Serie A - Mutu denied hero's return as Fiorentina draw
There was no hero’s return for Adrian Mutu after his 11 month exile from the game as Fiorentina and Catania played out a goalless draw at the Angelo Massimino stadium.
Mutu failed to provide the attacking spark Fiorentina would have been hoping for in a game of few chances as both sides struggled in the final third of the pitch.
Catania captain Giuseppe Mascara came closest to finding the net with a fierce free kick that cannoned off the crossbar midway through the first half.
A second half fraught with caution ensued with the avoidance of defeat seemingly the priority for the two teams who remain in the bottom half of the Serie A table.
Fiorentina and Mutu started the game as if they had something to prove with the Romanian striker involved from the first whistle.
After 11 months on the sidelines, Mutu could perhaps be excused a heavy first touch - particularly as his second almost broke the deadlock.
Having negotiated a pocket of space 25 yards from goal he showed no hesitation in taking on the shot and stung the palms of Catania goalkeeper Mariano Andujar.
Despite Fiorentina’s bright start, it was the home side who came closest to scoring. Mascara had the beating of Sebastien Frey with a speculative effort direct from a free kick but was denied by the crossbar.
Seemingly undeterred by that narrow escape, Fiorentina continued to threaten Andujar’s goal with Alberto Gilardino getting in on the act.
The Italian front man provided a brief display of his aerial prowess with two headed efforts inside a minute.
Having sent the first into the grateful arms of Andujar, Gilardino provided a stiffer test for the Catania goalkeeper second time around as he was sent sprawling to his right to tip the ball round the post.
Without capitalising on their early dominance, Fiorentina were then forced on to the back foot as the home side eventually settled into their stride.
The Fiorentina defence struggled to combat the physical presence of Mirko Antenucci who caused havoc in the final third on more than one occasion.
Superb hold up play in the penalty area from the Catania striker provided Adrian Ricchiuti with a chance, but his shot was well saved by Frey.
Antenucci then set up an opportunity of his own with a neat turn and shot 12 yards from goal but again the Fiorentina goalkeeper was up to the task.
Catania continued to press for the opening goal and went close as Alejandro Gomez ghosted in at the near post to meet a floated corner kick but could only head wide of the target.
With the first half drawing to a close, Fiorentina picked up the attacking mantle for one final push.
Good link up play saw Gilardino pick out the run of Mutu who was denied a shot at goal by a well timed last ditch sliding challenge.
There was less smoke and no sign of fire in the second half with both sides restricted to speculative long range efforts.
Mariano Izco twice tried his luck from 25 yards for the home side but failed to threaten the Fiorentina goal with anything that resembled a legitimate goal bound effort.
With Mutu understandably not firing on all cylinders, Fiorentina looked devoid of attacking penetration allowing Andujar to adopt a spectator role.
The final whistle was met with an orchestra of jeers with this goalless draw largely the product of attacking ineptitude as opposed to defensive competence.