Fiorentina 3-1 Cesena
After 4 straight league defeats and a Europa League semi final with Sevilla looming, a win at home to almost certainly relegated Cesena was imperative today. Having been burned by Cagliari at home last Sunday, victory was by no means certain, and so the team played on the front foot straight from the kick off, in an attempt to kill the visitors off early.
Mohammed Salah, starting as he meant to go on, created two chances inside the first four minutes as the home side poured forward. Cesena tried to capitalise on Fiorentina's eagerness to score, hitting them on the break and creating two early chances - Franco Brienza's shot winning a corner from Nenad Tomovic and Gabi Mudingayi shooting just wide from a corner. The viola pressed on regardless, however, as Cesena somehow pulled off a goal line clearance from a Josip Ilicic shot and Juan Manuel Vargas was unlucky not to be rewarded with a goal when he rocketed an effort from distance towards 'keeper Federico Agliardi.
When the referee pointed to the spot after Borja Valero was upended by Mudingayi, the crowd could have been forgiven for feeling nervous, given Fiorentina's appalling penalty record in the league this season. They needn't have worried though as Ilicic dispatched his penalty with confidence and the home side deservedly went 1-0 up on 32 minutes. The Slovenian added to his tally just two minutes later, cutting away from the defender with his left foot just outside the box and finishing confidently with his right at the far post. The fans must have been mid sigh of relief when Salah almost fed Ilicic for his hat-trick with an ambitious high ball that Agliardi only just gathered. The Egyptian continued the onslaught on the visitor's goal with two chances before half time, the first curled just wide from an Alberto Gilardino layoff, the second a stunning effort again denied by Agliardi.
The second half commenced in much the same fashion, Salah denied again by Agliardi after going on one of the trademark runs that give defenders nightmares. The victory was sealed, though, on 55 minutes when Gilardino, in his second spell for Fiorentina, scored his 50th goal for the club, converting an Ilicic cross with ease. The only slight disappointments on a positive day were that Fiorentina didn't keep a clean sheet and that Ilicic didn't get a deserved hat-trick despite going close twice before he was substituted with around ten minutes remaining. Cesena's goal came from a superb Alejandro Rodriguez effort, unleashing a shot on the edge of the box after he found himself unmarked. The rest of the half played out like an exhibition match with confidence surging through the veins of the team.
After an awful run of four straight league defeats in April, Fiorentina have redressed the equilibrium and can go into their Europa League semi final first leg in Seville with confidence high. The victory has facilitated a mental line being drawn in the sand and despite the poor run, their targets remain unaffected and Fiorentina sit happily in fifth place.
Neto 6 Tomović 6 Savić 6.5 Basanta 6 Vargas 6 Kurtić 6 Badelj 6.5 Borja 7 Salah 7.5 Iličić 8 Gila 7 Montella 7
— Viola Nation (@Viola_Nation) May 3, 2015