Fiorentina started brightly enough, keeping the ball and passing around, and had a couple of hopeful early shots. Lech Poznan, though, were playing confidently, looking to use their numerical advantage out wide and break down the wings. They threatened from set pieces, sending a good effort from a rebound from the top of the box just wide of the goal with Luigi Sepe beaten in the 10th minute, then fired into the wall and softly on goal from a free kick just outside the box, conceded when Federico Bernardeschi inexplicably tried to dribble three players from inside the eighteen. The game became rather back and forth affair for awhile as the teams traded attacks. Bernardeschi was wrongly adjudged offside as he got in behind the defense in the 21st minute, but, following a nice flick from Mati Fernandez a minute later, wormed into the box and caused some chaos, resulting in Mati curling a tremendous shot barely wide. In the 27th, Rossi wasted a glorious chance after some high pressure gave Fiorentina the ball in the box, but he missed Ilicic to waste the chance.
Following some more back and forth, though, it was Josip Ilicic who scored. Giuseppe Rossi won a free kick just outside the box, and the Slovenian placed a curling shot into the top corner for a lead in the 41st minute.
That was pretty much it for the half, although Berna managed to catch a Poznan player in the face pretty hard with an elbow right at the final whistle.Second half
Settled by the goal, Fiorentina dug in for a win, passing the ball around nicely. Rossi got himself into some nice positions, but couldn't get a shot away cleanly, missing Ilicic again in the 57th minute. Lech Poznan responded bravely, pressing high up the pitch and threatening on the break repeatedly, but couldn't get any shots on target. Paulo Sousa seemed frustrated that his charges were neither defending wholeheartedly nor keeping the ball effectively, but they hung on, and Josip Ilicic notched his second in the 82nd minute. Mati and substitute Milan Badelj won the ball in midfield, and Fernandez released Ilicic to run through untouched and dink the ball over the keeper. Lech threw a couple more players forward, but looked more like conceding on the counter than scoring, and Fiorentina successfully ground out a 0-2 win.
Sepe: 6.5--made a couple of decent stops, and seemed confident; still shaky with his distribution
Tomovic: 6--most of Poznan's attacks in the first half came down the right; had a couple of nerve-wracking moments
Gonzalo: 7--his usual rock solid self:
Astori: 6.5--had a strong first half, but seemed to lose the thread a bit after halftime:
Blaszczykowski: 6--pretty invisible game for Kuba; could have been a lot better if his pass to Berna hadn't been wrongly called offside
Suarez: 6.5--decent showing; stuck in the middle, broke up play, and kept it simple, but allowed the game to get too frantic
Vecino: 7--typical performance, full of running, passing, physical play, and the odd moment of brilliance
Bernardeschi: 6.5--uneven, with very high highs and very low lows; still learning to play wingback, so it's hard to be too critical
Fernandez: 7.5--ran the show in the first half and nearly scored a real peach; less visible in the second, but assisted Ilicic
Ilicic: 8--very Josip game, in that he faded in and out, but scored two excellent goals; simply too good for a team like Lech
Rossi: 6--still working his way back; won the free kick for the first, but missed Ilicic twice on good chances, was often offside, and couldn't find space to shoot
Kalinic: 6.5--held the ball up well and pressured high up the pitch, just as Sousa probably asked him to; had a couple half chances
Alonso: 6--also still working back; nearly gave up a goal after being beaten inside, but was otherwise reasonably solid
Badelj: 7--settled the game down; brilliantly won the ball while on his backside and got it to Mati for the second goal
Basel just beat Belenenses 0-2 in Portugal, so they continue to lead Group I with 9 points, but Fiorentina have vaulted Lech Poznan and Belenenses into second place with 7 points; the other two are even on 4, with the Poles leading on differential. Fiorentina needs to win out, at Basel and against Belenenses, to top the group.
But still, this is the kind of performance top sides produce in such situations: grinding out a must-win game on a cold, ugly pitch away from home. No time to rest on the laurels, however, as Paulo Sousa and company square off against Sampdoria at the Luigi Ferraris on Sunday, with another win necessary to stay on the top of the table. Until then, forza Viola.