The first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal between Fiorentina and Atalanta set itself up to be a thriller even before the two teams kicked off in Florence on Wednesday evening.
The away side had advanced thanks to a stunning 3-0 victory versus Juventus – winners of the competition in the last four consecutive seasons – while La Viola had demolished AS Roma by seven goals to one in their quarterfinal.
Meanwhile in the league, both of these sides have been attacking with careless abandon of late. Atalanta sit second only to Juve in terms of goals scored, with 51 fired in during 26 matches, and Stefano Pioli’s side have netted 21 times in seven games since the signing of Luis Muriel.
After Fiorentina supporters had galvanized their team with an incredible display of chants, flares, and flags during an open training session on Tuesday night, they then created a moving tribute to their late captain Davide Astori before the match began, marking almost one year since his sudden death.
That may have been the ideal footing upon which to commence their bid to reach this year’s final, yet this young side found themselves 2-0 down after just 18 minutes as former Viola winger Josip Ilicic twice carved through their disorganized defense like a hot knife in butter.
Yet anyone who had watched Fiorentina’s 3-3 draw with Inter on Sunday knew that they would be in no mood to lose heart, and by the 36th-minute they found themselves level thanks to Federico Chiesa and Marco Benassi. This end-to-end game was breathtaking for all who watched it, and when Marten De Roon had once again given Atalanta the lead, La Dea were pegged back by Muriel as the game ended 3-3.
Both the traveling Atalanta supporters and those packed inside a sold-out Curva Fiesole had provided an electric atmosphere and — just like the Lazio-Milan semifinal — the tie is now perfectly poised in a stalemate position for two mouthwatering clashes in April.
The match at the Artemio Franchi served as a fantastic advert for the Coppa Italia, and for Italian football in general, and those who witnessed it can count themselves as fortunate indeed. The next battle awaits all of these four sides, and none of them will be in the mood to relinquish the chance to lift the trophy on May 15.