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banner Monday, 27 November, 2000, 00:22 GMT
Winner reduces Batistuta to tears
Gabriel Batistuta and Roma team-mates
A tearful Batistuta is mobbed by his team-mates
Gabriel Batistuta burst into tears after scoring a superb late winner for Roma against his former club Fiorentina.

The Argentine superstar striker gave AS Roma a 1-0 victory that took them three points clear at the top of the Italian first division on Sunday.

But Batistuta was in no mood to celebrate the crisp right-foot volley from 25 metres in the 83rd minute that resolved a tense match in Rome.

He refused to celebrate his goal against the club for whom he scored 168 goals.


I was trying hard but I can not forget my past
  Gabriel Batistuta

And at the end of the match he ran over to the 3,000 visiting fans and applauded them, before leaving the Olympic Stadium in tears at the end of an emotional night.

Batistuta's goal gave Roma their seventh win from eight league outings and took them six points ahead of Juventus, the next-best placed of the big guns in Serie A.

Batistuta was submerged by celebrating colleagues but the scorer refused to participate in the celebrations, his thoughts clearly with the opposing fans.

Living legend

Bowing his head, he eventually freed himself from his colleagues and wiped tears from his eyes.

"I played the whole match with these conflicting thoughts in my head - I am sorry for Fiorentina," he said. "It was important, though, because I want to win for Roma so I was trying hard but I can not forget my past."

The focus had been on the 31-year-old for the whole week as he prepared for the first time to face Fiorentina - the club where he had acquired the status of living legend, with even a statue built to commemorate his exploits.

When he emerged on the pitch at the Olympic Stadium he went over and applauded the travelling Fiorentina fans and they replied with their chant of "Batigol".

Gabriel Batistuta
Batistuta is still adored by the Florentine fans

But for much of the match he was a spectator, well handled by his former team-mates before producing a volley out of the blue to settle the match - and, for the first time, score a goal that would be greeted with despair by Fiorentina fans.

His tally of 152 Serie A goals in the violet shirt of the Florence outfit was a club record and he had also hit the net 16 times during one season in Serie B.

It is hardly surprising then that there was despair in Florence at the end of last season when Batistuta announced he wanted to seek a new challenge - winning the title - and did not think Fiorentina could fulfil that dream.

Inter Milan for a long time looked the most likely to sign the Argentinian but in the end he chose Roma after patient negotiations and a huge salary offer from the capital club's chairman Franco Sensi.

Some questioned his wisdom in leaving a club where he was adored as none other before him.

But he has made an electric start and his strike against Fiorentina took him to nine goals in seven games for his new club.

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