With the book now closed on yet another Serie A term for Fiorentina it was perhaps fitting that Paolo Sousa's first season in charge of the team should end with a flourish. After all, despite the downward nexus that had accounted for the Viola's second half of the season it should not be forgotten that earlier in the championship Sousa and the team reached and plateaued upon heights uncharted since the days of Gabriel Batistuta and company.
This is not to be scoffed at. Looking back with the great adjudicator that is hindsight it is easy to make a mockery of claims that the Viola were serious title challengers. As the proving ground of the season played out it was thus readily acknowledged by all fans of a purple persuasion that this team were a far cry from a championship winning one.
However if one were to cast their mind back to the heady days of October and November 2015 they may well recall Fiorentina led the division for an entire month before dropping to third place. Only to fight back and regain top spot again for a few magical weeks in November, this before once again succumbing to the chasing pack and relinquishing their hold on pole position on November 22nd 2015.
To forget how enjoyable it was to be a Viola fan in those months is to air on the side of churlish. This season the team's highs were at moments so high that it meant that when there were the inevitable lows (this is Fiorentina) they seemed lower than they maybe ought to have. This was perhaps due to the massive contrast in terms of performance levels exhibited by the team from week to week and compounded by the expended emotion that comes from watching a team perform wonderfully one week, and inexplicably wretchedly the next.
And so in that sense going in to this last fixture of the season off the back of two of the most dull and uninspiring 0-0 draws one could ever have had the misfortune to bear witness to. It was therefore fitting that the Viola ended their season of polarities on a high. The team's free scoring in Rome seemingly came out of nowhere. Considering the Viola had only scored one goal in their last five fixtures against Lazio at the Olimpico, the 4-2 scoreline encapsulated in microcosm what an unpredictable yet talented entity Fiorentina can be. On their day they have the ability to play sumptuous football, on other days it looks as if the players do not know how to kick a ball. Such is the enigmatic nature of this team that they inspire love and loathing in almost equal measure.
So to the game itself, Sousa opted for a 4-3-3 formation and with a nod to the future gifted 21-year-old reserve keeper Luca Lezzerini a start ahead of Ciprian Tatarusanu in the Viola goal. Poor Lezzerini was only two minutes into his big night when following a Lazio corner, lurking on the edge of the penalty area 18 yards from goal Senad Lulic received the ball from an errant headed clearance. Lulic controlled the ball with his chest before letting rip with a right footed volley that was caught as clean as a whistle. The strike left Lezzerini with no chance, crashing in to the back of the net beating the young Italian at his near post. Not the ideal start for Sousa's troops.
As the half drifted forward Fiorentina started to move the ball around in intelligent fashion. With Milan Badelj, Mati Fernandez and Matias Vecino complementing each other nicely in the middle of the pitch. The level of comfort in central midfield helped to engage the forward runs of Federico Bernardeschi and Cristian Tello who were both able to demonstrate the talent that they have at their respective disposal. The Viola team hummed along nicely, begging the question where have they been hiding in recent weeks? In the 29th minute Marcos Alonso pulled up and had to be replaced by Facundo Roncaglia.
Then came the Viola breakthrough, in the 31st minute following a quick exchange of passes Bernardeschi cut the ball back to Mati Fernandez whose shot in turn cannoned back off a defender before deflecting into the path of Matias Vecino who was on the edge of the Lazio penalty area. The Uruguayan midfielder who is famed for not needing an invitation to shoot (this despite, prior to this game not having registered a single goal all season) did what comes naturally to him. Striking the ball on the half volley with the outside of his boot. The ball miraculously ended up in the back of the Lazio net. Fiorentina had equalised and Matias Vecino had scored a goal, upon which the clouds above opened and a choir of angels descended from the heavens to mark this most sacred of occasions, dotingly serenading the Uruguayan midfielder, who is incidentally the sole Uruguayan representative from Serie A to make his countries Copa America squad (note: just to be clear the angel thing did not actually happen).
Matias Vecino's goal provided the catalyst for the team to go looking for more. Inspired, the rest of the team desired to get in on the act. Nine minutes later Bernardeschi had put the away side into the lead, Cristian Tello found space on the left wing and ran directly at his marker, his step over and acceleration left Lazio's Abdoulay Konko looking like his feet were stuck in cement. Tello got to the byline and had the presence of mind to pull the ball back to an onrushing Bernardeschi. The Viola no.10 crisply converted the opportunity hitting the ball first time left footed across the face of goal and in to the back of the net.
Fiorentina were however still not done, Bernardeschi was at it again this time returning the favour for Tello, releasing the Spaniard with a delicately laced outside of the left boot flick, that put the ex Barcelona winger through one on one. Caught cold the Lazio defence were left chasing shadows as Tello glided through on goal, his run took him from right to left before he prudently dispatched his left footed shot past the goalkeeper to make it 3-1 to Fiorentina.
The second half did not live up to the same standards as the first, that said it did include a couple of noteworthy incidents. The first of which came in the 70th minute as Fiorentina grabbed their fourth goal on the night to make it 4-1. The goal came from a fantastic one touch passing move that was reminiscent of Barcelona in their pomp. The move started with Badelj who passed the ball sideways to Vecino who then incisively moved the ball forward to find Mauro Zarate who with one touch laid it back to Vecino who then found Bernardeschi on the right. Continuing the theme with one touch the Viola no.10 found Mati Fernandez through the middle, the Chilean had the foresight to see Vecino had continued his run and was free in the box. The one touch pass from Mati was perfect and Vecino gobbled up the opportunity with a first time finish that made it look like he scores goals for fun, which is exactly what he was doing in this particular match. With that beautiful strike Vecino had doubled his tally for both the evening and the season, as well as putting to bed any notion of a Lazio fightback.
In the 74th minute Senad Lulic drove into the Fiorentina penalty box and in a clumsy coming together managed to tumble over Gonzalo Rodriguez's outstretched leg. The referee blew his whistle to indicate a Lazio penalty. Initially it looked as if Miroslav Klose who had been invited to take the spot kick by his teammates had turned down the offer. The home crowd made their feelings known hoping to see the German International score one last time in a Lazio shirt before departing Rome and potentially retiring from football altogether. Hearing the whistling of the crowd Klose duly obliged the paying public, stepping up and planting his penalty high and to the right of Lezzerini to score in what has now become customary fashion for the ex Werder Bremen forward, especially it must be said against the Viola.
The match was to finish 4-2 to Fiorentina which meant that the Viola had the small if not insignificant consolation of finishing the season on a high note. What happens between now and the first game of next season will be intriguing to say the least. Fiorentina ended their 2015/16 campaign fifth in the league on 64 points, three points behind Inter in fourth and three points ahead of Sassuolo in sixth but may be more pertinently a whole sixteen points behind third placed Roma in the Champions League qualification spots.