Today in beautiful Florence, Fiorentina did what it took 3 seasons to do. Start the first day off with 3 points.
In a particularly intense first day of Serie A, Fiorentina dismissed Bologna with goals from Alberto Gilardino, the ever more deadly Alessio Cerci, and a little luck off the post. There were many surprises, many players who re-found their form and a much more flowing and organic team. We can agree now that this Fiorentina incarnation is one that is much more comfortable with each other and moves seamlessly. It was the first match against a team that didn't have very high expectations but it sent a message throughout Serie A. The viola will be one of the protagonists of the season.
Fiorentina came out of the gate keeping Bologna in their own side nearly the entire first half. At 5' Behrami found Gilardino at the edge of the area where Gillet had to dive to deflect it into the corner. Six minutes later a Montolivo free kick found Cerci who nodded it off to captain Gamberini who was denied a meter from the net. Fiorentina were looking more dangerous, and at the 20 minute mark, Pasqual slalomed through the Bologna left side and sent a delicious cross to Gila who in a classic header nestled the ball into the back of the net. Fiorentina went up 1-0.
Bolognas first shot on goal came at the 30 minute mark when Boruc was surprised by a sudden strike by Diamanti that slammed off the near post. Just a minute later Jovetic who had been trying to enter in the Bologna area time and time again barely missed the crossbar from twenty meters. Bologna took one last shot before halftime that barely skimmed across the far post.
If the first half hadn't been a demonstration of Fiorentina's strength up front, the second half started with a roar. The ubiquitous Pasqual, clearly having had something slipped in his coffee, snuck up the left side and slid the ball over to a perfectly positioned Jovetic, who lobbed it on to Cerci's foot to launch into the top of the net. Fiorentina 2-0.
Only two minutes later Cerci again found himself mere meters from the goal that just merely scratched the crossbar. Cerci then found himself on the other end as he slid the ball to an open Jovetic who weakly sent the ball into the arms of Gillet. Over the next twenty minutes, Jovetic and Cerci constantly put pressure on the Bologna defense sending them into a flurry of corners. At the hour mark Gamberini felt a tinge in his muscle and passed on the captain's band to JoJo while making way for the debut of 18 year old Serbian Nastasic. Nastasic immediately imposed himself on the field denying any service to Di Vaio. Mihaj then decided to take a more offensive route and subbed Behrami for Kharja. At 70 minutes Bologna found themselves fouled at the end of the viola box. Diamanti stepped up to take the free kick and beat Boruc with the ball slamming clamorously on the far post. Mihaj subbed Gila for the debut of Tanque Silva who spent the final 10 minutes languishing in midfield while the major threats on goal came from Cerci and Jovetic.
After one last attempt by JoJo the referee blew the triple whistle and Fiorentina came out with all three points.
The Majority of props today had to go to Pasqual. Manuel Pasqual is a player who finds himself on the permanent transfer list but still manages to be a starter every season. Today we were offered a glimpse of vintage Pasqual with a powerful cross, deep runs from defense to offense and a good connection with Jovetic. Wether this is merely a glimpse or a reformed Manuel will be judged in the next few matches. Alessio Cerci deserves more than enough praise for carrying on his hot streak from last season. Cerci has now scored six goals in his last six Serie A matches and has been on a consecutive streak for three of them. This could very well be our secret weapon. JoJo's highly anticipated return didn't disappoint. He found himself time and time again in perfect shooting positions, and the foot and power will come back with time.
We are still too open in the back. The fact that we kept a clean sheet to the good graces of the post indicates we need better marking and less fouls near the box. Cassani was great in the middle even if it meant abandoning his back post, but he looked a little shaky at moments. Still he missed very little. Natali was a little more aware than usual but body-slamming the forwards could lead to very dangerous free kicks.
I really don't know what to think about Montolivo. He seems like he's about to reluctantly sign a contract, but he still runs hot and cold. Monty seemed to enjoy his new deeper position but his ball control is still lacking, and he seems to give it away too easily.
Boruc - 6 - Beaten by the post twice, but alert on corners and made a fine save on Kone.
Cassani - 6 - He seems to get stuck in the middle between offense and defense but he makes few mistakes.
Gamberini - 6 - Doesn't give any space to Di Vaio but isn't as particularly sharp today probably because of his aching muscle.
Nastasic - 6.5 - Decent debut for the young Serbian, goes man to man with Di Vaio and frustrates Kone.
Natali - 6 - Good strong man in the back but needs to be more careful regarding his challenges.
Pasqual - 6.5 - Vintage performance, involved in both goals, finds Gilardino with a direct cross for the 1-0, and finds Jovetic inside the box leading to Cerci's goal.
Behrami - 6.5 - Takes a moment to get into position but once he does, he plays in typical fashion. Run's, crosses, and a shot on goal or two.
Kharja - 6 - Enters with his head already in the game and adds some extra muscle for the last quarter of the game.
Montolivo - 6 - He doesn't have his head too far in the clouds today, but the ball control must improve.
Lazzari - 6.5 - Lazzari has a smooth transition with Pasqual "liberating" his position so that Pasqual can move forward. He disappears a bit in the second half save for moving the ball forward.
Cerci - 6.5 - The only thing thats stopping "Cercirito" from getting a 7 was his refusal to pass the ball to an open Jovetic at several points, but another goal, movements into the box, a near assist, and just barely skims a brace. This could be the revelation.
Gilardino - 6.5 - After a summer of light and dark, Gila's fine preseason form takes only 20 minutes to translate itself into a goal. Classic Gila header, good point man, and moves the ball around the box. Too bad he bundles a brace by shooting from far away then getting closer to Gillet.
Silva - N/A - Tanque comes on for two minutes to a surprising ovation from the Franchi faithful as more than an introduction. It is believed he had spent the first half of the game trying to kill Brendan Fraser
Jovetic - 6 - JoJo is almost there, he moves very well, he had himself in position each time, he just needs more power in his shot. He tries over and over again never finding the right angle, but he's well on his way back.
Mihajlovic - 6.5 - This is a Fiorentina that feels more comfortable with each other, the new have already well gelled with the old. When Jovetic gets his shot back. We can start having fun.
Next Sunday we're off to Udine. A place that has never been very viola friendly and that will serve as our first test of the season. Vargas comes back on Tuesday and we could count on the return of Camporese if Gambero doesn't manage to make it.
Note: The Lega Calcio is cracking down on youtube highlights so we'll be posting them in link form instead.