Fiorentina beat the visiting Guingamp comfortably to begin their 2014-15 European campaign, thanks to a dominant midfield performance and 3 high quality goals. Taken objectively, this was not as perfect a performance as the scoreline suggests, but the match ended with two emphatic finishes that sealed the result, and the last one in particular - a peach by Federico Bernardeschi - did wonders to lift the spirits of even the most cynical of Viola fans.
Fiorentina played a controlled first half, generally holding the ball and attempting to create opportunities from the flanks. On the few occasions that Guingamp broke quickly, good covering work from Stefan Savic, Jose Maria Basanta, and Jasmin Kurtic ensured that Ciprian Tatarusanu was a spectator in the first half of his debut. In attack, Fiorentina once again had problems creating good shooting opportunities early. Borja Valero had a magical touch that almost sprung Mario Gomez, but the German's attempt was blocked. Later in the half Big Mario was able to get the ball into the back of the net, but was rightly whistled for offside after getting on the end of a rebounded shot. Juan Cuadrado was the consistent source of danger, often drifting far from his right wing to receive the ball and occasionally delivering some very good crosses, one of which Juan Manuel Vargas really should have gotten his head on. The Peruvian was able to atone for missing his first header shortly afterwards, when Kurtic swung an excellent ball in after beating his man on the wing; the bending cross cleared Gomez but Vargas was immediately behind and headed home from point blank range for Fiorentina's first goal of the new season.
The first half excitement didn't end there though, with Guingamp midfielder Mustapha Diallo picking up his second yellow card only minutes after receiving his first for an elbow barge on Vargas. The call looked a bit harsh, but the inconsistent referee had no doubts after Diallo caught Kurtic's foot with a clumsy challenge. The game looked already out of reach at halftime for the visiting French side, who did not show much in the way of attacking spark for much of the game.
Milan Badelj entered for Borja Valero at the beginning of the second half, with the Spaniard having sustained a heavy challenge shortly before the interval. Little changed in terms of the flow of the game in the second 45', although Fiorentina's superiority made itself more pronounced in terms of goal-scoring opportunities. Micah Richards entered for Stefan Savic on 57', shifting a hot-and-cold Nenad Tomovic into the center of defense as la Viola continued to work interesting balls into the box from wide. David Pizarro was also very unlucky not to find the net with an excellent effort from range. But it was Guingamp's substitution Claudio Beauvue that almost changed the game completely when he picked up the ball in midfield with acres of space, turned Basanta, and fired a venomous shot from just outside the box, but Tatarusanu made his only significant save of the game with aplomb.
The game effectively ended when Pizarro - in ravishingly fine form today - pinged another perfect ball out wide, this time finding an unmarked Cuadrado who had timed his run to perfection. The Colombian buried his chance high into the far post, and the 3 points looked sealed. Now the attention of the Fiorentina fans turned to encouraging their laboring German striker into a goal, but, while busy and self-sacrificing, Mario Gomez would have to wait at least another game to open his scoring for the season. Instead it was Fiorentina's youth talent Federico Bernardeschi who thanked us all for watching the final part of the match with a sumptuous turn and lefty strike reminiscent of one Giuseppe Rossi. The goal was the Tuscan 20 year old's first professional goal for Fiorentina, and what a way to start.
MOTM: David Pizarro
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Bernardeschi 7 Badelj 6.5 Richards 6 CURVA FIESOLE </p>— Viola Nation (@Viola_Nation) <a href="https://twitter.com/Viola_Nation/status/512707874405896194">September 18, 2014</a></blockquote>
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Fiorentina will next travel away to face Dinamo Minsk in the Europa League, with the Belarusian side losing heavily in Greece today, 6-1 against PAOK. But first Atalanta this weekend. Forza viola, and thank goodness for a season now properly begun.