I needed some extra time to make sure my recap was not an expletive-laced tirade. There was plenty of that in the comments section yesterday, and while it was a massively disappointing loss, I think that upon closer examination things were not quite as bad as they seemed.
We all know from Dumitru's preview that Udinese had a difficult mid-week UEFA Cup tie with Werder Bremen and that the Viola were fielding less than a first-choice 11. Specifically, without Mutu, Melo and Monto the Viola were missing their 3 most creative players. And these guys were sorely missed.
No one was happy to see Almiron on the team sheet to start the game, and as usual, he contributed nothing of note in his time out there. There was an open start to the game, and Udinese struck quickly on the counter attack with an Asamoah goal in the 10th minute. It was an excellent strike that went just inside of the far post, low and past the diving Bassy. The artist formerly known as Dario Dainelli (I don't know what else to say here because he's clearly so done these days that I look for a fork sticking out of his back during the games) could not keep close to him after a late-reacting Donadel had forced him to the outside.
Still, the Viola did not hang their heads and came forward several times in the first half. Semioli had a nice cross in the 18th minute that Zapata nearly turned into the back of his own net, Pasqual put a nice ball in for the Gila Monster and Jo-Jo had a nice strike in the 43rd. But, Udinese looked dangerous on the break and Bassy made an incredible save on Fabio Quagliarella somewhere around the 25th minute. Particularly dangerous for Udinese was the young Chilean, Alexis Sanchez. He was great with the ball at his feet, combined well with his teammates and was always a threat to get in behind the defense, especially Zauri and Dainelli.
Despite the fact that Udinese looked dangerous, it was not out of the question that the Viola would have every chance to get back into the game. I was feeling good about the second half. Then, after 50 seconds, the referee absolutely gifted Udinese a second goal when Quagliarella launched a speculative shot from outside of the area that struck Gamberini's arm from a yard away. Gamberini was trying to get out of the way of the shot and it was definately a case where the ball played the man as opposed to the other way around. D'Agostino stepped up and put Udinese 2-0 in front.
Still, the Viola rallied and kept fighting. After about 15 minutes, Pasqual put in a delicious ball off of a free kick for Dainelli to redeem himself a bit by heading home to halve the deficit. Almost, immediately after that, however, Sanchez had the ball and made the most out of minimal contact from Dainelli on the edge of the Viola penalty box. I thought this was a dive and I think very little of Sanchez's ethics on the pitch. He's an excellent player but he goes over with very little contact. D'Agostino restored Udinese's 2 goal advantage with a nice left-footed strike. I think Bassy could have done better on that kick - but I think both of D'Agostino's goals were the result of dodgy referring decisions.
The Viola kept fighting, putting on Vargas, Old Man Jorgensen and Bonazzoli. However, without any creative players on the pitch, the attempts to score were through speculative long balls that Udinese dealt with fairly easily. The Gila Monster did fight to get his head onto one and the header bounced off of the post with the keeper beaten, but it became increasingly clear that it just wasn't Fiorentina's day.
- My favorite part of the game was the rousing ovation given to Jorgensen when he came into the game by the Udinese fans who did not show up dressed as empty lime green seats. It was a classy move to recognize a player who did a lot for their club.
- The team did not play particularly well, but I think it is a bit of a stretch to say that they were completely outplayed by Udinese. Like I said above, the referee gifted them the second goal and the third was the result of a blatant dive by Sanchez.
- Without Melo, Mutu, Monto and Santana there are simply no options for Prandelli to call on for that creative spark in midfield. Kuz played pretty well but he's more of a workmanlike player, we all know Donadel's limitations and I'm not sure Jorgensen is up to playing as a trequartista any longer. Jorgensen could be an upgrade at RB, provided he's fit enough for 90 minutes.
- Pasqual continues to impress, and I think that for the rest of this season anyway, Vargas is going to be a player who comes off of the bench and plays left wing. Pasqual was solid defensively and put in several excellent crosses.
Stay tuned for some updates about the preparations for the massive match with Roma. This is still possible people, 2 points behind Geona with 6 to play. 4 of those 6 are at the Franchi. Let's stay positive. Forza Viola!