for a second goal. Although they were leaving themselves exposed to the quick counter-attacks Palermo were enjoying continued possession in the Viola final third.
In the 82nd minute Cavani beat the offside trap to fire a low shot just wide of the post. This was quickly followed by another great chance as Simplicio headed wide from short range.
Palermo were throwing everything they had at the Viola goal as a powerful Cavani header was tipped over by Frey. Ballardini’s men were not going down without a fight but it was proving to be in vain as they could find a way to break down a resilient Frey between the posts.
At full time the Viola will feel they deserved the three points for their clinical finishing and a display that is reminiscent of the form that propelled them to fourth place last season. The Rosanero on the other hand will be rueing what could have been had Gilardino’s ‘handy goal’ been rightly ruled out.
Palermo 1–3 Fiorentina
Gilardino 19’ (F)
Mutu 42’,62’ (F)
Simplicio 50’ (P)
Palermo: Amelia (Fontana 45’); Cassani, Raggi, Dellafiore (Kjaer 45’), Balzaretti; Liverani, Nocerino (Lanzafame 66’), Bresciano, Simplicio; Cavani, Miccoli
Firoentina: Frey; Comotto, Dainelli (Kroldrup 35’), Gamberini, Vargas; Kuzmanovic (Almiron 64’), Donadel, Montolivo, Santana, Gilardino (Pazzini 75’), Mutu