FLORENCE, Italy (AP) – Fiorentina manager Delio Rossi was fired for physically attacking Adem Ljajic after the Serbian forward protested his first-half substitution Wednesday during a 2-2 tie against Novara .
The incident occurred shortly after the half-hour mark, with Fiorentina trailing 2-0.
As he walked toward the bench, Ljajic put his thumb up to sarcastically praise Rossi for the substitution. When the player sat down, Rossi ran over and appeared to slap Ljajic in the face.
As it appeared Rossi was lining up a punch, the coach was pulled away by his assistants and other players.
Fiorentina president Andrea Della Valle announced Rossi's firing after the match, without immediately announcing a replacement.
''I spoke with Delio Rossi and he's prepared to apologize, but this was a choice that had to be made,'' Della Valle said on Italy's Sky TV. ''It's a choice I should never have had to make, but there is no justification for Delio Rossi's actions. The firing is for his well being. He's a great person.''
Della Valle indicated that a replacement will be announced Thursday.
Rossi replaced the fired Sinisa Mihajlovic in November. The Tuscan club is 15th at 10-14-12.
''I can understand the tension of the moment but losing your cool in that manner is inexcusable,'' Italian Players' Association president Damiano Tommasi said, according to the ANSA news agency. ''It's also strange that it came from Delio Rossi, who is always very well balanced in what he says.''
The firing marked the 19th coaching change in the Italian league this season. The previous Serie A record for changes was 15 in 1951-52. Ten clubs have changed managers at least once, with Cagliari leading the way with three dismissals.