In the build up to this match Paolo Sousa sprung a surprise on everybody by naming Mauro Zarate in his starting line-up. The Argentinian was brought in at the expense of the Viola's joint top scorer this season Nikola Kalinic. Sousa opted for what looked on paper to be a 3-4-3 formation with Zarate and Ilicic supporting the centrally positioned Khouma Babacar. Having missed last week's game due to suspension, Matias Vecino slotted back into the centre of the Fiorentina midfield joining Borja Valero as a two man unit. Genoa's starting eleven were as expected with no late inclusions or surprises from Gian Piero Gasperini.
The opening twenty minutes of the match was a game of cat and mouse with both teams tormenting as much as frustrating each other. Neither side it appeared could truly get a proper handle on their adversary, with thrust and counter thrust seemingly keeping the game from falling into a recognisable pattern. Both teams were effectively nullifying one another.
As a spectacle it was turning into one for the connoisseurs, rather than one for the average fan. The game in fairness was not a great advert for Serie A, and as the half wore on the match remained without sparkle. Fiorentina had a half hearted shout for a penalty when on bringing down a hopeful ball in the Genoa box, Khouma Babacar became entangled with the recovering defender and proceeded to hit the deck. Objectively the referee was probably correct in waving away the Viola's half hearted appeals.
For Genoa, Diego Laxalt kept Ciprian Tatarusanu on his toes with a cross come shot that spelled danger but in the end did not trouble the score line. Laxalt was at it again just before the half time whistle, the Uruguayan got away down the left hand side, evading his marker, the wide man drove into the Viola box letting off a shot that was smartly saved by the foot of a sprawling Ciprian Tatarusanu, it was a good save by the Romanian resulting from what was the only real clear-cut chance of the half.
As the half time whistle blew the only thing of substance worth reporting was the three yellow cards handed out by referee Piero Giacomelli, the official had booked Genoa's Cristian Ansaldi in the seventh minute of the game, whereas Fiorentina's Facundo Roncaglia and Matias Vecino had joined the Genoa no.3 in the book in the 32nd and 38th minute of the half respectively. As both teams went in at the break the score was still 0-0.
The second half kicked off with the home side on the front foot, but in similar fashion to the first half, the Viola responded in kind, both teams producing half hearted attempts that although on target, did not trouble either goalkeeper too significantly. Genoa's on loan Spaniard Suso came close with a shot from outside the Viola area, the ball cannoning back off the post, it was a marvellous effort from Suso and up until that point, easily the most engaging moment of the game. Genoa were knocking on the door, moments after Tatarusanu was called into action again, repelling Leonardo Pavoletti from close range, a Genoa goal looked imminent.
Paolo Sousa perhaps sensing the game was getting away from his charges looked to his bench. In the 56th minute the Viola coach swiftly replaced Mauro Zarate and Josip Ilicic for Nikola Kalinic and Tino Costa. Gasperini waited to the 64th minute to retort, making a double substitution of his own. The Genoa manager brought on Diego Capel for fellow Spaniard Suso, but more alarming for Viola fans was the presence of Alessio Cerci the ex Viola wide man entered the game replacing Argentine Diego Perotti.
As time ticked by, on the sidelines Paolo Sousa was increasingly becoming more and more exasperated by what was a flat performance from his team. The substitutions had made the game a little more compact and had provided an outlet up front with Kalinic offering an option for the ball to stick. In the 78th minute Marcos Alonso replaced Manuel Pasqual, one felt the change was made more to keep energy levels at their optimum as opposed to any type of tactical manoeuvre by Sousa.
As the game edged into the eightieth minute a little more space seemed to emerge. It was not so much that the game became stretched, more the players' legs were beginning to feel the weight of such a scrappy and altogether unproductive encounter. Presumably this is why in the 85th minute Paolo Sousa decided to lend a hand, or rather a foot to proceedings. The Portuguese coach no doubt caught up in the humdrum reality of bearing witness to a match that was akin to watching paint dry, decided to liven things up by getting involved himself. To be honest i think most people watching could empathise with the manager, who as an ex player let his exuberance get the better of him. The Viola manager putting his foot into play to collect a ball that appeared to be going out of bounds. Unfortunately for Sousa the ball was most definitely still in play when he gained control of it. Sousa saw red for interfering with play, banished to the stands for improper conduct.
Almost as if by magic, without Sousa on the sidelines the game rather than petering out suddenly started to gain momentum. A match that had produced a turgid last half hour suddenly sprang into life. Both teams counter attacking at pace, in the space of a minute either side could have arguably stolen it at the death. On reflection though this game deserved to end goalless, and goalless is how it ended the teams sharing the spoils, from what in time will be a game that most will happily banish from their memory.
In truth Fiorentina can be a happy with a point from a fixture that at times looked like it might provide even less than that. Sousa may well have been undone by his own hubris, underestimating a Genoa side that in recent times have started to bite back. Either way, come Wednesday night Fiorentina will host Carpi at the Artemio Franchi, Viola fans will be expectant. Though Carpi will travel to Florence confident having successfully visited the Franchi only a month ago, a visit that resulted in Fiorentina crashing out of the Coppa Italia. It will be interesting to see what formation Sousa opts for against the Serie A minnows considering the ineffective nature of today's performance.