Before the half was out, Inter hearts were in their mouths as some kamikaze sweeper keeper’ defending from Zenga almost presented Fiorentina a golden chance to take the lead. However, despite a rash lunge, Inter’s stopper somehow managed to smuggle to ball away from danger.
Fiorentina’s pressure finally paid off just six minutes into the second half, when Gabriel Batistuta took full advantage of an uncharacteristic Walter Zenga mistake. The Italian keeper spilled a long-range effort and Batistuta was there to tap home, giving the visitors a deserved lead.
The goal gave Inter a much-needed wake-up call and the home side would have levelled things up but for the heroics of Mannini in the Fiorentina goal. A powerful downward header from Sergio Battistini seemed destined for the top-corner but the Viola keeper somehow managed to claw the ball over the bar. It was a save that resembled that of England’s Gordon Banks against Brazil.
Inter launched wave after wave of attacks in what was one of the most frantic last 15-minutes in the Serie A season. And following a sharp piece of interplay between Igor Shalimov and Toto Schillaci on the edge of Fiorentina’s box, Inter finally broke through after their Russian midfielder fired a thunderbolt past the diving Mannini. Just a minute later, referee Pierluigi Pairetto reduced Fiorentina to 10 men as Gianluca Luppi was given his marching orders.
With Inter pressing forward for the winner, the visitors somehow silenced the Giuseppe Meazza once again. Fiorentina hit their hosts on the counter attack after some neat work from Laudrup in the centre of midfielder released Batistuta who rolled the ball under an on-rushing Zenga to give the Viola a 2-1 lead with just five minutes left. Moments later, Laudrup should have sealed all three points, but having engineered space with another virtuoso dribble, he somehow missed the target with just Zenga to beat.
Fiorentina would live to regret such profligacy. With the clock edging towards 90 minutes, Inter won a corner and after a Beppe Bergomi header was cleared off the line, Battistini was on hand to nod home the rebound from close range. Inter had stolen a point and this enthralling encounter finished 2-2.
Stefano Pioli was in the Fiorentina side that day but on Monday night he will be hoping to get his first three points as Inter boss against his old team. As for Fiorentina, their 4-0 hammering of Empoli last weekend stands them in good stead for their trip to Milano.
Words by Giovanni Dougall: @giovannid86