"There's no way Fiorentina can lose to Chievo Verona, right?" we all asked with that hint of desperation that indicates, yeah, actually, that could happen. A win was crucial to pull the team out of its recent tailspin, punctuated by a morale-crushing loss to Juventus last week. Another loss would have opened Paulo Sousa up to significant and well-deserved criticism, as well as throwing the Della Valles' mercato plans into chaos (okay, the mercato's always chaos with Fiorentina, but still). So yeah, three points were important for more than just keeping pace on the table.
The home team started brightly, keeping the ball and hunting it in the Gialloblu half when they lost it. After a few early pops from distance (Josip Ilicic, of course, as well as a newly-shorn Facundo Roncaglia), Federico Bernardeschi brilliantly unlocked the Chievo defense in the 20th minute, putting Nikola Kalinic through on goal. The Croatian somehow squeezed the ball under Albano Bizzari at the front post for his 10th (!) goal of the season.
In a pleasant departure from recent form, Fiorentina didn't back off after the goal, instead continuing to surge forward with intent. Ilicic ensured the pressure paid off with a thunderbastard (deflected by Alessandro Gamberini, in fairness) that utterly bamboozled Bizzari in the 32nd minute.
The rest of the half was mostly comprised of Fiorentina controlling the ball and quickly snuffing out any attacks by the Murri Volanti.
The second 45 minutes unfolded much as the previous 45 had, albeit without any goals. Fiorentina were clearly in control and never really looked like conceding, the back line easily coping with any potential danger and then recycling the ball. Fiorentina kept it in the middle, occasionally advancing to have a go from distance, but knew they had the ascendancy and clearly felt no need to push for more, summed up by Sousa's only using two of his three subs. The biggest talking point, in fact, was whether Giuseppe Rossi had played his last match in purple this season, which pretty clearly indicates what a non-event the second half was.
The three points keep Fiorentina ahead of Napoli (with whom they're even on points and goal differential but ahead of on goals scored) for second place in Serie A and just a point behind Inter Milan, who are currently trailing Lazio. It's also a much needed confidence boost ahead of a winter break that could provide crucial reinforcements for a Champions League finish. And, to be frank, it was really nice to see the Gigliati just boss an opponent for an entire game.
Fiorentina resume play on 6 January against Palermo, which is always a rollicking good time. Keep it here for all your mercato news and season retrospectives. Forza Viola.