Following on from the 3-3 draw against Genoa at the Artemio and bearing the wounds of a gun shot to the foot, Paulo Sousa and his motley crew marched into this one with 5 changes, most notably leaving out everyones favourite golden boy Federico Chiesa in favour of Cristian Tello. Marco Sportiello carried on from his debut with his second start in place of the injured Tatarusanu, with Sousa lining up in his favoured 3-4-3 with Babacar in close proximity of Josip Iličić. Pescara were fronted by Gianluca Caprari and Jean-Cristophe Bahebeck, the former being someone the Viola would have done very well to keep an eye on...
The match begun the way it intended to go on with Fiorentina instantly pinning back the Dolphins like a 2015 Philippe Mexes accosting a startled Stefano Mauri. Fiorentina’s confident start saw Borja Valero and Josip Iličić combining with fluidity, partnered with Milan Badelj bringing the ball out from the defensive trio largely unchallenged. Fiorentina’s pressure added to the feeling of authority with Pescara largely having to hit them high and wide in the hope of relieving the pressure. But oh how quickly it became apparent Fiorentina’s smothering of Pescara would bear no fruit, with the home side sponging everything Sousa’s side threw at them. Pescara’s incisive break away saw Caprari slot home in an almost exclusive attack for the home side, with the Inter loanee breaking through a defence with the combined equivalent turning speed to that of an oil tanker.
Nenad Tomović would have breathed a sign of relief after the first 45; a few fouls and a continuing squabble with Memushaj left him picking up just a booking. Sousa’s decision to persist with a 3 man backline shielded by Badelj after it became clear Pescara were not here to try to win the game was baffling, with the overly cautious approach proving self-handicapping to the extent of there being very little chance La Viola looked likely to penetrating the vacuum-packed back 5 of Pescara. At this point, I wouldn’t have been alone in confessing my brain was in critical danger of implosion due to sheer frustration.
Alas, Sousa’s dysfunctional troupe, featuring Chiesa in place of Tomović, set out for the second half after enduring what was a presumably pretty intense 15 minutes of instructions from the Portuguese; hence lining up with an new found intent they should have shown since the 10th minute. A rather abstract 2-3-3-2-ish formation, with Olivera and De Maio shouldering central defensive duties with Chiesa and Tello the only 2 players who could have remotely passed for full-backs gave Fiorentina the options they needed when trying to thread their needle through Pescara’s defence. A similar story of complete and utter domination continued, and on the 54th minute Iličić’s free kick cracked against the bar only for an over eager offside Babacar to put it into the back of the net. Babacar in particular continued to look frustrated, not offering the same link up as is so often with Nikola Kalinić.
Finally, one of Tello’s darting often frankly useless take ons actually worked and the involoutary uttering of ‘meh’ everytime he touched the ball turned to “HOLY SH*T” as he rifled one past the Bizzarri’s left. La Viola’s persistence had paid off, and Tello’s strike pulled them half way back to the 3 points they deserved. Fiorentina’s blitzkrieg continued into the last 10 minutes; amidst every Ilicic shot that went amiss and Tello cross failing to clear the first man, the feeling that Viola’s efforts would be justifiably rewarded was slipping as Pescara looked to make the most of every break in play to magically develop a crippling cramp. 84 minutes in Milan Badelj was replaced by Cristoforo, as Sousa desperately tried to push for the winner. All of a sudden man of the moment Tello managed to spring up once again with a curling shot to the Bizzarri’s left, remarkably similar to his first. Chiesa’s developing habit of claiming any goal that passes within a 1 foot radius of him on its way to beating the keeper is becoming quite hilarious and endearing at the same time.
The game finished 2-1, with Tello effectively winning the game for La Viola, causing a seismic sigh of relief from blue faced Fiorentina fans all over the world.
N/A - Sportiello - Corvino’s new signing really having nothing of considerable effort to do.
Sanchez - 6 - Looked assured, albeit having little to actually defend.
De Maio - 5 - Did nothing to earn himself higher than a middle of the road score, quiet day for the gigantic Frenchman.
Tomović - 4 - Struggled keeping his tackles within the law early on, but persisted for the 45 helping circulating possession.
Olivera - 5 - An unremarkable display from the Uruguayan, steady but un-impressive.
Badelj - 6 - Did what Badelj does best, provided the springboard at the base of the midfield.
Vecino - 6 - Worked well in tangent with the Croatian counterpart, frequently drove at the Pescara block.
Tello - 9 - Despite his frustrations, Tello won the game for Fiorentina, and if he hadn’t had produced his magic I wouldn’t be sat here smiling.
Valero - 7 - Ever-present, floated like butterfly but couldn't manage to sting like a bee. Consistently assured in possession.
Iličić - 7 - Combined with Valero to create a really fluid interchange in the final third, consistency looked to work the keeper.
Babacar - 4 - A poor day for Khouma. Struggled to get involved in any way, a game he’d rather forget.
Chiesa - 8- Ahh Federico, how we love you. Came on and provided the team with a shot of adrenaline, zipped and darted about unsettling the Pescara back line.
Cristoforo - 5 - Sort of passed it a few times, did some stuff I think, mainly just being Cristoforo.
Salcedo - N/A - Came on with seconds to go, a valuable cog in the time wasting machine.
Next up is AS Roma at the Olympico in what will be an undoubtedly more challenging clash. Roma come into the game having won 4 of their last 5, and Sousa’s men will have to be more clinical if they're to nick something away at the Eternal City.