Sevilla 3 - FIORENTINA 0
The much anticipated first leg began exactly as any lover of the game would have wished. The Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan was packed to the rafters and as loud as any stadium can get, and both teams set out to play a fluid and high tempo style. But the warning signs for Fiorentina fans were there nearly immediately, when the otherwise-invisible Mario Gomez blazed over a great chance on the invitation of Viola MOTM and ex-Real Betis player Joaquin. The focused and clinical Rojiblancos under Unai Emery demonstrated how teams in semifinals are supposed to kill off their chances, finishing a slowish but well-worked team move by finding the unmarked Aleix Vidal, who somehow wasn't picked up by our midfield before Carlos Bacca could roll him the ball. The Viola were much the better side for much of the first half, and created the easiest scoring chance of the game (for either side) immediately after the home side taking the lead. Again Joaquin was the creator, and he teed up Matias Fernandez only 3 feet away from goal. The Chilean whacked his shot in nearly the opposite direction as the goal. The Viola didn't let their heads drop at this point though, and continued to look to dictate play, especially in midfield.
The second half was where everything started to go wrong for Fiorentina. Vincenzo Montella replaced Nenad Tomovic with Micah Richards after seeing Tomovic overrun in the first half, but the move was perhaps the wrong one to make at the break. After the Viola taking the initiative for the first couple minutes, a horrendous giveaway by Milan Badelj sprung Sevilla on the break, and it was Vidal again free to finish the move off, sending a tame shot past the incomprehensibly-fooled Neto. It was at this point that the wheels fell off for the visitors. The midfield was the strong point for the Viola in the first half, but after the Badelj mistake it essentially evaporated, despite the introduction of David Pizarro. This was in large part thanks to Sevilla intensifying their physical pressure on our ball-players in midfield, who folded badly and spent the rest of the game yelling at the referee. Admittedly, the referee was rather poor and denied the Viola of two fairly clear penalties, but it's the same problem with this current group, and it's a lack of mental resilience or calmness over the past month, not a lack of talent. And in this respect, the contrast with Emery's men was crystal clear.
The tie was far from over when Sevilla led by only 2 goals, but Montella's team did not seem to believe in the possibility of scoring, despite having gone undefeated in the previous 11 consecutive European away fixtures. Sevilla poured forward at every opportunity after the 2nd, and could have finished with more than 3. The substitute Kevin Gameiro effectively ended the tie with his first touch after 20 minutes of Sevilla dominance, converting a tap in when surrounded by Fiorentina players raising their hands for offsides. There was even time for a very depressing final substitution, with the criminally ineffective Mario Gomez making way for Josip Ilicic, sealing a miserable evening for the Fiorentina faithful.
It's a very small consolation (or not even that, depending), that Fiorentina's weaknesses were more culpable for this defeat than Sevilla's ability was. Taking nothing away from the excellent and complete collective that Emery has built in Seville, on a different day Fiorentina could have deservedly walked away with a result. But Sevilla didn't humiliate us. We humiliated ourselves. The whole team folded in the second half, from the goalkeeper forward. The fans in Florence will still pack the house next Thursday for a return leg, but they will have to settle for demanding some pride from their team, as advancing would require a 4-0 scoreline, or 3-0 through extra time and winning a penalty shootout (as the kids say, L-O-L).
I suppose this is the life of a Viola fan. Your team constantly shoots you. Not in the foot, just shoots you— Viola Nation (@Viola_Nation) May 7, 2015
The full post-mortem of the season will be ongoing through this end of the season, but for now the derby with Empoli awaits for a Fiorentina side low on ideas, confidence, and people who actually do concrete things like score real countable goals. Last weekend's victory against Cesena raised spirits slightly, but Maurizio Sarri's team will provide a very stiff challenge, especially in a game held to be so important by their supporters. The game against Empoli has also now taken added importance if Fiorentina want to qualify for Europe next season, as the Viola sit 5th and are effectively out of the Europa League with this semifinal first leg result.
Neto Tomo Gonzalo Savić Alonso Mati Badelj ⚠️ Borja Salah Gomez ♿️ ⌚️ Joaquin ✅ Montella ⌛️— Viola Nation (@Viola_Nation) May 7, 2015