Monday, May 30, 2016

30 May 1957 - For Fiorentina, It's Close But No Cigar

On 30 May 1957, Real Madrid won their second consecutive European Cup, beating Fiorentina 2-0.

Real Madrid were the defending champions while the Viola earned the right to participate in the tournament by winning their first Serie A title the previous season. That season heralded a rise in Fiorentina's fortunes that saw them finish in Italy's top two for the next four years.

Their success carried over into the European Cup, where they advanced to the Final with wins over IFK Norrköping, Grasshopper, and Red Star Belgrade, but once there, they ran into the European Cup buzzsaw that was Real Madrid. Madrid had won the inaugural European Cup the season before, and--despite needing a playoff against Rapid Wien to get out of the first round--rolled into the Final with victories over Nice and Manchester United.

Playing before a partisan crowd of 124,000 at Madrid's home ground, the Bernabéu, Fiorentina managed to keep the match close. Unlike the previous final, which Madrid won 4-3 over Stade de Reims, the 1957 Final was a defensive battle, with both sides struggling to create scoring chances. Madrid eventually caught a break when the referee awarded a 69th-minute penalty kick that midfielder Alfredo di Stéfano converted with ease. Six minutes later, forward Francisco Gento scored on a breakaway, chipping the ball over Fiorentina keeper Giuliano Sarti.

It was Fiorentina's last appearance in the European Cup/Champions League Final, while Madrid went on to win the next three. In all, they have played in fourteen finals, winning eleven, including the most recent one in May 2016. Fiorentina eventually won European glory, however, claiming the 1961 Cup Winners' Cup.

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