Fiorentina travelled to il Stadio Renzo Barbera to face a Palermo team that knew a defeat would guarantee them relegation to Serie B. Mister Paulo Sousa decided against starting either Chiesa or Bernardeschi, instead filling the wide slots of his preferred 3-4-2-1 with Hrvoje Milic and Cristian Tello.
Both Gonzalo (calf) and Tomovic (thigh) were unavailable, whilst Nikola Kalinic sat out the final game of the suspension he received after the final whistle against Empoli.
This month’s Palermo coach Diego Bortoluzzi was without forward Carlos Embalo and suspended midfielder Alessandro Grazzi, whilst left midfielder Haitam Aleesami returned following a suspension.
The visitors dominated possession for the first twenty minutes of the game, but showed little desire to turn their possession into chances, opting for safe sideways balls instead of trying to take the play to Palermo. Palermo however, came out clearly planning to attack the makeshift Viola backline, and striker Ilija Nestorovic could’ve put them in front seven minutes in but for a better finish, and a better-timed run, after ex-Viola Alessandro Diamanti played him through on goal.
The first half-chance for Fiorentina came twenty minutes in when Josip Ilicic found half just inside the box to get off a shot, which was bravely charged down and blocked by Palermo centre back Edoardo Goldaniga.
It was the home team who would break the deadlock though, after Carlos Salcedo gave away a free kick on the edge of the box in the 30th minute, which Diamanti placed over the wall and into the Fiorentina net.
Palermo came close to doubling their advantage just five minutes later after an unforced giveaway in midfield saw Palermo break again, and led to Tatarusanu having to close down Rispoli on the edge of the six-yard box.
38 minutes in Hrvoje Milic came off injured to be replaced by Federico Chiesa. The young winger almost scored from point blank range with his first touch, after Carlos Sanchez rose well at the back post to head the ball across goal from a free kick to find him open, but the goal was rightly disallowed after Sanchez was deemed offside.
Sousa’s men ramped up the pressure before half time, and twice looked likely to draw level. Ilicic won a free kick just outside the box, but couldn’t quite keep his effort down, and with seconds left in the first half Borja threaded the ball through the slightest of gaps in the Palermo defence to an open Khouma Babacar, but the Senegalese striker’s shot was parried well by Palermo ‘keeper Andrea Fulignati.
Palermo started the second half brightly, and within seconds of kick off had the ball in the Fiorentina box, but lacked the quality to find room to get off a shot before being forced out by the Viola defence.
50 minutes in Nestorovski held off Sanchez to attempt a half volley which Tatarusanu watched go wide for a goal kick.
Not content with his side’s display Sousa replaced Salcedo with Ricky Saponara, adopting an aggressive formation.
Even with an extra player attacking, Fiorentina failed to create meaningful chances, settling instead for long shots which were either comfortably dealt with by Fulignati or failed to hit the target. The change did though allow Palermo to break with even greater ease than before, and had the Palermo attack been better at timing their runs the game would likely have been over by the hour mark.
70 minutes in Sousa replaced Ilicic with Primavera VC Jan Mlakar, awarding the 18-year old Slovenian his first team debut.
The final twenty minutes of the game became very formulaic, with Fiorentina passing languidly in the final third, until Palermo reclaimed the ball and launched an ineffective counter. That was until 87 minutes in when referee Paolo Tagliavento awarded a free kick to Palermo after Astori nudged Diamanti off the ball, and also handed Astori a second booking (the first being for an inocuous challenge early in the second half).
To Palermo’s credit, facing ten men in the dying moments of the game they continued to attack, and were finally rewarded when a combination of good play by Haitam Aleesami and Ivalyo Chochev, and inept defending by the Fiorentina squad - which now featured no recognized defenders - saw the former double the home teams lead in extra time.
Ciprian Tatarusanu - 6: At fault for neither goal, and did a good job of closing down 1-on-1s
Astori - 6: Did little wrong in a formation that put an enormous amount of pressure on him.
Sanchez - 5.5: Played as well as could be expected of a man in his position. Is still not a centre back.
Salcedo - 5.5: Gave away a silly free kick for the first goal, but was solid in general.
Hrvoje Milic - 6: Was far less of a liability than usual. Perhaps because he only played 35 minutes.
Vecino - 6: Recycled possession well, and did what he could to help defensively after Salcedo was taken off.
Badelj - 5: Offered very little throughout.
Tello - 5.5: Attacked the Palermo back line, but failed to impact the game greatly.
Borja 6 - 6.5: Was the architect of the few moments of genuinely dangerous play Fiorentina created, deserved an assist for the quality of his ball to Babacar at the end of the first half.
Ilicic - 6: Looked to advance the ball when he could, but never quite managed to execute well enough. On another day he might’ve come away as the hero.
Babacar - 5: Was isolated for much of the game, and didn’t make enough of the chances that came his way.
Chiesa - 6.5: Played with all of the desire and tenacity I’ve come to expect over the last season.
Saponara - 5: Largely anonymous for the half hour he played. One to forget for Ricky.
Mlakar - 5: Didn’t introduce himself to fans who don’t follow the Primavera in the way he’d have liked to, but wasn’t completely off the pace either. Could have a bright future ahead of him.