Fiorentina took a major step forward this week with their first away win at Genoa midweek, followed up with a dominating result at the Franchi against a Cagliari squad that had won four straight and was 8th in the table.
Even though Fiorentina struggled a bit in the first half, wasting a goal by Gonzalo Rodriguez early by allowing a free kick to turn into a deflected goal late in the first half, La Viola shrugged off the drama in the second half and put three goals up on the board, Stevan Jovetic getting back on the score sheet and serving up a cream puff to Luca Toni and a late chip by one of Firenze's new heroes, Juan Cudarado to put away Cagliari 4-1.
The win, Fiorentina's third in a row, the first time they've done that since 2009, put La Viola in fourth place, 2 points above Lazio, who were buried at Catania 4-0 and 2 points behind Napoli, who allowed a late stoppage goal by Torino in Naples. Fiorentina are also four points ahead of sixth place Roma, putting them firmly in Europa League contention and have fans wondering just how far this squad can go.
Montella switched up things again with his lineup today, bringing back Nenad Tomovic to his normal spot as the Left Back, next to Gonzalo Rodriguez and Facundo Roncaglia in front of Goalie Emiliano Viviano.
Cristian Llama, making his League debut, was also put in to replace Manuel Pasqual, who was likely tired after the short turnaround. Borja Valero, David Pizarro assumed their normal positions next to Llama and in the center, while Romulo was brought in next to Juan Cuadrado. Stevan Jovetic and Luca Toni completed the lineup.
Cagliari coach Ivo Pulga, on a four game winning streak since assuming the mantle from Massimo Ficcadenti last month, was missing Daniele Conti and Radja Nainggolan due to suspensions. He fielded a 4-4-2 formation, with an attacking and a defending midfielder in a diamond-like position, much like Genoa fielded midweek.
Albin Ekdal was the defensive midfielder, Federico Casarini on the left and Daniele Dessena on the right, with Andrea Cossu as the attacking midfielder. Ribeiro Cardoso Thiago and Marco Sau were up front for the Sardinians.
Fiorentina started out strong, earning a corner in the 2nd minute, Llama took the corner and whipped the ball to Rodriguez who headed it just over the bar.
5 minutes later Andrea Cossu left footed a shot from the left side of the six yard box, but it also was too high.
Minute 11, Jovetic took a right footed shot from very close range, but he missed to the left. Assisted by Luca Toni with a headed pass.
Two minutes later, Davide Astori conceded a corner to La Viola and they didn't waste it, Valero lashed in a cross from the corner and Rodriguez headed it off the ground in front of the goalie and it rebounded high into the net. Fiorentina 1-0.
Once again, however, after taking an early lead, Fiorentina seemed to lose a little something and allowed Cagliari to take some control over the match, giving up silly fouls and free kicks in dangerous situations.
19th minute, Davide Astori missed a header from a difficult angle. he was assisted by Andrea Cossu with a cross following a set piece situation.
The next ten minutes were a foul fest as both sides traded fouls and free kicks without any chances on goal, until minute 30, when Andrea Cossu got off a fairly soft right footed shot from the left side of the box which was saved in the center of the goal. Assisted by Thiago Ribeiro.
The next 12 minutes was more of the same, with the only highlight a yellow card for Roncaglia.
In the 42nd minute, Roncaglia came out and made contact with Casarini, who, granted, went down fairly easily, and was given a free kick. Whether the free kick was deserved or not, it was a play that wasn't really necessary, as the Cagliari player had his back to the goal.
Andrea Cossu took the free kick, which went to Casarini, who lashed a shot at goal, which deflected off of Roncaglia and went into the goal. Originally, the side judge ruled out the goal, claiming offside, but young head ref Gianpaolo Calvarese consulted with his goal official, who had seen the deflection of the Fiorentina player and rightly allowed the goal.
The teams went to the half at 1-1, Cagliari had a slight advantage in shots, 4-3 with two shots on goal to the Viola's 1.
The second half was all Viola. Cristian Llama missed a left footed shot from outside the box, assisted by David Pizarro with a cross following a set piece situation in the third minute.
Five minutes in saw the second goal for Fiorentina, also from a corner and also from Borja Valero who launched a cross to Jovetic who made no mistake. 2-1 Viola.
Four minutes later, Marco Sau got off a shot, which was blocked on the way in and just sat agonizingly in front of the Viola's goal until it was swept away and Fiorentina charged down the field in a strong counter Cuadrado to Jovetic to Toni for the easy put in. 3-1 Viola.
Alberto Aquilani came on near the one hour mark for Llama, slotting into Romulo's position, which moved Romulo out to the right and Cuadrado moved over to the far left. Shortly after, Jovetic felt a twinge or a cramp and asked to be subbed, so Montella brought in Mounir El Hamdaoui.
Fiorentina continued to press and had several shot attempts until the 84th minute, when Cagliari flubbed a clearance and Cuadrado caught the goalie off his line and chipped it over the top for his first Serie A tally and Fiorentina finished the game out, 4-1.
Fiorentina ended the game with 55% possession, out shot Cagliari 11 to 7, although shots on was much closer, 4-3 Viola. Every shot on goal wound up being a goal. Fiorentina had 4 corner kicks to 1 for the Sardinians. The ref had a quick whistle as there were 45 fouls called, 20 for Fior and 25 for Cagliari, only three yellow cards given, however, a low number for this season, 2 for Fior, Pizarro and Roncaglia, while Casarini got the lone yellow for the visitors.
