Fiorentina have shocked Serie A, climbing to the top of the table for the first time since their ill-fated 1998-1999 season thanks to thumping Inter Milan. The San Siro crowd was stunned by a Nikola Kalinic hat-trick in the 4-1 win, as the viola took their fifth victory of the season.
Within the first three minutes, man of the match Nikola Kalinic drew a clear penalty on a foul by Inter keeper Samir Handanovic. Josip Ilicic converted the penalty convincingly, leading to an early 0-1 lead, which left Inter shook. Inter never recovered from bad start, and within the first 15 minutes Fiorentina was in complete control, ruthlessly and efficiently tearing Inter apart. The midfield trio of Borja Valero, Matias Vecino, and Milan Badelj was excellent, dominating posession and creating opportunities for the constantly dangerous Kalinic and Ilicic.
After 18 minutes, Kalinic would get his first goal of the night, followed by another five minutes later off a Marcos Alonso cross (the Spanish fullback was another player with an exceptional game), and all Inter could do to respond was foul, eventually leading to Miranda getting sent off with a red card around 30 minutes in. Fredy Guarin and our old friend Felipe Melo could have gotten themselves sent off too, but it's hard to blame the ref for showing mercy when the match was all but settled within 30 minutes.
The viola continued to dominate at the start of the second half, although they started to fade after approximately ten minutes. Mauro Icardi got the consolation goal for Inter 60 minutes in, mostly thanks to some poor play from Ciprian Tatarusanu, however Inter's comeback was short lived, and Kalinic completed the hat trick after 76 minutes.
The last 15 mintues were forgettable, but it's hard to complain about much after what was easily the best 45 minutes to start with of the Sousa era. The team used its skill advantage to dominate possession, and while the passing may not have been as attractive as it was under Montella, they carved up the Inter defense with prescision, and left the hosts dumbfounded and unable to respond. Borja continues to show his forgettable last season was a fluke, and is thriving, especially with the Badelj and Vecino pairing behind him, and the trio continue to dominate midfield matchups. Ilicic yet again showed his renaissance last season was no fluke, and Kalinic, well, I still don't understand how he spent much of his prime in the relative wilderness of Dnipropetrovsk.
Tatarusanu 5: Tata was the only thing keeping Inter alive, causing a few scares before gifting Icardi a goal. This was his first weak game of the season, and it's hard to blame a keeper for losing focus when his team is blowing the opponent out, but he's the only Fiorentina player to have a notably poor game.
Roncaglia 6: Facundo was commanding to start the match, and while he started to over commit and make errors in the second half as he's prone to do, his physical play helped keep Inter in line. Was taken off injured 75 minutes in, and hopefully was simply wasting time.
Gilberto N/A: He just wasn't on long enough to rate. Sorry.
Gonzalo 7.5: Flawless game, dominated the ball and gave Inter's forwards no room in the box.
Astori 7: Continues to fit in perfectly. Put in a calm, collective performance with few, if any, mistakes.
Blaszczykowski 6.5: Simple but effective game. Kuba dominated the flank and rarely lost the ball. Most of the chances were generated from the other side, but it is hard to complain about Kuba's decision making.
Tomovic 6: Replaced Kuba 69 minutes in to help kill off the game, did nothing wrong.
Alonso 8: Dominant in defense combined with some of the best crossing of his career. Created Kalinic's third goal and could have created more.
Badelj 8: Steady and dominant, his passes were flawless and he gave the Inter midfield little room.
Fernandez N/A: Like Gilberto, he just wasn't in very long. Didn't do anything wrong, though, so there's that.
Vecino 8: Once again had no problem combining with Badelj and Valero for some beautifully smooth passing, combined with grit and energy that gave Inter terrors all night. Created the play that lead to Miranda's expulsion.
Borja Valero 8.5: The revival under Sousa continues. Borja was too cerebral for Inter to handle, and although his finishing could have been better, he continues to cement his place as the heart and soul of the Fiorentina attack.
Ilicic 8: Perfect penalty aside, this continues to be the Josip we were hoping to get when he first signed. He terrorized the Inter defense for 90 minutes and showed a selfless side which helped Kalinic get the hat trick.
Kalinic 9.5: Is Kalinic the best striker signing we made since Luca Toni? Today he started off slow (though still drew a penalty), only to take over with ruthless efficiency. Was unguardable and linked up with Ilicic and Valero perfectly.
Sousa 9: This is the Sousa football we all wanted, more pragmatic perhaps but still a joy to watch, with clinical, direct effieicncy. Inter made it easy, but Fiorentina didn't sit back the way they have in some games this year.
Fiorentina look to bounce back in the Europa League on Thursday against Belenenses, but for now, let's celebrate first place!