Fiorentina close gap on leaders
SERIE A RESULTS
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Aquilani took centre-stage after Atalanta's Giacomo Bonaventura had cancelled out Gonzalo Rodriguez's early opener for Fiorentina.
The former Roma and Liverpool midfielder put the Viola back in front with a brilliant free-kick in the 42nd minute and then just before the half-time whistle turned home a corner to make it 3-1.
In between those two goals Atalanta lost Luca Cigarini to a straight red card for a professional foul on Juan Cuadrado as their hopes of a fourth successive league win rapidly started to unravel.
Aquilani then turned provider at the start of the second half with a cross that Luca Toni headed home as Fiorentina joined third-placed Napoli on 27 points.
Fiorentina were quickly out of the blocks at the Artemio Franchi and Toni had already tested visiting goalkeeper Andrea Consigli before Gonzalo gave the hosts a fifth-minute lead.
A Manuel Pasqual free-kick into a congested area fell kindly for the Argentina defender six yards out and he smashed an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net.
Pasqual and Aquilani sought to increase their side's lead during a dominant opening 20 minutes, but they could not take advantage of their opportunities and Atalanta stunned their hosts by drawing level in the 32nd minute with a scrappy goal from Bonaventura.
Fiorentina need not have worried though, as within 13 minutes of that strike they had the match all but sewn up.
Aquilani was denied by a fine save by Consigli in the 34th minute but the Atalanta goalkeeper was left rooted to the spot not long after as the Fiorentina playmaker curled a fantastic 25-yard free-kick over the wall and into the near top corner of the net to make it 2-1.
Atalanta's plight was about to get much worse before the break as well, as they saw Cigarini sent off for a challenge from behind on Cuadrado before Aquilani netted his second when he got in front of his marker to stab home a corner.
That four-minute spell left the visitors with a huge mountain to climb to get anything out of the game, and it became mission impossible four minutes into the second half as Fiorentina added a fourth.
Aquilani curled in a pinpoint cross from the right and Toni, standing on the penalty spot, glanced his header inside the far post.