Paulo Sousa stuck with the 4-2-3-1 that’s made Fiorentina look so much better of late, bringing Milan Badelj back into the starting lineup and keeping Nenad Tomovic on the bench. Otherwise, the lineup was about as strong as possible, which wasn’t a shock coming off a difficult draw at home against Crotone. There was also some heightened interest here as Pantaleo Corvino built this Bologna side for the past 3 years before returning to Florence.
After a brief Veltri foray into their territory to open the match ended with Filip Helander heading just wide from a corner, the Viola took matters into hand. In minute 6, Josip Ilicic slipped into the box, neatly brought down a pass, and blasted a right-footed effort that would have slipped inside the near post had Angelo da Costa not gotten the slightest of lucky touches on it to tip it onto the upright and back out. Bologna lost in-form attacker Simone Verdi to a muscular injury 5 minutes later, and Roberto Donadoni was forced to bring on Luca Rizzo in his place.
Josip renewed his acquaintance with the woodwork in the 25th minute, stinging the crossbar with a lovely free kick that cannoned back off the bar and dropped right in front of Nikola Kalinic, who easily tucked it into the open goal. The linesman’s flag had gone up though, and the goal was correctly disallowed for offside. It was only a couple minutes after that, though, that Kalinic latched onto a lovely ball over the top from Gonzalo Rodriguez, then cut in front of and was brought down by Daniele Gastaldello in the box. Paolo Valeri had no choice but to give the defender a straight red as the last man as well as the penalty.
Kalinic stepped up to the spot, which is a good sign of confidence in such a streaky player, rather than usual taker Ilicic. The Croatian duly tucked the ball away, but Valeri ordered a retake as Federico Bernardeschi and about half the Bologna team got into the area before the shot. Kalinic kept his nerve, though, and converted for a second time to give Fiorentina an away lead. That lead seemed to send the Viola to sleep a bit, and the rest of the half passed almost entirely without incident.
One might have thought that Sousa would go in for the kill against an inferior side that was short a man, but that’s a misunderstanding of the Portuguese mister’s general masterplan. He instructed his charges to keep the ball, frequently in nonthreatening positions, and kill off the match. Kalinic wasted a chance from Hrvoje Milic’s left wing cross as he mistimed his jump on a free header and doinked it well over, but that can be attributed to the pure shock he must have felt at getting the ball from that sector.
The teams exchanged a few more shots through the half. Blerim Dzemaili getting his head to a corner and Saiphir Taider trying to smack the rebound back in from outside the box was probably the best chance for the Rossoblu. Kalinic had a decent look as he latched onto a neat through ball from Berna, but fired into the side netting.
Sousa eventually brought on Carlos Sanchez for Berna and Sebastian Cristoforo for Ilicic, which completely shut up shop, although Tello did nearly slide the young Uruguayan in for a late goal which da Costa managed to kick save. All in all, it was probably a blessing when Valeri blew things dead.
This was an absolute snoozer of a match. While the 3 points are certainly welcome and shoot Fiorentina up to 7th in the table with a game in hand, Sousa won’t win any plaudits for style in this one. It’s good to see that he has faith in his defense to shut down a match for 45 minutes, but Viola fans are accustomed to seeing a bit more attacking intent, especially against an opponent that’s down a man. While the win certainly won’t lead to more calls for the coach’s job, it probably won’t quiet them down much either.
Next up is a Europa League fixture, with Fiorentina hosting Slovan Liberec at the Franchi on Thursday.