Coming into this match off the back of a rather cagey 0-0 draw at the Artemio Franchi, Paulo Sousa looked to push on from his sides assured 1-0 in Gladbach with a largely, and slightly mystifying rotated team. Sousa being Sousa decided to field a rather awkward back line, with Salcedo and Sanchez making up the left and right back berths respectively, with Josip Iličić playing off Nikola Kalinić who looked to give a rather leaky Milan backline consisting of Gustavo Gómez and Vangioni something to think about. Suso and Gerard Deulofeu flanked Carlos Bacca with Montella utilising his preferred 4-3-3 formation.
As the first half got under way what was a rather confusing line up from Fiorentina got even more bizarre when it became apparent that there was no full-backs anywhere to be seen. Salcedo’s awkwardness and Sanchez’s solid but never truly special application providing Fiorentina with a very compact back 4; appearing to directly counter what was a very fast and direct Milan front 3. Chiesa was a clear outlet for Fiorentina, who looked to utilise his pace and ballsiness on the right. A fairly even stevens start then descended into typical Fiorentina with Juraj Kucka scoring a headed goal from a free kick, who was largely unchallenged by Davide Astori who found himself in no mans land. 1-0 down after 15 minutes and with such a rotated squad, it was hard to envisage how Fiorentina were going to really take a hold on the match. As the 20th minute struck, Federico “Second Coming” Chiesa showed just why Sousa wanted the play channeled through him with a wonderful cross ending up in Kalinić doing just what he does best, ghosting behind Paletta and glancing the ball into the net with what was a true poacher’s finish.
But oh how little time it bought Fiorentina before Deulofeu strolled through a packed edge of the area with Gonzalo and co. backing off the Spaniard as if he smelt really, really bad. The time afforded to Deulofeu meant he duly punished La Viola, with a deft curling finish into Tata’s bottom left. Fiorentina’s lack of conviction and cohesion was costing them dearly. As it happens, Cristóforo managed once again to get his stunt double/hologram to take his place; a completely anonymous performance... Still to this day I find myself wondering what exactly Cristóforo is.
Alas, Fiorentina trudged back out after what a presumably tactic focused team talk by Sousa. With the first 11 struggling to find a consistent pattern of play in the first half, Chiesa and co. made a much brighter start to the second half, pinning the Rossoneri back and spreading the ball about more confidently, only to then see Sanchez sky the ball from 5 yards. Admittedly un-prepared for the opportunity, the Colombian’s lack of composure meant the score stayed at 2-1, with Fiorentina’s initial spunkier start fading into what became a scrappy affair around the 60th minute mark. At this point it became glaringly clear how much Fiorentina missed dear Bernardeschi, a player of such quality who would have been perfect to sprinkle some of his magic on the game to once again bail his teammates out.
As the second half wore on so did Milan, who reverted a deeper defence which again saw a rejuvenation of pressure from Sousa’s men. Cristian Tello’s 69th minute substitution for Chiesa was confusing to say the least, the latter being Fiorentina’s best player. It can only be assumed he was being rested in anticipation for the welcoming of Gladbach to the Artemio Franchi next week. Tello wasn’t the only player to join the fray as Badelj replaced a truly woeful Cristóforo... seriously Cristoforo, just why? As the referee’s watch passed the 80th minute, Riccardo Saponara found himself thrown into the fray with a rather measly 10 minutes available to change the match, replacing an abysmal Iličić. Despite sporadic waves of pressure from Fiorentina, the match fizzed out as the whole of Florence let out a collective sigh.
With Sousa fielding a largely mismatched back line and being forced to leave out Bernardeschi, Fiorentina crawled to what was a thoroughly underwhelming defeat at the hands of Vincenzo Montella’s side, who's overloading of the flanks helped them dominate. Some individually abysmal performances from Iličić and Cristoforo did no Fiorentina no favours.
Tātārusanu - 7 - An OK performance from Tata, not helped by his defence’s poor showing.
Sanchez - 5 - A very average performance by recent standards from the newly formed midfielder come defender.
Rodriguez - 6 - As usual the most capable at the back, had a solid game.
Astori - 5 - At fault for Milan’s first.
Salcedo - 4 - Looked out of his depth at left back, didn't have the ability to make himself count in the attacking third.
Chiesa - 7 - Fiorentina’s best player, was the outlet for Fiorentina for most of the game, his rawness complimenting his fearless performance. What a star he is.
Vecino - 4 - Didn’t drive at the midfield as well as he so often does, sub-par performance,
Valero - 5 - Sprayed the ball around with ease, didn’t impact the game as much as he would have hoped..
Cristóforo - 1 - How. Is. Cristoforo. A. Professional. Footballer. *Rage intensifies*.
Iličić - 2 - Mr. Anonymous Cristóforo’s partner in crime, Mr. Incognito. What a load of garbage.
Kalinić - 4 - Grabbed the goal after showing good anticipation and instinct, however failed to link well and really involve himself.
Onwards and Upwards...
Next up is Borussia Mönchengladbach back in Florence, a game in which Fiorentina will be hoping to pick themselves up and capitalise on Bernardeschi’s fantastic free kick which gave them the advantage in Germany. We need you Berna...