As recent news confirmed Gonzalo Rodriguez’s lengthy lay off, Fiorentina set out to provide an antidote for the fans’ blues, and give them a sweet victory over a strong Napoli side. Paulo Sousa lined up in his favoured 3-4-3 with Sanchez, Tomović and Astori making up the back line with an attacking trio of Cristoforo*, Bernardeschi and Kalinić hoping to break down a Napoli favouring her 4-3-3, spearheaded by new signing Leonardo Pavoletti who was flanked by Insigne and Callejón, predictably.
* Cristoforo was infact anything but attacking, and is purely mentioned due to the fact he ‘officially’ started the game. He was useless.
For lack of a better phrase, it really was a game of two halves. Napoli came storming out of the blocks, and pinned Fiorentina back as much as was humanly possible. It quickly became apparent that the left axis of Hamsik/Insigne was once again their established point of reference, with the two combining frequently to put poor old Carlos Sanchez under some really intense pressure. The latter dealt with the diminutive Neopolitan admirably however, and it was Fiorentina’s lack of successful out-ball which cost them any half decent threatening play in the first 45. Insigne did manage to force a good save from Tatarusanu from a free kick, with the most precise of touches from the big Romanian keeping it even-stevens.
Napoli’s squeeze overseen by a Maurizio Sarri orchestration from the rafters of the San Paolo, rather like some creepy chain-smoking conductor, left Fiorentina stuck between a rock and a hard place. Struggling to build from the back and having no success speculatively lumping the ball upto an isolated Kalinić insured they managed to get nothing going for the majority of the half; barring the occasional superhuman save from Reina. Astori’s headed effort in particular forced Reina to pull off a very impressive mid air contortion act to palm away the ball and keep the scores level. The incident coincidentally left Astori with a blooded nose, which meant he finished the half looking as old school defender-like as possible; bunged up nostril, blank shirt and all.
Fiorentina returned after the break renewed and with a spring in their step, and immediately started on the front foot, giving Napoli a taste of their own medicine affording them no space.
At this point it became apparent that Fiorentina weren’t actually playing with 10 men and they infact has Cristoforo on the pitch, or at least it I think it was Cristoforo as opposed to someone who really looked like Cristoforo and had no discernible footballing ability nor purpose to be there.
As the second half wore on Fiorentina’s press started to fade and the game descended into the scrappy encounter it had been in the first half. La Viola’s lack of decisiveness and final ball ensured they were unable to unlock the Maksimović-Albiol shaped vault door, as Insigne continued to threaten, pinging the ball off the bar from a free kick just outside of the area. Fiorentina’s lack of penetration ensured they would look as likely to score as Critoforo was to actually playing as if he knows what a football is.
Sanchez’s night, which started so promisingly, descended into anarchy when once again that left flank was targeted, with Tomović losing possession resulting in Insigne crossing to Callejón who headed in. 1-0, and despite a late push from Sousa in bringing on Valero (ex-West Brom, incase the commentators didn't quite get it through to you), Iličić and Babacar to attempt to inject some life into an attack which was barely breathing, the game ended in what can only be described as lawlessness with Hysaj being dismissed for a second bookable offence and Olivera being red carded for an incident completely shrouded in mystery; the sensible guess would be for dissent. Jose Callejón’s tendency to go down as if he had received a .50 Caliber round to the chest whenever he came within 5 feet of any Fiorentina player drove Babacar crazy, and understandably.
A disappointing night for La Viola, one in which they never truly looked likely to score.
7 - Tatarusanu - Pulled off some solid saves to keep the game 0-0.
6 - Astori - A steady performance from the big Italian, nothing spectacular.
6 - Tomović - Went unnoticed, whether that was good or bad remains to be seen.
7 - Sanchez - A focused first half performance kept Insigne ineffectual for the most part.
5 - Olivera - Unspectacular, offered an out-ball consistently and offered little going forward. But did his job.
6 - Badelj - Kept the ship steady, attempted in vain to bring the ball out from the back over and over.
6 - Vecino - Kept going till the end, struggled to make any discernible impact. Had a similar impact to that of Badelj.
5 - Chiesa - Direct going forward, but neglecting his defensive duties meant poor old Carlos Sanchez got exposed far too often.
5 - Bernardeschi - Struggled to get a foothold despite some encouraging runs at the space left behind my Napoli’s press.
1 - Cristoforo - Purely giving him a rating to keep the order, the 1 is for consistently getting himself kicked and winning halfway line fouls.
4 - Kalinić - Isolated, despite the odd flick here and there he didn't really get a look in.
3 - Valero - Entered the fray in a desperate attempt to get something working in the final third, failed.
3 - Iličič - Similarly to Borja, didn’t have enough time to make an impact.
2 - Babacar - Entered with 7 minutes to go and proceeded to wind up Callejón, which was enough to earn himself the 2 pointer.
Onwards and Upwards
Next up its Genoa on Sunday, and Sousa will be very hopeful of picking up the 3 points at the Artemio Franchi against a team who have picked up just 1 point from their last 6 games. Sousa has the potential to hammer the final nail into the coffin of Ivan Jurić, and he would be foolish not to seize upon that opportunity.