Viviano(6) - Only called on for 2 saves, neither very rigorous, the deflection from Roncaglia on the goal completely took him out of the play, not his fault.
Roncaglia(6) - Sloppy in the first half. Had a very poor back pass, got a yellow that probably wasn't necessary, gave up the free kick deep in his zone that led to the goal, which deflected off his leg. Settled down and settled in and played fine the rest of the match, but had this game remained tied, a lot of it might have been laid at his feet. He needs to control himself in the zone and near the box
Rodriguez(7) - Scored again and played well on defense and wore the captain's armband for the first time.
Tomovic(6.5) - had a few issues early, might have been due to being unfamiliar with Llama, settled down in the second half.
Cuadrado(6.5) - Has been a bit less of what he was at the start of the season, perhaps a bit fatigued due to several matches in short order. Moved over to the other side when Aquilani came in and didn't miss a beat and had a nice chip for his first goal. ;
Cassani(NA) - Only got five minutes in, and the match was basically over at that point. wasn't really a factor, but it was nice to see him.
Romulo(6) - He ran and ran and ran, had a nice assist to El Ham, who missed the net and another for Toni which was saved. He's not a star, but he's serviceable and filled in nicely for Fernandez, who was likely tired over the short turnaround. Moved to the outside when Aquilani came in and did fine.
Pizarro(7) - A little ragged early, but the whole team was ragged. Got his obligatory yellow card for a professional card, with the depth of the midfield, suspensions aren't really worrying, but if he has to commit two professional fouls in a match, it could be dangerous.
Valero(7.5) - Two assists today, took the corner on Rodriguez's goal and assisted Jovetic. Stalwart on defense and never gave up possession. Perhaps his best game in purple.
Llama(5.5) - Really awkward in the first half. rash tackles, bad passes, giving up possession. A bit better in the second, but needs to do better. That being said it was his first chance out there and he was probably rusty and pressing. Subbed for Aquilani afer an hour;
Aquilani(6) - had some nice balls, moved well, seems to be getting better. Just needs to increase his stamina and work with the starters a bit more
Toni(6.5) - had some chances early, but disappeared during the end of the first half when the whole team seemed to get distractred. On the plus side, he ran all match, got his third goal and made it through 90 minutes without being subbed.
Jovetic(7) - This looked more like the Jojo form earlier in the season. He facilitated, he scored a goal, he always looked dangerous. Subbed late for cramps or, as Montella said, a "niggle" ; El Hamdaoui(6) - Got a good 20 minutes in, nearly scored his first goal, he's looking better.
Montella(7) - Changed up the lineup to make up for the recent short turnaround times. Put Tomovic back in the lineup, Toni up front and Romulo in the middle and all contributed. Llama was also put in, but didn't really do much for the squad and was rightly subbed off for Aquilani. with the introduction of Aquilani, he juggled the midfield, moving Cuadrado and Romulo and the team didn't miss a beat. he was getting ready to bring off Jovetic anyways, so that was a decent move as well. three wins in a row, 5 matches in a row without a loss and undefeated at home.
"Our ambitions? It all depends on the growth that we see in the team from here to the end of the season."
"The side reacted very well after the break, having struggled under Cagliari's pressure, but the lads proved they really wanted this victory. The win was deserved."
"Jovetic? He was decisive today and I was about to substitute him so he could rest, but then he asked to come off due to a niggle in his knee."
"I don't know what was behind his reaction to the goal, perhaps it was just taking a weight off his shoulders. I don't think he was angry."
Yellow Card Situation
Disqualification of one game after the 4th, 8th, 12th, 15th and the 17th yellow card.
Past 17, every yellow card is equivalent to a one-match ban.
(Players receiving yellow cards in this match are bolded)
will be assessed a one game suspension on the next card.
Next week, Fiorentina travel to AC Milan, looking for a repeat of last season's miracle, where Amauri got a last minute goal to knock Milan out of first place and possibly cost them the Scudetto. Jovetic also scored as La Viola ended more than a decade of frustration against AC Milan at the San Siro, 2-1. Milan are coming off of a 5-1 drubbing of Chievo, who held Fiorentina to a 1-1 draw in Chievo a few weeks ago, but they also have a huge Champions League midweek match against group leading Malaga, so Fiorentina should have an edge in preparation and fitness.
Other matches that will affect the standings are Napoli at Genoa, without a win since Del Neri took over, while Lazio hosts AS Roma in the Roman Darby, where anything can happen. Both Napoli and Lazio have Europa Matches at home on Thursday, but both have shown little interest and will likely field backups, so fatigue will probably not be huge factors. Fior have the hardest match I think, any kind of result will be decent, although I'd love to see a win, which is not out of the question.
The following week, Lazio have to travel to Juve, Napoli hosts Milan, while Fior hosts Atalanta, it'll be a good chance to get any points lost bac
Sunday, November 11 9:00 ET AC Milan v Fiorentina
Sunday, November 18 9:00 ET Fiorentina v Atalanta
Sunday, November 25 9:00 ET Torino v Fiorentina
Wednesday, November 28 3:00 ET Fiorentina v Juve Stabia (Coppa Italia)
Sunday, December 2 2:45 ET Fiorentina v Sampdoria