The final Fiorentina friendly of 2015 wasn't a particularly memorable one, and came only 24 hours after a slightly more free flowing match in Lucca. The Viola defeated visiting Iraklis with a nearly totally different team than the one who played the day before, but Paulo Sousa again opted for a changed formation, this time a 3-4-2-1 of sorts, with Matias Fernandez and Josip Ilicic behind debutant striker Nikola Kalinic.
The midfield functioned fairly well, but Fiorentina found it difficult to create chances against the compact visitors. The opener came midway through the half when Manuel Pasqual was able to find Kalinic's nice run with a trademark cross from the left.
The Viola then conceded an equalizer on the break, only for Ilicic to seal the points with a glorious strike from 30+ yards out. The first half excitement didn't end there, as Ilicic and Kalinic combined to draw a penalty, which Mati couldn't convert thanks to an excellent save from the Iraklis keeper.
Rafts of substitutions from both sides slowed the action in the second half, although Federico Bernardeschi had a couple good combinations with Kalinic on the break. Ricardo Bagadur sustained an injury crashing into the post in a defensive action, and hopefully he it is only a minor knock. As the tempo continued to slow in the dying minutes, there was even time for the reappearance of
fan favorite Oleksandr Iakovenko.
Full highlights can be found here.
Nikola Kalinic The new Croatian number 9 was tidy in possession and active along the opposition back line. His run and finish for the opening goal was the stuff that Viola fans longed to see from Mario Gomez, and so rarely did. Nikola also lasted the full 90' without too much trouble, and therefore might be the man to lead the line against Milan considering Khouma Babacar appears to still be struggling for top physical condition.
Josip Ilicic Easily the best on the field for large swathes of the game. Elegant with the ball at his feet and spreading play uncharacteristically quickly, he also won the game with a brilliant strike from distance. Now if he is this good in meaningful games in Serie A this season, Paulo Sousa will quickly have difficulty choosing his front 3 (or 4?)
Matias Vecino His growth in two short seasons away from Florence has been nothing short of phenomenal. A complete player who can turn defense into attack, he ran the show comfortably with a much more seasoned veteran in Mario Suarez. Now 23, the Uruguayan will hopefully be a staple starter for Fiorentina this season.
Ahmed Hegazi It was never going to be easy coming back from such serious injuries, but the Egyptian is more worryingly showing a lack of focus when entrusted with a role in the center of defense. The 24 year old is still an imposing physical specimen and a talent, but he will not earn himself any minutes making the mistakes he has made this preseason.
Matias Fernandez The Chilean enjoyed some deserved rest back home after a triumphant Copa America, but he has clearly not returned to full physical sharpness. An imprecise and slow match was highlighted by his penalty being saved. It would be surprising to see him start against Milan next weekend.
Gilberto After a good showing against Chelsea, the Brazilian newbie looked uncomfortable against Iraklis, often losing possession in touch too easily. He clearly has an interesting physical tool set, but his touch and his tactical intelligence require a great deal of shaping if he is to contribute significantly in Serie A.
And that's the end of the Fiorentina friendlies this summer. Check back to the blog soon for our preseason recap, two more weeks of covering the summer transfer window, and our season preview featuring #hot #takes from the entire Viola Nation writing staff!