It was hardly a good advertisement for the game. Fiorentina dominated possession, but with little verve or precision against a Sassuolo side more than happy to sit back, stay organized, and play on the counterattack. For stretches both teams looked like they were mentally already on vacation, but despite the poor play Viola fans were treated to a Fiorentina victory and a couple moments of magic from a talented side.
Sassuolo's game plan was the more functional one in the first half, as Fiorentina struggled to cope with the absences of Gonzalo Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado by deploying Juan Manuel Vargas in midfield and Borja Valero with Josip Ilicic behind the strikers. The tactical shift only served Ilicic, who, along with Neto were Fiorentina's best players of the half. Domenico Berardi and Simone Zaza were generally held at bay, although both forced saves out of Neto after going by Savic. Fiorentina's best chance of the half came from the feet of Josip Ilicic, who unfortunately shot straight at Pegolo after dribbling free of markers.
Vincenzo Montella didn't make any changes after halftime, but Giuseppe Rossi seemed to make it his mission to get more involved in the build-up play, linking up well with Ilicic to produce some half-chances. Sassuolo's attacking threat generally waned in the second half, but Fiorentina continued to be inconsistence in creating play, relying too heavily on long-balls even after the entrance of David Pizarro for Vargas and Matias Fernandez for an off-day Borja Valero. But around the 75th minute Rossi really took the game in hand, with a sensational turn and right footed shot only denied by a miraculous Pegolo save. From the ensuing corner Ambrosini's great header was denied by another exceptional Pegolo save. The next corner after that fell to Aquilani in the 6 yard box who could only bundle it wide.
There was little Pegolo could do about the capocannoniere's winner, however, in the 82nd minute. Pizarro did perhaps the only thing he did right in his minutes on the field, dribbling and feeding Rossi on the edge of the box who tried to play a one-time pass to Mati, found the ball deflect back to him, and instinctively lashed the ball into the near post with his right foot. Fiorentina were then able to kill the game off quite well, absorbing pressure from an already-defeated Sassuolo and counterattacking well, with Ilicic wasting a glorious opportunity assisted by Rossi, striking the post with his one-touch finish 1 v 1 with the goalkeeper. 3 points and an early Christmas present from il fenomeno make for a great final match-day of 2013 despite a lackluster performance.
Neto (6.5) A couple good saves, careful in claiming the ball, and a magnificent piece of dribbling that he should NEVER EVER ATTEMPT AGAIN.
Tomovic (6.5) Best out of the back line. Comically inconsistent going forward however.
Savic (5) Zaza went by him like a tumbleweed for Sassuolo's best chance of the half. Imprecise and ponderous in build up play.
Compper (6) More timely in tackles and assured on the ball than Savic. His experience shows in games like this one.
Pasqual (5.5) An anonymous game from the captain, with one ugly tackle to pick up a yellow card.
Aquilani (6) Missed another glorious chance to score, and still learning the regista role, but encouraging signs that he *might* be returning to last season's form.
Ambrosini (6.5) A quietly great game. Grew with the minutes, it wasn't by coincidence that Sassuolo's threat diminished as he played better.
Vargas (5) Invisible.
Borja Valero (5.5) Inaccurate, slow, and often frustrated, he played in three different positions in the course of the game. One or two mediocre games in 17 isn't a bad ratio, especially considering how much we lean on him.
Ilicic (6.5) Doesn't get a 7 because of his miss that could have iced the game, but elegant and creative on the ball, one of the better players on the field today.
Rossi (7.5) He always plays with heart to match his talent, but he put the team on his shoulders today. Great goal and match winner. Capocannoniere of Serie A with 14 goals in only 17 games... San Giuseppe is worth his weight in gold.
M. Fernandez (6.5) Bright when he came on
Pizarro (5.5) It was immediately clear why he didn't start when subbed on.