Stefano Pioli welcomed Cyril Théréau back from injury and stuck him in his usual spot on the left wing, but it was otherwise the now-familiar first XI for the Viola mister. His opposite number Fabio Pecchia lined up in a 4-4-2 that featured ex-Fiorentina players Romulo (now the Gialloblu captain) and Matos Ryder on the wings.
Fiorentina nearly started things perfectly: Davide Astori hit a long diagonal pass to Federico Chiesa on the right wing, and Hellas leftback Mohamed Fares slipped while trying to play it, leaving Fede alone in the box. He squared it for Giovanni Simeone, who beat goalkeeper Nicolas but saw his effort cleared off the line; the ball rattled around the area a bit longer and Cholito had another effort deflected out for a corner.
10 minutes later, though, the Gialloblu won a corner on their right, and Romulo stepped up to take it. The ball was cleared right back to him, and he swung in a second cross to club debutante Jagoš Vuković, who was inexplicably alone in the center of the area and made no mistake with his header, handing the visitors a shocking lead.
At 19’, Chiesa brought the ball down and turned to shoot in the area with one flawless touch, but his effort was just wide of the post. A minute later, Matos got loose down the right wing on the break, ran past three would-be defenders, and dinked a cross to the back post, where 17-year-old Juventus loanee Moise Kean had stepped in front of a clueless Vincent Laurini; the youngster poked home unopposed to double the lead.
Astonished with their lead, the Gialloblu spent most of the half defending with 10 men; the strikers dropped so deep they were generally closer to their own goal than to midfield. Their dedicated defense smothered any Viola efforts for most of the half, and they even broke dangerously through Romulo at 26’, forcing Davide Astori to make a strong intervention. Despite keeping the ball in their opponent’s half for most of the remainder of the period, the Gigliati looked utterly toothless in attack and lackadaisical in possession, more likely to cough up the ball and concede via another counter than score one of their own.
Pioli brought on Riccardo Saponara and Gil Dias for the invisible duo of Théréau and Marco Benassi, tilting his shape to more of a 4-2-3-1, and it seemed that the change would pay immediate dividends as Chiesa smashed one off the post mere seconds after the restart. In perhaps the most perfectly emblematic moment imaginable, though, the ball shot back through the crowded area and fell to Bruno Petković, who was all alone on the defense’s right. He strolled forward unopposed through the entire Viola half, only slowing down when the lone defender left back there—Germán Pezzella—stepped out to him at the edge of the box. The Croatian squared for Kean, who was again unmarked at the back post, and the teenager bagged his brace past a helpless Sportiello.
Saponara managed to get Mattia Valoti booked for handling just outside the area, but referee Gavilucci might ahve done better to give the advantage, as the Cheese recovered the ball in the area. After some pressure, the Viola finally broke through at the 53 minute mark as Chiesa and Saponara combined neatly to send Simeone through, and Dias met his square pass across the area with a flying side-footed volley to reduce the arrears.
In typical Viola fashion, though, they conceded 2 minutes later. This time, Hellas broke down the field through Romulo yet again, and he squared the ball across the area. Fortunately, Laurini was there this time to get in the way. Unfortunately, he tried some sort of scorpion-kick-outside-of-the-foot-volley which did nothing but knock the ball down for an onrushing Alex Ferrari, who slotted home unopposed.
After conceding 4 goals to the 19th-placed Serie A team at home in under an hour, one might have been forgiven for expecting to see Fiorentina give up another one or two, but Hellas were in a merciful mood and clearly wanted to kill of the match, nothing more. The only other remarkable moments were a cameo for the enornmous Nikola Milenković, a left-footed try from Milan Badelj that of course came back off the crossbar, and a truly breathtaking save from Nicolas on Dias. But another goal for the hosts would have been an injustice, as they’d played so badly that the Curva Fiesole emptied in protest with 10 minutes to go.
