After all the dissection and gossip of the past month, it's sometimes been easy to forget how good Fiorentina can be under Vicenzo Montella. But the team seemed to determine to remind fans and neutrals alike - well, the few neutrals that weren't watching Lazio beat Napoli - how fluid and entertaining this group of players can be with the ball.
It only took 12 minutes for the Viola to make their supremacy on the field show on the scoreboard, as a limp and unmotivated Chievo Verona side took a long time to start competing. Mohammed Salah was electric in an appearance cut a little short by an allergic reaction to something, but he was still able to create an early first Josip Ilicic chance before taking a Borja Valero forward pass to the end line and chopping it back to the same Slovenian, who this time didn't miss. Alberto Gilardino was also well involved and mobile early on, possibly to the frustration of the benched Mario Gomez. Federico Bernardeschi replaced the slightly ill Salah on 27', with the Egyptian receiving a resounding ovation from the supporters. With the game comfortably in Viola hands early, the fans could keep half an eye on the insanity that was the Napoli - Lazio match, which saw Lazio jump out to a first half 2 goal lead.
I'm not saying anything more than GIFs until both games are over. But 4th huh pic.twitter.com/vPdmEcbY66— Viola Nation (@Viola_Nation) May 31, 2015
The second half began much in the same vein as the first, with Fiorentina able to break quickly against a lackadaisical Chievo. Gilardino had a goal correctly ruled out for offside, while the busy Bernardeschi showed great desire to put himself on display after his long injury. Matias Fernandez was also very involved before being replaced by David Pizarro, and it was the younger Chilean who teed up Gilardino again for what should have been the second goal, before the veteran Italian striker slipped at the key moment. As the tide in Naples began to turn towards Rafa Benitez's men, so too some nerves began to show among the leading Viola. Bernardeschi was denied by Albano Bizzarri, then returning Ciprian Tatarusanu was called upon to make a big stop after some excellent work by Inter loanee Ruben Botta. A poor Stefan Savic clearance nearly led to the Chievo equalizer, with a volley from Sergio Pellissier smacking the far post with Tatarusanu beaten.
But the tied swung again for Fiorentina when a distinctly poor Isaac Cofie collected a second yellow for a late tackle, and the visitors went down to 10 men. It was only 5 minutes later that Bernardeschi pounced on a shot spilled by Bizzarri to tap home his first Serie A goal. At this point the game was done and dusted, and there was time for the Viola supporters in the stadium to cheer Lazio regaining their advantage and sending Fiorentina fourth, as well as Milan Badelj sealing an excellent performance with his own inaugural Serie A goal. The atmosphere afterwards was something to behold, with the Viola supporters - who had packed the stadium for a nearly meaningless end of season finale - showering the team and the players' families with affection. Whatever happens going forward, this was a wonderful moment after a long and emotional season, one richly deserved by this group and coach after 3 consecutive 4th place finishes.
Tata Tomo Gonzalo ⚓️ Savić Vargas Mati Badelj ⭐️ Borja Iličić Gila Salah ⚡️ Berna Pek Montella ♻️— Viola Nation (@Viola_Nation) May 31, 2015
Anche quest'anno quarti pic.twitter.com/ZUzYYTpbtb— Manuel Pasqual (@ManuelPasqual) May 31, 2015
Stay tuned for all kinds of season recap coverage this week, from player of the season polls, mercato previews, and more info on Fiorentina's trip to the U.S.! Thanks for sticking with us all year and being such an amazing community through this season full of special moments! Forza viola!