Let's face it: the match between Sampdoria and Fiorentina was never just about the football. The Viola absolutely dominated the home side, forcing Samp to shoot from distance, resulting in just two shots on target. Fiorentina's victory means they move (temporarily) in front of AC Milan, snatching away third place for a few hours.
Yet the drama from last season played a staring role in Genoa, adding a bit of spice to the action on the pitch. Sure, it was Juan Cuadrado that scored the first goal -- and an absolute screamer, I might add, with his shot from distance leaving Sergio Romero utterly helpless -- but really, this match was the Adem Ljajic show.
Sunday was more than just a chance for Fiorentina to move into third place. No, Sunday was the first time Delio Rossi faced his former club since he earned a 3-month suspension from Italian football for physically assaulting Ljajic. A less mature man may have confronted his former coach. Some of us might have risked assault charges in order to slap Rossi right back.*
But the Little Devil took the high road, choosing metaphorical kicks to the gut to reduce his enemy to tears. Just three minutes after Cuadrado's goal, Ljajic first forced a fingertip save from Romero after one of his now-classic free kicks, and doubled Fiorentina's lead moments later. Shkodran Mustafi failed to clean up the mess after a corner, and Ljajic pounced, slotting in from close range.
Cut camera to Rossi on the sidelines. Rossi looks utterly astonished. Rossi wonders what he's done to make someone want to hurt him this much.
Oh, but it wasn't over yet. The Viola toyed with Sampdoria for the majority of the second half, with both Cuadrado and Stevan Jovetic looking threatening in front of goal, only to sweetly offer the ball back to Samp rather than knock it in the back of the net. But even with Fiorentina gifting them passes, Sampdoria could barely muster up a decent attack.
So Fiorentina's third goal came as no surprise. Nor was it shocking that Ljajic created it. The midfielder's been on fire for the last few matches, but with an even bigger point to prove in this one, he pulled out all the stops. Demonstrating his excellent ability with the ball at his feet, Ljajic wove through the Sampdoria defense, reached the touchline, pulled back and gave Alberto Aquilani one of the easiest tap-ins ever.
Rather than give Ljajic a chance to make the scoreline even more humiliating, Daniele Gastaldello took matters into his own hands, sliding into him from behind as Ljajic raced up the left. The referee showed red immediately as Ljajic rolled around and raised his hand for a substitute. If this was Rossi's way of getting one more slap in, it didn't work: Sampdoria still couldn't manage even a respectable attempt on goal.
You're there, Adem. You've made it. And if this match gets your side into the Champions League, few will shed a tear when Jovetic leaves in the summer, as long as you sign your name to a pretty new purple contract.
*The soon-to-be lawyer in me feels compelled to note that "some of us" does not include myself. Honest.
Sampdoria: Sergio Romero; Shkodran Mustafi, Daniele Gastaldello, Angelo Palombo, Gaetano Berardi; Lorenzo De Silvestri, Andrea Poli, Pedro Obiang, Marcelo Estigarribia (Eder 46), Gianluca Sansone (Gianni Munari 69), Maxi López (Mauro Icardi 56)
Fiorentina: Emiliano Viviano; Nenad Tomovic, Gonzalo Rodríguez, Stefan Savic, Manuel Pasqual; Borja Valero, David Pizarro, Alberto Aquilani; Stevan Jovetic, Juan Cuadrado (Rômulo 77), Adem Ljajic (Mounir El Hamdaoui 81)
Goals: Cuadrado 37 (F), Ljajic 41 (F), Aquilani 73 (F)
Red Card: Gastaldello 80 (S)