Fiorentina started by far the brighter of the two sides, driving AC Milan back into their own half and keeping them there. Federico Bernardeschi set the tone with a fierce drive from distance that whistled past the post just 2 minutes in, and it was pretty much all Viola from there. Nikola Kalinic was dragged down by Gabriel Paletta on a corner in the 15th minute, but Daniele Orsato refused to notice. After Mamadou Niang finally sparked some attacking moves for the Rossoneri, Fiorentina won a penalty after Borja Valero was blatantly tripped in the area by Davide Calabria. Josip Ilicic sent the ensuing spot kick smack onto the post; it was his first-ever penalty miss in Serie A.
All credit to the men in purple, though, who kept their heads up and continued attacking, with Ilicic trying to atone for his mistake with a couple of decent shots from distance. Carlos Sanchez and Milan Badelj completely controlled the middle, while Valero pulled the strings from a bit higher up the pitch, as usual. When the halftime whistle finally blew, it was clear that the Viola were miles superior in every area.
Whatever Vincenzo Montella told his men in the dressing room must have worked, as they came out looking a bit hungrier for goals, if equally inept in possession. Borja stung Gianluigi Donnarumma’s gloves with a sharp shot in the 48th, and Berna nearly curled a cross onto an onrushing Kalinic at the back post moments later. For the visitors, Carlos Bacca nearly scrambled one over in the 56th, but Ciprian Tatarusanu and Carlos Salcedo somehow contrived to keep the clean sheet.
Milan grew into the match as the Viola tired, finding threatening spaces to break into. Bacca nearly scored again in typically ugly fashion, but Kalinic and Ilicic nearly combined to break the deadlock at the other end, playing back and forth until the Croatian had a shot inside the area that Donnarumma blocked almost into the Slovenian’s path. Not even the introductions of Matias Vecino (who came on for Gonzalo Rodriguez, dropping Sanchez into the backline), Cristian Tello, and Khouma Babacar were enough to inspire the Viola.
Indeed, Luiz Adriano nearly put it away at the very end after racing in behind the defense, but a last-ditch tackle from Nenad Tomovic stopped the Brazilian. Although Montella and company initially screamed for a penalty, replays showed the incident occurred just outside the box. However, it was almost certainly a foul and probably should have been a sending off, as Nenad was the last man back. Orsato, though, waved it off and whistled the game over seconds later, bringing a tense affair to a close.
Paulo Sousa clearly had his players ready for this one and did a nice job throughout, honestly. After throttling Milan for the first period, he switched a 4-3-3 in the second half, with Vecino on to add energy to the midfield and Sanchez dropping in at centerback. Aside from the last minute of stoppage time, this was a match that Fiorentina dominated start to finish, and slightly more composed finishing would have won it.
Tatarusanu—7.5: Made some really excellent saves, particularly in close against Carlos Bacca on two occasions.
Tomovic—4.5: Even aside from the incident at the end, looked shaky against Niang and wasted some good attacking opportunities. Kevin Diks is starting to look like an intriguing option.
Gonzalo—6.5: After an early booking for a foul on Bacca, he kept the Colombian in his pocket. After he was subbed off, his leadership was clearly missed, as the backline suddenly looked much less organized.
Salcedo—7: Looks like the real deal. Had a couple of bad moments, but more than made up for them with his hard-nosed approach and fearless defending. Should be a treat watching him, Gonzalo, and Astori.
Bernardeschi—7: Looked energetic and involved, and constantly dribbled past opponents. The end product never quite materialized, but he may finally have his legs back after a tiring Euro tournament.
Badelj—6: Mostly solid, but had a couple of bad giveaways, as he usually does. Much better in the first half than the second.
Sanchez—6.5: Dominated the center of the pitch with physicality, work rate, and steady passing until he was dropped into defense, at which point he looked much shakier. No fault of his own, though.
Milic—5: Adequate defensively, but brings nothing going forward. Makes Pasqual and Alonso look like top-notch crossers of the ball. Blergh.
Valero—7: Typical Borja match in the middle third as he neatly advance the ball into dangerous areas, but had a couple of nice shots himself, too.
Ilicic—5: Missed the penalty and looked completely off the pace in the second half. With Josip, you get the good days and the bad days. This was definitely one of the latter.
Kalinic—6: Combined neatly with Ilicic on the break a few times and should have won a penalty, but couldn’t shake his defender in the box and still isn’t finishing like he did this time last year.
Vecino—6: Buzzed around the middle in his usual fashion. Just glad to see he’s back.
Tello—5.5: Barely involved.
Babacar—n/a: Only touched the ball twice.