The Viola got out to a quick start with Ianis Hagi worming his way into the area and winning an obvious penalty after the Trento keeper tripped him up. It was Khouma Babacar who stepped up for the spot kick and coolly dispatched it to his right in just the 2nd minute.
Just 3 minutes later, Trento came awfully close. Following a corner, the Gialloblu put the ball back in and Lella prodded home, but was correctly ruled offside to spare the Gigliati some blushes. A minute later, though, the Serie A club struck again, this time with Babacar and Hagi combining nicely to put the former through on goal. His shot was saved but fell right to debutante Rafik Zekhnini, who tapped it in and doubled the lead.
At the 15’ mark, Hagi came close with a drive from distance that the goalie barely pushed around the post. 3 minutes later, Zekhnini hit one just wide after Vitor Hugo split the defense to play him in. The Norwegian winger stung one of the post moments later after beating his marker, a pattern which he’d repeat several times. Just before halftime, Hagi finally got his goal, albeit rather luckily. The Romanian picked up the ball outside the area and let fly with his left. While he made good contact, it was a big deflection off a defender that really made the goal, leaving the Trento custodian helpless.
Stefano Pioli made some changes in the second half, which perhaps contributed to a rather slow start for the Viola. Ante Rebić made a couple of nice runs down the left but couldn’t find a teammate on any of them. The next real chance came at 71’, when Gabriele Gori had a pop from the edge of the box that forced the keeper into a sprawling save, resulting in another corner.
3 minutes later, Fiorentina struck again. Rebić beat his man down the left, held the ball up, then played in Hrvoje Milić on the overlap. The leftback paused before picking out his cross to Gori, who’d shaken loose on the penalty spot, and the youngster plucked the ball out of the air and volleyed home to maintain his red-hot preseason form.
After further probing, the Viola won a corner in the 81st minute. Gori got a touch and flicked it on towards Illanes, who maybe could have claimed the ensuing goal. However, replays showed that it was the Trento man marking the Argentine who accidentally prodded the ball into his own net for the fifth. The match ended with a few more decent but ultimately fruitless moments from Rebić and Jaime Báez.
Three things we learned
1. Zekhnini has some skill. Yes, it was against a Serie D outfit, but Rafik Zekhnini bossed his defender at will. With good dribbling technique and searing pace, he’s got the makings of a nightmare matchup on the wing, especially with his willingness to pass the ball. It may take some time, but he could be a good one. He already looks more impressive than, say, Hernan Toledo.
2. Marco Meli may not be quite ready. After Pioli singled him out for praise this week, the 17-year-old forward was awfully quiet. Handed the start in the number 10 spot, he struggled to influence the match; he couldn’t seem to find any space between the lines and never seemed in close enough support of Babacar. Again, this isn’t the end of the world: he’s a teenager and has shown tremendous potential. Maybe in another couple of years, he’ll be ready to wow us.
3. Oh, Nenad. He’s still our Nenad Tomović, allowing Trento several breaks down the right when he came in. He did storm forward a couple of times, but got everything wrong there, too. It was a little bit disappointing from the vice-captain, but no less than we’ve come to expect.