Paulo Sousa was forced to do without Borja Valero and Gonzalo Rodriguez through injury and Carlos Salcedo due to suspension. He brought Sebastian de Maio in for just his second Serie A match of the year, and handed a slightly surprising start to Carlos Sanchez in the midfield. Nenad Tomovic got the captain’s armband.
It didn’t take Lazio too long to threaten the Viola goal, with Bastos rising to powerfully head a corner that Ciprian Tatarusanu did quite well to kick-save. However, his hopes for a clean sheet were dashed in the 22nd minute, as Matias Vecino’s loose backpass was intercepted and, seconds later, dispatched by Keita Balde Diao. Adding to the sting is the fact that Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who nearly moved to Fiorentina last year, got the assist.
Moments later, Nenad Tomovic was booked for a bad tackle, which means he’ll miss next week’s match against Napoli. He also looked rather dazed after taking a boot to the face from Ciro Immobile, who curiously wasn’t cautioned for an obviously dangerous play.
Anyways, Lazio were happy to sit back and keep the ball in the defense or try to counter, as the visitors were completely incapable of breaking down their block. Finally, deep in stoppage time in the second half, Milinkovic-Savic burst into the area and went down under suspiciously light contact from Tomovic. The penalty, however, was awarded, and Lucas Biglia dispatched it to double the hosts’ lead just before the break.
Sousa pulled the injured Tomovic before he could do any more damage and brought on midfield runner Sebastian Cristoforo in his place, which pushed Carlos Sanchez to rightback, while Federico Bernardeschi assumed the captaincy. Shortly after play recommenced, the visitors were handed a lifeline in the form of a penalty awarded after Biglia brought down Cristoforo. Josip Ilicic, normally so reliable from the spot, fired a poor effort that Federico Marchetti saved to his left.
After Ilicic blasted a promising free kick into the wall, Sousa gave him the hook as well and brought on Mauro Zarate instead. After Senad Lulic beat Sanchez (whose lack of pace was painfully apparent on the flank) and shot straight at Tata, who duly saved, the Viola had another gilt-edged chance. A bit after the hour mark, Vecino found Cristian Tello streaking down the right. The Spaniard hesitated when he got into the box and tried to round Marchetti, but couldn’t keep the ball. It rolled to Zarate, who neatly dispatched it against his former club.
A de Maio slip handed Lazio a 4-on-3, but the Aquile couldn’t convert. On the other end, a couple of decent Bernardeschi shots may have made Marchetti nervous, but didn’t do much else. Sousa responded by bringing on Federico Chiesa (have you heard that he’s a teenager and the son of club legend Enrico Chiesa?) for Tello, who’d suffered another really bad match.
In the 82nd minute, there was a bit of chaos as Carlos Sanchez headed home a corner to equalize. Referee Massimiliano Irrati, after a lengthy pause to discuss the goal with his linesmen, waved it off on the (admittedly correct) grounds that Sanchez had struck the ball with his arm; to add insult to injury, he booked the Colombian for the handball as well, which pretty much deflated Fiorentina.
In the 90th minute, Mauro Zarate was dispossessed on what surely looked like a foul, but Irrati’s whistle stayed silent as Lazio broke down the pitch with numbers and eventually fed Stefan Radu the ball to slip past Tatarusanu and provide the final 3-1 scoreline. The whistle went shortly after.
There were some bad calls here, but let’s not lie to ourselves: Fiorentina were badly outplayed from minute one and certainly didn’t deserve three points. While the absences of Gonzalo and especially Borja really change this team—the lack of defensive organization and the inability to quickly move the ball into the final third are definitely missing when those two don’t play—a manager’s job is to figure out how to overcome these sorts of shortcomings, and Paulo Sousa looks like a man who’s completely out of answers.
Tatarusanu: 6—Made a nice stop on the Bastos header, but maybe could have done better on the goals from Keita and Radu. At the very least, could have helped organize the defense in Gonzalo’s absence.
Tomovic: 4—Badly outmatched for 45 minutes. The penalty was soft, sure, but he was just disastrous all day. Hope he’s alright, because he’s been a model professional and clearly loves Florence, but yikes he’s not up to snuff for top-level matches.
de Maio: 6—Produced some bad tackles and bad giveaways, but was actually pretty solid for the most part, especially considering how little he’s played. Not at Gonzalo’s level, but not bad for a replacement.
Astori: 6—Wasn’t bad or anything, but wasn’t particularly good, either. Can’t expect him to look world-class every match, I guess.
Olivera: 6.5—Bustled up and down the line well, swung in some decent crosses, and defended his side of the pitch pretty well. Maybe this is a sign that he’s finally finding his legs and is ready to be a full-time starter.
Sanchez: 6—Battled well in the center of the pitch, winning tackles and breaking up play. His troubles at rightback certainly weren’t his fault, as nobody’s ever thought that he’s got the foot speed to track wingers in space.
Vecino: 6—Gave up possession cheaply for the first goal, but set up the only Viola goal with a lovely pass over the top to Tello. Other than that, kept the ball neatly, had a couple of decent shots at goal, and drove forward occasionally.
Tello: 4—Ugh. Set up the goal, but it was clearly by mistake as he couldn’t figure out what to do with the ball. His confidence is thoroughly shot and he’s playing so, so badly right now.
Ilicic: 4—The penalty miss was pretty much the highlight of his day, unless you count the shock of seeing him put in a crunching tackle. For a player who runs hot and cold, this was definitely a frigid day.
Bernardeschi: 7—The only player making things happen for the first half (second week in a row I’ve written that), and continued to press well in the second as well. Tried to do too much sometimes, but it was really all he could do.
Kalinic: 4.5—Completely invisible. Couldn’t shake loose from the defenders for an instant and was barely involved. Let’s hope that Khouma Babacar gets healthy again soon.
Cristoforo: 6—Won the penalty that Ilicic missed, and was otherwise energetic in the middle.
Zarate: 7.5—Certainly looks like a player who’s got plenty of confidence. The goal wasn’t his usual ridiculous drive from distance, but rather the sort of scraps that Kalinic usually converts.
Chiesa: n/a—Didn’t have enough time to make much of an impression.