On Thursday night, Fiorentina closed the door on their low scoring start to the season with a 5-1 shellacking of Qarabag. With spirit levels suitably raised, the Viola travelled to Torino's Stadio Grande Torino with high hopes. This was despite not having won a match on the Granata's home turf since Alberto Gilardino and Adrian Mutu helped fire the club to a 4-1 victory back in December 2008.
As the team sheets were announced any pre-match ruminations on whether Paulo Sousa may opt for two up front were firmly put to bed. In league play this season caution has been the watchword for Fiorentina and rather predictably the manager opted for what now seems his preferred 3-4-2-1 formation. There were no surprise inclusions, however Davide Astori returned to a back three that comprised Carlos Salcedo and Nenad Tomovic alongside the aforementioned Italian international. Captain Gonzalo Rodriguez was rested, leaving Borja Valero to pick up the responsibility of the armband. Nikola Kalinic was once again preferred to Khouma Babacar as the lone man up front, while Josip Ilicic, Federico Bernardeschi, Carlos Sanchez, Milan Badelj and Hrvoje Milic slotted into their usual positions on the field.
Torino started the game the brighter of the two sides, creating chances and playing like a team that were in form. With high energy pressing and a desire to get the ball forward at any given opportunity, Sinisa Mihajlovic's side were instantly asking questions of the Viola's back line. In the tenth minute their exuberant incursions almost paid off handsomely when Davide Zappacosta whipped a dangerous ball onto the head of Andrea Belotti. The resulting header from the 22-year-old was inches away from the target, however it served as a warning sign of what was to come.
Five minutes later Torino had the ball in the back of the Viola net. With possession inside the Torino half, Borja Valero uncharacteristically released a slack backwards pass in the direction of Hrvoje Milic, Milic opened his body up, but misjudged his positioning. Opting to let the ball roll on past him, the Croatian was clearly expecting Carlos Salcedo to take ownership of the situation. Despite the presence of Torino's Iago Falque, the Mexican defender looked to have things under control, but in a moment of madness Fiorentina's new signing decided to lunge at the ball with his right foot outstretched. Falque who had made up ground took advantage, the ball ricocheting favourably off of the Spaniard's standing foot, allowing the man on loan from Roma to take instant control and hot-tail it towards goal. There was still an awful lot to do, though the 26-year-old made it look all too easy. With Milic in pursuit and Astori afraid to come across for fear of leaving an easy pass across the face of the penalty box, Falque bore down on goal, as he reached the penalty area he opened up his feet and with poised aplomb curled a left footed shot along the ground past Ciprian Tatarusanu to make it 1-0 to the hosts.
Following the goal it is fair to say Fiorentina reacted positively. Enjoying their best spell in the match, the visitors really should have nabbed an equaliser before the half time whistle. In the 22nd minute Bernardeschi connected from a Tomovic cross, only to flash his header wide of the post. In the 30th minute Milic crossed towards Ilicic who could not direct his effort on target. The Viola were knocking on the door and an equaliser seemed destined. In the 33rd minute Bernardeschi crossed to Kalinic, who had peeled off of his marker and found space in the box, the delivery was inch perfect; on another day this would have been bread and butter for a player like Kalinic. Though it was not to be, the Fiorentina no.9 connected well with his header, but placed it right at Joe Hart who repelled it away for a corner. If Kalinic had directed it anywhere else on goal it would have surely levelled the scores. In the 41st minute, following a Fiorentina corner; the ball bounced nicely for Carlos Sanchez who from twelve yards out had a clear shot on goal, the Colombian midfielder met the ball sweetly with his left foot, only to see his effort whisk wide of the post. It was the second gilt edged chance that Fiorentina had passed up and they would be made to pay for it.
The second half proved to be as frustrating as it was haphazard for Fiorentina. After the break Paulo Sousa's team appeared to have lost the creative edge that they had shown in the closing stages of the first period. Whereas Torino came out from the intermission renewed. Instilled with the wherewithal to remain disciplined, they kept the Viola at bay, gifting nothing to the visitors cause. It was a spoil job par excellence from the home side as they receded possession of the ball to their opponents, while at the same time stymieing any potential threats in their infancy.
In the 60th minute and in stylish fashion the Granata doubled their advantage. Iago Falque picked the ball up in a wide position, there did not appear to be much on for the much travelled winger, yet out of nowhere Toro's no.14 scooped the ball up and over the head of five Viola defenders directly into the path of Andrea Belotti. Under the glare of the floodlights, the young Italian had got the run on his opponents. With his right foot he proceeded to cushion the ball out of the air before smoothly transitioning for his second touch with which he smashed the ball past a stricken Ciprian Tatarusanu in the Viola goal.
Paulo Sousa had replaced Josip Ilicic with Mauro Zarate at the break. Zarate whose magic touch had in midweek lit up the Artemio Franchi, was alas; not able to influence this game in any meaningful way. In the 68th minute Sousa brought on Matias Vecino and Khouma Babacar, the two substitutes replaced Milan Badelj and Federico Bernardeschi respectively. The pattern of the game was such that the changes rung brought about little influence as Mihajlovic's well drilled midfield and defence remained composed and assured. Torino were justifiably happy to sit on their lead and counter attack if and when an opportunity arose.
From an individual standpoint Khouma Babacar did make an impression. The Senegalese striker looked like a man with a point to prove and one would be hard pressed to argue that he was not successful in proving it. In the 84th minute Hrvoje Milic put in a beautifully weighted cross and that man Babacar did what he does best, powering a header past Joe Hart into the bottom corner. For the remaining minutes of the match Babacar hustled and tussled with the Torino defence, making the dying embers of the game both tense and testy for the home crowd.
Ultimately it was not to be for the Viola as Torino ran out 2-1 winners on the night. In a game in which not many Viola players could escape criticism, Sanchez and Babacar stood out. Milic was also reasonably impressive. As for the rest, the less said the better. With a 14 day break from domestic football, Paulo Sousa has plenty of time to think about his starting eleven for Fiorentina's next fixture. That game will take place on the 16th of October against an Atalanta side who currently occupy 12th spot in the league, two places above Fiorentina who (with a game in hand) currently languish in 14th place in the Serie A standings.