In this round of the Coppa Italia, we witnessed two sides of calcio: a pragmatic style in the Lazio-Milan stalemate and a fresh, attacking brand in the Fiorentina-Atalanta game.
The second semi-final fixture last night – featuring end-to-end action – would’ve had Gianni Brera looking down in despair. The renowned Italian football journalist was a huge follower and promoter of Catenaccio – a word that doesn’t exist in the vocabularies of Coaches Gian Piero Gasperini and Stefano Pioli.
While the chaotic 3-3 draw between Fiorentina and Inter at the weekend was the aperitivo – the drink working up an appetite for the Coppa Italia semi-final – it was only right that the thriller against Atalanta was the digestivo. After witnessing 12 goals in the last two fixtures at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, the excitement levels and blood pressure among the Viola fans must be skyrocketing.
As we saw some form of pragmatism in the Lazio-Milan game, at least from a Milan perspective, the other Coppa Italia semi-final clash in Florence panned out in the complete opposite fashion. The Fiorentina-Atalanta game simply did more justice to the Italian game – in the hope of attracting new Serie A fans.
The Viola and Nerazzurri each mustered 13 shots on goal, indicating how high both these sides were playing up the pitch. The game’s intensity and open space worked in favour of attack-minded players Federico Chiesa, Luis Muriel, Papu Gomez and Josip Ilicic. But the moment that caught every viewer’s attention was when Marten de Roon launched a ferocious volley into the net.
Two goals in two minutes for Atalanta put them in a firm position to control the game’s tempo, but because this young Fiorentina side mirrors La Dea’s attacking brand of football, it was no coincidence when the Gigliati made a comeback in the space of three minutes. The fact it was 2-2 in the first 36 minutes shows how Fiorentina and Atalanta are defying the conventional style of calcio – the defensive manner many Italian teams, players and managers pride themselves in.
Interesting enough, this was Fiorentina’s fourth 3-3 draw this season – three of them coming in Serie A and the latest one from this Coppa Italia semi-final. For Atalanta, this was their third 3-3 draw of the campaign, with two of them against Roma.
It is clear that both these sides place a high emphasis on attack – sometimes becoming too exaggerated and caught out in defence when they blow away two-goal leads, most notably Atalanta. However, we can all agree that this style of football and these high-scoring games are refreshing for Italian football, especially in attracting new viewers.
Atalanta will probably be the happier of the two sides, as they now have three away goals to take with them to Bergamo for the second leg on April 24. But Gasperini and his men will see this as a missed opportunity, especially when they blew their 2-0 lead in the space of just three minutes.
This hasn’t been the first time the Nerazzurri Coach has been left frustrated after an exceptional attacking display, as we have seen La Dea already lose unassailable leads to Roma and Empoli in this season’s Serie A. Gasperini just needs to find that right balance between attack and defence, and getting his troops to maintain leads.
Fiorentina will be slightly relieved that they managed to create a rapid comeback and score an equaliser towards the end. And the Viola can consider themselves fortunate after Hans Hateboer’s header hit the crossbar in the dying stages of the game. Nevertheless, the Tuscan side’s firepower up front is capable of scoring away goals and leading the team to its first Coppa Italia Final since 2014.
While we have to wait until late April to see the second leg of the Coppa Italia clash between Fiorentina and Atalanta, fortunately we still get the chance to see them square off in this weekend’s Serie A round. It may not be a cup semi-final, but with the Bergamaschi and Tuscans two points and one position off each other, both sides will be fighting for a European spot.
We have already seen the attacking display between these two sides, so expect this weekend’s battle to be no different. But can the Viola and Atalanta supporters’ hearts take it anymore?