It's been a roller coaster season for Fiorentina, and in their emphatic finish to the season, the team appears to be doing their best to include all the highs and lows that the team is capable of while still winning games. The Viola traveled to face a comfortably mid-table but still dangerous Palermo side in the Sicilian sunshine, knowing that a win would guarantee them a spot in the UEFA Europa League for next season. Vincenzo Montella favored the in-form Josip Ilicic over Joaquin in his attacking trident, with Mario Gomez again benched in favor of Alberto Gilardino. Both choices paid off yet again, as Ilicic opened the scoring against his former club with an absolute thunderbolt of a strike from long range. The Slovenian respectfully didn't celebrate his unstoppable left-footed effort, and the Palermo fans were classy enough to applaud the wonderful goal that put Fiorentina in front on 23 minutes.
Palermo was able to find a response almost immediately, with the home side's first sustained bit of pressure putting the Fiorentina defense off balance. A poor clearance from David Pizarro fell directly to Mato Jajalo, and the Croatian wasted no time in getting off a polished volley and putting the ball past Neto and into the top corner. Having wasted their advantage, the Viola found themselves involved in and end-to-end match. Mohammed Salah had to come off early in the first half due to a minor injury, but thankfully Joaquin stepped into the game well, creating a couple chances. It was his cross that was nodded out to Matias Fernandez, whose shot was deflected home by a quick Gilardino reaction. The game should have been put to bed shortly thereafter when Gonzalo Rodriguez brilliantly volleyed in a Manuel Pasqual cross, but the referee inexplicably waved the goal off.
The second half began at a much lower tempo, possibly because of the heat, but it was again the home side to grow into the game, and it was again a soft goal that Fiorentina conceded when no one took responsibility for a bouncing ball in the box after a corner kick, and goal-scoring midfielder Luca Rigoni was quickest to punch the ball in. 70' gone and the score was level again, but the Viola did very well to not let their heads drop. Joaquin was set through by Ilicic shortly afterwards only to be denied by an excellent save by Stefano Sorrentino. Then it was Neto at the other end who had to make an excellent save to deny Palermo sub Andrea Belotti's header. Set pieces ended up being the Viola's friend yet again to clinch the match though, with Ilicic's chipped free kick nodded down excellently by Gilardino to Marcos Alonso, who unloaded his own fine volley to put Fiorentina definitively ahead.
There was time for a touch of late drama, but not near the Fiorentina goal, as Jasmin Kurtic finished off a mediocre performance with two yellow cards in the span of 3 minutes, ending his season a week early. Neto was also a bit silly in getting himself a yellow card for reacting in stoppage time after Robin Quaison rammed him going up for a bouncing ball, and he will also miss the last game of the season.
Despite the back and forth nature of the game, Fiorentina played with confidence and determination, while displaying more than enough quality to deserve the three points. Now the final game of the season awaits next Sunday, with the Viola hosting Chievo Verona at the Artemio Franchi, hoping to seal 5th and perhaps put some pressure on Napoli in fourth, who face a tough match against Lazio to finish their season. Forza viola, and hooray for European play again next season!
Neto 6.5 Tomo 6 Gonzalo 6.5 Savić 6 Pasqual 7 Pek 6- Kurtić 5 Mati 6.5 Salah 6 Iličić 7.5 Gila 7 Joaquin 6.5 Alonso Montella 7— Viola Nation (@Viola_Nation) May 24, 2015