Perhaps we could have expected a rough 90 minutes, as the pitch at the Stadio Artemio Franchi was still so drenched from rain the night before that there was briefly talk of rescheduling the match, although referee Nicola Rizzoli put a quick stop to that.
Paulo Sousa sent a slightly surprising side, with Nenad Tomovic and Hrvoje Milic preferred to Carlos Salcedo and Maxi Olivera on the right and left, respectively, but otherwise selected his expected squad. Marco Giampaolo selected his expected eleven.
Sampdoria came out swinging, with Luis Muriel drawing a foul from Gonzalo Rodriguez almost immediately, then firing the free kick off-target. The teams exchanged shots for the next 15 minutes, with Muriel and Bruno Fernandes both missing for the visitors while Federico Bernardeschi tried from an unlikely angle and Josip Ilicic had a decent try saved by Cristian Puggioni.
The first big chance fell to Nikola Kalinic in the 17th minute. Hrvoje Milic sent a good cross to the Croatian, who got a free jump but nodded over, much to the relief of Puggioni. It fell instead to Bernardeschi to open the scoring, and the Italian international did so in, er, unlikely style. After receiving a short corner from Ilicic in the 37th minute, Berna curled a ball in from the right wing with his left foot. An onrushing Davide Astori looked like he was going to make contact with it—indeed, he was initially credited with the goal—but Berna’s cross curled in untouched.
The Viola had another couple of half-chances before the end of the second period, most notably a Gonzalo Rodriguez header just on the stroke of halftime that went over the crossbar, but Sousa must have felt good about his team taking the lead and, really, seizing control of the game for the final thirty minutes.
Giampaolo, however, adjusted nicely, bringing on playmaker (and former Fiorentina target) Dennis Praet for the industrious Karol Linetty, and the Belgian’s impact was immediate. Samp suddenly looked much more dangerous going forward and made a number of forays into the Viola area. Ciprian Tatarusanu was forced into action to save a Fabio Quagliarella drive, and shots from Praet and Edgar Barreto came close.
Just before the hour mark, Samp finally pulled level. Praet meandered through the midfield before finding leftback Vasco Regini on the overlap, who curled in a cross. Muriel got in front of Gonzalo, who didn’t seem to expect the Colombian to be there, and headed a bullet past a helpless Tata.
At this point, the momentum had clearly shifted all the way towards the visitors. Bruno Fernandes tested Tatarusanu several times, but the Romanian number one was up to the task every time. Sousa eventually brought on Federico Chiesa for the out-of-sync Cristian Tello, then swapped out Milan Badelj for Carlos Sanchez to try and regain control of the middle.
The Viola finally woke back up in the final 10 minutes, throwing men into the attack and furiously crossing the ball into the box. Not surprisingly, they left plenty of space at the back and nearly conceded a couple of times, too. Gonzalo missed another header from a corner that he should have put away at the 81 mark, and Kalinic airmailed another couple of headers. Praet, Quagliarella, and Fernandes all had chances at the other end, but Rizzoli blew it dead at a goal apiece.
A draw was probably a fair reflection of the game, but Fiorentina could have easily won with some slightly more assured finishing; the fact that the only goal came from a pure fluke is cause for concern, considering that they only put 5 of their 20 shots on frame. It’s not unexpected but it’s still deeply frustrating, particularly when Khouma Babacar and Mauro Zarate stay fastened to the bench, even though the Viola needed a goal at home against an inferior opponent.
This result, against another bottom-half-of-the-table team, will surely increase the pressure on Sousa even more, although he did set out a more attack-minded squad than usual; it’s hard to accuse anyone of parking when the teams combine for 37 shots. It’s definitely a concern, though, that Sousa still hasn’t found the balance between attack, defense, and possession. While he probably won’t be sacked during the season, it’s reasonable to wonder if the Della Valles will look to replace him over the summer.
Tatarusanu—7. Didn’t have a chance on the goal, but was his usual reliable self otherwise. His distribution seems to be improving a bit as well.
Tomovic—5.5. Had some typically scary-bad Nenad moments, but was mostly okay. Clearly targeted by Samp as the weakest link in the defense.
Gonzalo—6.5. Completely lost Muriel for the goal and missed a chance for a late winner, but was otherwise pretty sharp.
Astori—6.5. Switched off once or twice, but was as steady as usual. Missed a 90th minute header.
Milic—6.5. Actually played in a couple of good crosses, and was adequate defensively.
Badelj—7. Kept things humming along in the middle nicely, and did a good job of shielding the defense.
Valero—6. Seemed a bit slow today and didn’t exert his usual influence in the final third. Might just be tired, so this international break comes at a good time for him.
Tello—6. Never seemed on the same page as everyone else. He’s a streaky player, so hopefully he’ll get it back soon.
Ilicic—6. Created some chances and took some shots, and otherwise lumbered around rather unimpressively.
Bernardeschi—7. Lively enough, fluky goal aside, and made some things happen. Still loses the ball too often.
Kalinic—5.5. Missed a handful of chances and didn’t trouble the Samp defense as much as he should have. Hopefully hasn’t shattered his fragile confidence.
Chiesa—5. Barely involved and lost the ball several times. Looks like a future star, but needs a year or two to develop and really shouldn’t have to be the top attacking sub.
Sanchez—6. Helped solidify the midfield with his physicality, but not exactly the player you bring in when you need a goal.
Vecino—n/a. Played all of 3 minutes.