Today at the Artemio Franchi Fiorentina defeated Everton 2-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Cup round-of-sixteen tie, putting them in solid position to advance to the next round. They will play the return leg at Goodison Park in Liverpool next Wednesday.
Normally I try to be fairly meticulous in my match reports: I take careful notes and try to give fair representation of the action. But today’s game was played while I was at work and was not televised here in the states, so I could not digitally record it. I simply assumed I wouldn’t be able to see it, but a reader of this blog shared a great website where we could all enjoy the game. (Thank you again, Francesco!) Still, I was at work, and probably saw only about 75% of the match, and much of even that was while I was being distracted by co-workers and all that. So anyway, I wanted to provide my thoughts on a great win, but also offer the caveat that I didn’t watch the game as closely as I normally do.
• First of all, and most obviously, the scoreline could have been 4 or 5-nil. Fiorentina absolutely dominated that game. Their passing was crisper, and their team play was much more cohesive. It was a great advertisement for Italian football. Any neutral, I imagine, would have delighted in some of the passes the Viola were stringing together, particularly in the second half.
• I don’t like to get into the (often contentious) debate about which country has the best league, but I think the match really showed why some of us really like the Italian game. I have no idea what Everton was doing with some of those long balls. I was led to understand they have a decent midfield, but I didn’t see it today.
• Everton might be a bit of a paper tiger. As I pointed out in my preview of the game, they have scored a ton of points off mid and lower-table teams, but have only one point off the big four. They sure didn’t have any answers for Fiorentina today.
• Lot of individual standouts for the Viola today. The goalscorers (Kuzmanovic and Montolivo) both showed enormous skill, Donadel looked good (again), Santana provided some excitement off the bench and the entire defense was solid. Vieri continues to look old to me. I thought the team changed completely when Pazzini finally came on, and had been wondering why the Great Man (as I will now refer to Coach Prandelli) didn’t put him on sooner.
• Everyone else is saying it too, but let me add my voice: Everton should thank their lucky stars for Tim Howard. It really could’ve been worse.
• Finally, let me say that I don’t think the tie is over. I like Fiorentina’s position (it’s certainly better to be two-up than two-down) but I understand they still have 90 minutes to play in Liverpool. Everton will be tough at home and the Viola will have to continue with their strong defense to advance to the next round. I never sneeze at a 2-0 victory, but I do wish one more of those close ones had gone in.
Lastly, we should all take a moment to reflect on what a week it’s been for the club and its supporters. One hell of a week, in fact. Beating Juve at home and dominating a good English club in Europe is something all supporters should be proud off. Wear your colors with pride this week.
I will be back tomorrow or Saturday with a preview of the match with Siena.