The score was hideously embarrassing but doesn’t fully depict how woeful the Viola were today. The tifosi held an impromptu protest outside the Franchi after the match, and one can only expect some metaphorical shots fired between fans and club in the next few days.
Fiorentina fans in the Curva Fiesole walked out en masse before the final whistle of today’s 1-4 defeat to Hellas. This hadn’t happened since 2011/12 when they lost 0-5 to Juve...— Chloe Beresford (@ChloeJBeresford) January 28, 2018
Tactically, it’s hard to explain what went wrong besides Fiorentina being complete and utter pants. The lack of pace in the team was certainly a problem, as the Hellas defense was able to key on Chiesa and basically ignore everyone else, but the biggest problem was a lack of creativity. This edition of the club simply doesn’t have anyone with so much as a touch of fantasia and is comically ill-equipped to unlock a deep defense. After such a humiliating loss, it’s fair to wonder how much longer Pioli will stay in Florence, and how much uglier things can get between the tifosi and the Della Valles.
Sportiello—6: Couldn’t have done much on any of the goals, honestly, but maybe could have come out a bit harder on Kean’s second. Still, he was hardly the problem out there today.
Laurini—2: Not sure where Vincent thought he was today, but it certainly wasn’t in a professional match. Out of position time and again, gave the ball up cheaply, and lost his man over and over. Bruno Gaspar has to get another shot soon. Or maybe Corvino can end Nenad Tomović’s loan to Chievo Verona a bit early.
Pezzella—3: Inexplicably lost the 6’5 (195 cm) Vuković for the first goal and was a liability in possession. Partly at fault for two others as well, as he simply wasn’t in the right place at all.
Astori—3.5: Not as bad as Pezzella on the pitch, but was curiously absent several times as well. As the captain, really needed to settle his defense and take charge. He didn’t.
Biraghi—3.5: Out of position often, but often as a function of taking set pieces, which pulls him way too far forward. Troubled by Romulo all night long.
Benassi—3: Made a series of hard and stupid challenges, but didn’t draw any attention to himself otherwise. Seems a bit like the diet version of Alberto Aquilani.
Badelj—4: Lost the ball a couple of times, including one where he tried a stepover on the touchline with nobody near him and kicked the ball out of touch instead. Hit the woodwork, but was casual and out of position, letting Hellas run through the midfield unchecked.
Veretout—5: Bustled around, but didn’t ever really do much. Didn’t lose the ball as much as his midfield compatriots, but neither did he do anything to set himself apart.
Théréau—3: Hit one decent cross, which was fine, but was otherwise only noticeable for losing the ball too often or dribbling himself into corners. His glaring lack of pace and inability to beat his man out wide are becoming more apparent every week.
Simeone—4.5: The assist to Dias was well-worked, and he managed a couple of nice shots on the turn, but he was reckless with the ball and lost it constantly, putting his head down and dribbling into crowds of defenders who were all too happy to dispossess him. Should have opened the scoring in the first couple of minutes, but was let down by his finishing again. May not be the type who can lead the line at this level.
Chiesa—6: The only spark for most of the match. Beat his marker several times, but his shooting was woefully bad, featuring a handful of Zdravko Kuzmanović-quality misses. In fairness, he was hacked quite a bit, but he also spent a lot of time complaining to the ref rather than focusing on the match.
Dias—6.5: Scored his second Serie A goal with a tidy finish and would have had another if not for a tremendous save by Nicolas. He’s still rough around the edges and his end product is uneven at best, but his pace and dribbling make him a far greater threat out wide than the likes of poor old Cyril. Has to start from here on out.
Saponara—4.5: Tried to drift around between the lines , but Hellas were far too compact for him to find space. Clearly a quality player, but for whatever reason, it’s not happening for him in Florence.
Milenković—n/a: The Mountain that Defends had a couple of neat moments in possession but was never tested by a Hellas attack that had folded things up by the hour mark.