Viola need extra time to see-off Empoli's challenge in the Coppa Italia...Fiorentina's Coppa Italia hopes were splintered, but not cracked as they struggled, then finally overcame Empoli's challenge after extra-time to make it through to the fourth round.
Just when the game seemed set for penalties, Senegalese striker Khouma Babacar struck on 119 minutes to secure a place in the next round for the Viola.
Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic said his side were taking the competition seriously and that he wanted them to get to the final before the game, but the fans didn't share that view though as only 5,000 turned up at the Artemio Franchi.
The first chance fell to Fiorentina and it was Babacar who cut inside from the right to skip past Daniele Mori only to fire high of Alberto Pelagotti's goal.
It was a sign of things to come as the Viola enjoyed bright start to the game. Alessio Cerci showed his hand as he beat Ginaluca Musacci, made himself space on the turn, but his effort did not trouble Empoli.
Artur Boruc made his competitive debut for the Viola as Mihajlovic rested Sebastien Frey. The former Celtic shot-stopper was called into action by an Empoli side who were in no mood to be pushed around.
Levan Mchedlidze forced a good save from the 'keeper with a violent strike. Minutes later it was Musacci who let fly from range, only for Boruc to gather comfortably.
That was all Empoli had to show for early on. A changed Fiorentina side were eager to impress Mihajlovic.
This time it was Papa Waigo who tried to transform chances into goals.
His first time control and strike was dangerous, but flew wide of the mark. Cerci turned provider for Mario Bolatti. He cut an awe-inspiring figure on the ball with his turn, but left fans perplexed as he too smashed the ball off target.
Fiorentina continued to look for solutions to their problems up front, and almost found it in Babacar.
He was central to their theme of scoring, but continued to fail. Chances were plentiful as the Viola asserted their power on the game, goals though continued to elude them, despite all their domination.
Adam Ljajic carried enthusiasm into the second half. The Serbian play-maker blitzed a laborious Empoli defence only to find an alert Pelagotti who punched the shot to safety.
Chances continued to rain down at the Franchi. Papa Waigo picked out Bolatti with an inch-perfect pass. The resulting shot though was blocked by the Empolesi who stood firm as the Viola engulfed their area.
However, Mihajlovic's side were thrift in front of goal when it came to taking their chances. Babacar, Papa Waigo and Ljajic were at the heart of the attack on every venture forward, but far from connected to sharp shooting.
Babacar again resorted to distant drives, playing to Empoli's strengths. The Tuscans were just happy to sit back, they were proving unshakable in all areas, leading to plaintive groans from Mihajlovic on the bench.
The Viola's best chance of the game fell to Ljajic, but he failed to conjure up a goal from close range.
Mario Santana flicked the ball through to the Serbian who went for accuracy with a curling effort. He beat Pelagotti, but not the post which saved the foundering visitors.
The Fiorentina cavalry continued to charge, but the fight often seemed single rather than a team effort as players failed to stamp their mark on the game.
And so extra-time offered both sides a last chance to settle the affair. Piecing together a win became even more difficult as they shut up shop, limiting themselves to cautious play and long-range shooting rather than going for broke.
Despite hanging on, problems got worse for Empoli as Mori came off after suffering from cramp. That left his side down to 10 men as coach Alfredo Aglietti had used up all his substitutions.
Alberto Gilardino was thrown on to find a breakthrough, but the struggles continued as he flashed a header wide of the mark. At this stage penalties looked inevitable.
That is how it was meant to be, but seconds before the final whistle, Babacar latched on to Ljajic's assist to smash a hopeful effort home, beating Pelagotti with a deflected effort.
Mihajlovic's side live to fight another day as blushes were spared. They are through to the next round.
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