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Eintracht Braunschweig 2-3 Fiorentina: Recap and 3 things we learned

We can definitively state that something resembling a football match occurred.

Sporting CP v Fiorentina - Pre-Season Friendly
Talented young man.
Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

First half

Fiorentina started things out right with a neat little passing move. Davide Astori stepped up and hit one to Matías Fernández, who turned and found Ante Rebić cutting in from the right. The Croat took a touch, then cleverly played Federico Chiesa through. The youngster spanked the ball into the back of the net, handing his side a lead after 10 minutes.

Scoring the first one was so nice, Fede decided to add a second just a minute later. This time, he shimmied past his marker at the top of the box and smacked one in after Rebić again split open the defense following a turnover. However, Braunschweig struck back at 25’, as Onel Hernández finished neatly from a possibly offside position past Bartłomiej Drągowski.

The rest of the half was, frankly, rather flat. The Viola had a few decent moments through Chiesa and Rebić, but didn’t really come all that close again. Still and all, though, it wasn’t a terrible display from a team that’s still coming together.

Second half

Fiorentina took the momentum early, despite a minor injury to Nenad Tomović. Ianis Hagi served a beautiful chip over the top to Khouma Babacar, who couldn’t quite control it but instead played a low ball across goal to the back post, where a sliding Rafik Zekhnini somehow contrived to sky a point-blank finish.

Things took a turn for the atrocious in the 67th minute, as Drągowski inexplicably charged out of his goal at Hernández, who had the ball at the edge of the area with Nikola Milenković between him and the goal. Drago whiffed and got in his defender’s way, leaving the Braunschweig striker an empty net to fire into. Fiorentina retook the lead 9 minutes later, as Milenković nodded home a Hagi corner to complete the scoring.

Three things we learned

1. The defense still looks awfully shaky. With all due respect to Eintracht Braunschweig, who played a good match, a top-half Serie A defense should have stifled them fairly effectively. Davide Astori worked next to Milenković in the first half before making way for Vitor Hugo, but the centerbacks allowed a lot of space between them. Maxi Olivera looked sluggish and clearly needs someone else at leftback to push him, while Mario Gaspar is still clearly on a different page from the rest of the side. The prospect of facing pretty much any attack in Italy isn’t very appetizing, and will remain so unless the backline can acclimate to each other sooner rather than later.

2. The kids can ball a little bit. Both of the goalscorers today for Fiorentina were teenagers. Despite his bad miss, Rafik Zekhnini’s pace and movement remain quite good, and Ianis Hagi looks like the player who’ll take Serie A by storm this year. Especially with another uber-talented teenage attacker nearing a move, this could be a good season to forge the kids into a fluid and dynamic attacking band that’ll confound the league next year. The present is bleak, but the future is definitely bright.

3. The midfield is one big yikes. Hoo boy. After showing some signs of life in the past couple of friendlies, Sebastian Cristoforo reverted to the version of himself that has trouble kicking a ball in a straight line in even the least adverse conditions. Carlos Sánchez is a useful but limited player. Jordan Veretout was adequate without excelling against a second-tier side, although that could be due to his lack of familiarity with his new mates. Milan Badelj is the best midfielder on this team right now. That needs to change post haste, or we’re in for a long and ugly season.