Parma probably started stronger, targeting Bruno Gaspar’s area of the pitch and playing balls into the channel. The Fiorentina defense mostly coped, but there were a few tense moments. Marco Benassi was stationed on the right wing with Valentin Eysseric in the center, which seemed backward and minimized their influence on the match.
The sides exchanged half-chances for the first twenty minutes, before Bruno Gaspar switched off and let Yves Baraye through on goal, although Marco Sportiello closed the angle down and the Parma man missed the frame. Fiorentina had a couple of chances through Rafik Zekhnini, who drove into the box and had his cross blocked, and Jordan Veretout and Benassi, who both came close from distance, but it was insipid stuff from start to finish.
The period began with the Viola hemming and hawing around the visitors’ area without creating any clear-cut chances. Stefano Pioli opted not to make and substitutions until the 70th minute, when he brought on Nikola Milenković, Nenad Tomović, Sebastian Cristoforo, and Federico Chiesa. The latter immediately made things happen, winning a foul in a promising area that led to Eysseric blasting into the wall. That was about the final action around the goals.
The game fizzled in the final minutes, with Sebastian Cristoforo particularly bad with his passing and fouling. Ex-Viola defender Alessandro Lucarelli nearly started a fight with 10 minutes left after fouling Khouma Babacar and getting in his face about simulation; the referee and both teams had to separate them, but not before Lucarelli—who at age 40 should know better—had a swing at Baba. All in all, it was about as dull a match as you can imagine.
Three things we learned
1. The new boys didn’t impress much, but it might be the manager’s fault. I don’t understand why Pioli sent Marco Benassi out as a right winger, because he didn’t offer a whole lot. He may have the technique and vision to work as a number 10, but he lacks the pace and mindset to work out wide. He seems likely to replace Jordan Veretout in the starting XI, though. Valentin Eysseric started as the playmaker, but didn’t offer up a lot either. He should improve as he gets acclimated, but he’s perhaps a better fit out wide.
2. Bruno Gaspar, oh my goodness. The Portuguese rightback is undeniably talented going forward, but his defending is really bad. He missed a few tackles, but his poor marking was the real problem. He let attackers run in behind him unchecked several times. He also spent a lot of time very high up the pitch, which forced Vitor Hugo to cover his wing and opened gaps across the backline. The prospect of Gaspar matched up against, say, Lorenzo Insigne gives me a case of the howling fantods.
3. The team still has a lot of work to do. The most remarkable thing about the match was the Crociati confidence that they could pass their way past the Viola press. Time and again, the defenders and goalkeeper knocked the ball around, and Fiorentina just couldn’t stop them.