It was by no means a classic encounter at the Stadio Artemio Franchi this evening; but there were plenty of positives to be taken as Fiorentina beat Genoa 1-0 thanks to a single Khouma Babacar goal.
The teams went in at the break with neither side able to break the stalemate, in what was a frustrating but fiery half of football for the viola faithful. Fiorentina were struggling to find any cutting edge in the final third despite some attractive build up play, and Genoa were content to break up the play with a series of fouls. The best of the chances went to the home side, but in truth - aside for a couple of half chances for Babacar and Borja Valero and a scare when Genoa's Goran Pandev shot over late in the half - neither side really looked like breaking the deadlock.
After the break, Fiorentina emerged with renewed vigor and their neat interplay around the edge of the box looked likely to be rewarded with a goal. Captain Manuel Pasqual shot just wide of the post just before the hour mark although Genoa 'keeper Eugenio Lamanna looked to have it covered. There was no saving Babacar's downward header though, when he met Valero's inch perfect cross just two minutes later to put Fiorentina into the lead. The Senegalese youngster marked his first goal of the season by racing towards the Curva Fiesole to celebrate with the fans.
Milan Badelj's second yellow card just two minutes later set up a nervy final thirty minutes but the viola held firm against some pretty intense Genoa pressure (especially in the agonising five minutes of added time) and took the 1-0 victory to the delight of the home fans.
- The defence coped extremely well under pressure without linchpin Gonzalo Rodríguez
- Borja Valero seems renewed under Paulo Sousa, and put the kind of performance that so often eluded him last season and exited the field to a standing ovation.
- After 482 games without a start, an hour of football from Giuseppe Rossi was a massive step forward
- Marcos Alonso - who is close to signing a contract extension - nearly added to his scoring tally and put in a much improved shift in defence.
- Jakub Błaszczykowski made his debut for the club late on in the match. No doubt we will be seeing more from the Polish winger in the weeks to come.
- Most pleasing of all, however, was the determined performance and ability to grind out a tricky result with ten men. There is no doubt that Sousa is still finding his feet with the team but if today's result is anything to go by, he is certainly on the right track.