Fiorentina on course for Europa League spot with win at Verona
Fiorentina emerged victorious from an eight-goal Serie A thriller at Hellas Verona that saw the Tuscans tighten their grip on a Europa League berth.
Jacopo Sala gave Verona the upper hand early on but Juan Cuadrado and Alberto Aquilani completed a quick turnaround for Fiorentina before half-time.
Borja Valero extended the visitors’ lead before Marco Donadel’s dismissal allowed La Viola to assert their dominance.
Luca Toni and Alessandro Matri exchanged penalties at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi, but Aquilani’s late second goal rendered Juan Iturbe’s stoppage-time strike a mere consolation.
The 5-3 victory keeps Fiorentina five points clear of Inter Milan in fourth place – with five games remaining – while Verona drop to 10th.
The Tuscans fired an early warning shot through Josip Ilicic, who made Rafael stretch to tip his sighter round the post for a corner.
But after Iturbe had tested Neto’s concentration levels with an effort on the counter-attack, Verona took the lead.
In the 14th minute Sala rose to nod the ball home after Iturbe’s speculative shot was flicked into the air by the flailing Neto.
La Viola pushed back forcefully and Cuadrado headed Valero’s cross just wide before levelling the tie shortly after the half hour.
Valero was once again involved, his dazzling pass finding his Colombian team-mate in the box and Rafael could do nothing to prevent the goal.
Verona’s Brazilian keeper did deny David Pizarro from distance, but Fiorentina managed to grab control of the game just before the half-time whistle.
This time it was Manuel Pasqual who provided the cross and Aquilani happily deposited the ball in the back of the net.
Fiorentina kept their cool after the break and, after surviving a scare which saw Domenico Maietta test Neto with a header, Valero extended the visitors’ lead.
In the 63rd minute Aquilani got Rafael working with a tricky header and Valero duly arrived to sweep up the loose ball and tap it home.
Five minutes later Verona were reduced to 10 men as Donadel felled Cuadrado before he could race into the box.
All was not lost for the hosts, however, as they got the chance to halve the deficit from the penalty spot.
After Iturbe was tripped trying to dance past Pizarro, Toni stepped up to score against his former club from 12 yards.
Fiorentina needed to act quickly in order to suppress any thoughts of a comeback and they were given the chance to do so when Maietta handled the ball in the Verona box.
Substitute Matri beat Rafael from the spot and, three minutes after the restart, Aquilani slid the ball home for goal number five after Cuadrado’s attempt was parried.
Fiorentina were all but assured of another three points but could have done without the late drama of conceding a third goal to Verona, who had the last say on a breathless afternoon as Iturbe beat Neto in a one-on-one.