Fiorentina came into today's Serie match against Chievo desperately needing a victory. Inter and Parma had both leapfrogged la Viola with earlier matches and they had struggled recently in the league.
A mid week tie at Juventus on Thursday in the Europa League had fired up the local fans, and coach Vincenzo Montella wanted to bring that enthusiasm over to the league, but was concerned with the distractions and was afraid that the players might overlook Chievo, who are hovering just above the relegation zone.
Further complicating the issue was the continued absence of Borja Valero, spending the last match of his suspension up in the stands, not to mention the injury to Matias Fernandez, who will miss at least 10 days with a sprained ankle.
With the missing players in midfield, Montella was forced to play Anderson, Manuel Pasqual and Massimo Ambrosini in midfield, and also juggled the back line, bring in Mobido Diakite and Marvin Compper, likely saving Nenad Tomovic and Stefan Savic for Thursday's match up with Juventus in the Europa League.
Early on the choices seemed like genius as Fiorentina, while not really looking all that good, were able to release Juan Cuadrado on a long ball from David Pizarro. Cuadrado then drive to the middle, dished the ball back to Pizarro who lobbed it back to Cuadrado who then lobbed it over Chievo goalie Michael Agazzi.
Agazzi had been linked with Fiorentina all summer and given how he looked today, fans can be glad that that deal only materialized in the press, because he really didn't look that good at all.
After the first Viola goal, Chievo were forced to come out of the shell they had been in and began to come forward. Neto was called on for two or three saves and things looked dicey, but then Anderson released on a counter, dashing down the center of the field, dishing the ball to Cuadrado who kept the ball in bounds and sent it across the face of the net. The ball deflected, but Allesandro Matri was still able to pounce on the ball and put it past the goalie.
The half ended 2-0, but it was really a much closer played thing than that and the second half proved that even more as Chievo came out and dominated play for the first 15 minutes of the half and their hard work finally paid off as they got a goal from Alberto Paloschi.
Chievo continued to press, and Fiorentina continued to counter and the match looked to be in the balance until Mario Gomez, who had replaced Matri shortly before the Chievo goal broke free in what looked to be an offside position and got the third goal to put the match away.
Fiorentina leaped back into 4th place ahead of tough matches against Napoli and Milan in the next week and a half an for the moment, at least, Fiorenitina fans can feel good.
Neto(7.5) - only three saves and a bit shaky in the second half, but he's really the rock in the back for Fiorentina
Diakite(6) - Quite a good first half for Diakite, tailed off a bit in the second half tho, but the whole team was guilty of that
Rodriguez(6) - same as the rest of the defense, he was scrambling in the second, but he's still the guy.
Compper(5) - really didn't do anything for me. I think he's much more suited for a four man back line.
Cuadrado(8) - Goal and an assist, he's now tied for the second leading scorer on the team. Picked up a knock at the end of the match, but shoudl be ok for Thursday.
Ambrosini(6) - practically invisible in the first half, but played large in the second and played the whole match when he was desperately needed. High grade for resilience.
Pizarro(7) - rough start, but was vintage Pek from then on. Got the assist on the first goal and was huge. Played more defensively in the second half and cleared several balls from the danger zone.
Anderson(6) - Much better for Andow today. Several great runs, including the run that resulted in the second, and winning, goal. Subbed for Ilicic with 25 minutes to go.
Pasqual(5.5) - had a few good plays on defence but was detrimental on offense.
Wolski(6) - Still rough, but is clearly a diamond in the rough. He just works his butt off.
Matri(6.5) - there to clean up in front of the net on the second goal like a good poacher should. Also works so hard all match. Subbed for Gomez.
Gomez for Matri
Ilicic for Anderson
Vargas for Wolski
Montella(7) - This match had distraction written all over it and while the team didn't really look all that good, his lineup still worked when it counted.
"There was a risk, subconsciously, that we could possibly underestimate this test, so I rotated the squad and played those who were seemed more motivated at this opportunity to shine"
"It was a good performance against an excellent Chievo team that caused us all sorts of problems, but overall I think my team did enough to win it."
"Chievo did get back into the game, but we finished it off in a mature fashion. It was a shame we went a little too deep at one point."
"I have no doubts about Cuadrado. It was a purely tactical decision on Thursday (not to play him). We’ll see over the next few days what choices I’ll make and the strategy I take against Juventus."
"It’s (Thursday's match) a difficult match, considering the enthusiasm in the city. People acted as if we had already qualified! Unfortunately we have to play the second leg still and it is going to be incredibly tough."
Serie A Goals
(* indicates a goal in this match)
Cuadrado (5) *
Gomez (3) *
Matri (3) *
Yellow Card Accumulation
(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 have an *, red cards #)
Compper(3) - misses match on next yellow
Pasqual (3) - misses match on next yellow
Savic (3) - misses match on next yellow
The Europa League continues as the Evil Empire comes back to Florence. Pirlo will be back for Juve, but they have some injury issues. Fiorentina will be missing Pizarro and Matias Fernandez, but Valero will be back and rested.
After Juve it's right back to Serie A with a trip to Napoli. Valero will be back, and Fiorentina Fans will be looking for payback for a 2-1 loss at the Franchi the first time around. Napoli have been mediocre the last three weeks, only able to score one goal in each match,and will be looking to improve on that tomorrow agaisnt Torino and the following week against La Viola. Napoli will also play in the Europa league on Thursday, so no advantage there.
Short turn around as Milan come to town Wednesday after the Napoli Trip.
Milan are struggling and the axe is hovering over coach Seedorf's head, as ridiculous as that sounds, and is. Former Viola Montolivo and Pazzini will be looking to hurt their old squad as usual.
Thu Mar 20 2:00 ET Fiorentina v Juventus - Europa League (Third Round - tied 1-1 on agg.)
Sun Mar 23 1:30 ET Napoli v Fiorentina
Wed Mar 26 10:00 ET Fiorentina v AC Milan
Sun Mar 30 9:00 ET Sampdoria v Fiorentina
Sun Apr 6 9:00 ET Fiorentina v Udinese
Sun Apr 13 9:00 ET Hellas Verona v Fiorentina
Sat Apr 19 9:00 ET Fiorentina v AS Roma
Sun Apr 27 9:00 ET Bologna v Fiorentina
Sat May 3 2:45 ET Fiorentina v Napoli - Coppa Italia (Final)
Sun May 4 9:00 ET Fiorentina v Sassuolo
Sun May 11 9:00 ET Livorno v Fiorentina
Sun May 18 9:00 ET Fiorentina v Torino
End Of Season
(* - pending results this match day, #-match to be replayed on April 2)
Roma 58 * #
Parma 46 #
Hellas Verona 40
Odds N Ends
Fiorentina hadn't won in Serie A since Feb 8, a 2-0 win against Atalanta
and hadn't won in any competition since Feb 20 against Esbjerg