Fiorentina travelled to Milan in round four of the 1992-93 season in high spirits. New coach Luigi Radice’s Viola were unbeaten in the opening three rounds, including a 7-1 rout of Ancona the week before the trip to the San Siro. As for Inter, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Udinese rocked the Nerazzurri on the opening day. However, back-to-back wins over Cagliari and Napoli had Osvaldo Bagnoli’s men back on track.
The visitors started where they left off the week before and high in confidence, Fiorentina started the game on top despite failing to create a clear-cut chance. It would take a long-range Stefan Effenburg free kick to finally warm the gloves of Walter Zenga in the Inter goal. As Inter settled, they tried to test Alesssandro Mannini but he comfortably dealt with a free kick from an almost identical position as Effenburg’s.
Fiorentina’s German midfielder was dictating play in the first half and after trying his luck from range a couple of times, he hit a wonderful 50-yard cross-field ball to Brian Laudrup. The Dane killed the ball with a deft first touch, cut inside and let fly only for Zenga to push his effort to safety. Bagnoil cut a concerned figure as Fiorentina poured forward. But against the run of play, Inter almost took the lead when a ball over the top was flicked on to Ruben Sosa, who found himself face to face with Mannini, but failed to connect with the ball properly, fluffing his left-footed effort over the bar.
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.