Fiorentina settle for draw against Roma
Fiorentina’s Mario Gomez rediscovered his goalscoring touch in Serie A to keep Roma choking in the title race.
The striker, signed from Bayern Munich for 20 million euro in 2013, has struggled against injuries and poor form but doubled his tally for the league campaign with a first-half opener on Sunday evening.
Even though Roma did manage to level through former Viola midfielder Adem Ljajic following the restart, they had to settle for a 1-1 draw and are now seven points behind leaders Juventus after 20 games.
The Scudetto rivals meet in five games’ time yet Rudi Garcia’s Roma will need to snap their three-match winless streak long before that meeting in March if they are to present a realistic challenge.
Having watched Juve beat Chievo, Roma arrived at the Stadio Artemio Franchi with a clear mission in front of them but it was Fiorentina who performed like the match was vitally crucial to their campaign.
They put the visitors on the back foot from the off, with Gomez going close with a header from Manuel Pasqual’s cross and Daniele De Rossi having to clear Matias Fernandez’s effort off the line.
Rome responded as Radja Nainggolan forced home goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu into a parry, yet Fiorentina were about to open the scoring in the coming minutes.
Former Roma midfielder David Pizarro might have scored himself but after taking aim he watched his goalbound shot ricochet off Gomez’s shin and find the back of the net.
While it was only a fifth league goal for the German since his arrival in Tuscany almost two years ago, it followed a brace in the Coppa Italia and signalled the likely end of his rotten run of bad luck.
Fiorentina could have taken a bigger lead into half-time but Nenad Tomovic struck the ball just wide before, in stoppage time, Gomez’s pass to Fernandez saw the Spaniard blast against a Roma defender.
The Giallorossi seemed reinvigorated after the break and it only took Ljajic four minutes to equalise.
Francesco Totti picked out Juan Iturbe, who controlled the ball with his head before taking defender Jose Maria Basanta out of play, and Ljajic duly did the rest with the square pass.
Roma nearly doubled up through Nainggolan, whose bicycle kick on Ljajic’s pass was repelled by the Viola defence.
The newly-confident visitors soon threatened Tatarusanu through Iturbe, the Argentinian sweeping up Totti’s through ball before eliciting a wonderful save from the Romanian goalkeeper.
Fiorentina rallied and got Roma stopper Morgan De Sanctis working through Jose Holebas and Jasmin Kurtic but the visitors managed to weather the storm.
The introduction of impact substitute Khouma Babacar for Gomez failed to inspire Fiorentina towards a last-gasp winner, even if Tomovic did scare De Sanctis late on with an attempt on his top corner.