For the running of the Derby dell’Appennino, more than 1700 Fiorentina fans braved grey skies and wet stands to support their team at the Derby dell’Appennino. They had a rather new-look side to support, as injuries to Germán Pezzella and Marko Pjaca saw Federico Ceccherini make his competitive Viola debut, while Gerson pushed wide to the wing to make space for Edimilson Fernandes in midfield; Federico Chiesa wore the armband in Pezzella’s absence. For Bologna, Riccardo Orsolini and Rodrigo Palacio both got starts.
The match began in scrappy fashion with neither side showing the ability or inclination to control tempo. Andrea Poli was the first to get a clean look, snapping a shot on frame, but Alban Lafont parried it wide. A moment later, it required a last-ditch Vitor Hugo block to keep the midfielder from finishing unmarked at the back post from a Palacio cross. From the ensuing corner, defenders Filip Helander and Danilo nearly combined to open the scoring, but the Brazilian’s flicked finish soared over the bar.
That woke up Chiesa, who turned Arturo Calabresi into a pile of jello before uncorking a cracking shot that Łukasz Skorupski barely scrambled clear on the quarter hour mark. 5 minutes later, Jordan Veretout switched play to Gerson on the right, and the Brazilian neatly clipped it back in for Marco Benassi, whose first time curler swerved just past the post with Skorupski rooted to the spot. The AS Roma loanee made several good runs in the next couple minutes and even trying (and missing) an overhead kick, but it was Nikola Milenković who stung the goalie’s gloves with a laser shot moments later. Giovanni Simeone came close too after pouncing on a loose ball; his left-footed effort was smothered by the goalkeeper.
Cristiano Biraghi fired over after some nice possession in the Bologna area at 32’, but it was Cholito who wasted the game’s best chance so far when he fired weakly at the keeper on a counter with Chiesa wide open. Fede continued to terrorize the Veltri backline, sending his man for a hot dog and crossing to where Gerson would have been had he not been dragged down off the ball on the break, but it was the Rossoblu who nearly opened at the other end 5 minutes before the half as the impressive Federico Santander’s glancing header just missed the back post before Orsolini, having shaken free of Ceccherini, got a free header that Lafont magically punched wide. When the halftime whistle came, the scoreless draw seemed a fair reflection of the match.
The Viola came out energized (perhaps by the ABBA cover band that Bologna trotted out to a midfield stage during halftime) and began pushing the Rossoblu back. At 56’, Chiesa picked off an errant back pass and played Simeone through. The Argentine was in acres of space and had just Skorupski to beat, but his first touch was heavy and he looked hesitant the whole time; eventually, he prodded it weakly goalwards and the keeper blocked it. The striker nearly converted from the chaos ensuing from the corner, but Helander deflected his scuff wide. Moments later, Gerson—making his second powerful run down the right in as many minutes—squared for Cholito, but the ball was just, juuuusssst too far in front of the striker.
Having somehow escaped without conceding, Bologna began venturing forward again, although they never really tested the Viola defense, much less Lafont’s goal, and left enough space for Simeone to burst into at 71’, breezing past Calabresi before Orsolini managed to poke the ball loose for a corner from which Milenković headed off the upright. With just over 15 minutes left, Pioli made his first change, giving the disappointing Simeone the hook in favor of Cyril Théréau, who made his first appearance of the season.
At this point, it felt like there was no way either team would score. Veretout flashed a shot wide following a corner at 77’ and then, a few minutes later, missed his pass into a tight space to put Chiesa through on the break, but it all came to naught, despite the (perhaps too) late introductions of Kevin Mirallas and Bryan Dabo. Aside from some late handbags as Palacio got in Lafont’s face and saw himself booked for it, this one ended with nary a whimper.
It’s hard to fault Pioli in this one too much for his starters; whether it was a clever plan or Bologna’s general ineptitude, his team created plenty of decent chances and, after the first quarter hour, looked quite solid at the back. You can’t blame the mister if his players simply can’t score. However, his substitutions were pretty demoralizing. Turning to Théréau, who’s clearly washed, over Dušan Vlahović defeats the whole purpose of a youth movement, and bringing on Dabo for Benassi was negative in a winnable match. All the subs came with under 20 minutes too, which stings even more. Full credit to the away support, who were louder than their hosts throughout, but they’ll surely be grumbling about the manager.
The result ends Fiorentina’s ignominious run of 1-1 draws, at least, but the fact remains that this side has split points in their past 5 matches while scoring just 4 goals. If your goal is avoiding the trapdoor, that’s fine. If it’s the Europa League, well, this latest debacle leaves the Viola in 10th place with 18 points, trailing such luminaries as Parma and Sassuolo; if both Torino and Sampdoria win, our boys drop to 12th. That’s simply not good enough, and the Della Valles must be considering some changes in the team.
Lafont: 7—That stop on Orsolini’s header was absurd, and he was steady otherwise, although he wasn’t really tested much. Came off his line on a couple of corners and punched strongly clear. Had one bad pass that gave Bologna the ball in a dangerous spot on the wing, but generally looked like a future star.
Milenković: 6.5—Showed some surprising skill on the ball, including one nonchalant dribble past Federico Mattiello, and was sound at the back. If the Manchester United scouts were watching this one, they probably came away impressed; it was a very standard Mountain performance.
Ceccherini: 5—Spent the first half getting absolutely demolished by Santander in the air, but adjusted well and kept the Paraguayan quiet after the break. Showed some decent composure on the ball as well. Basically, looks like perfectly adequate depth who can handle lower-table sides without costing his team points.
Vitor Hugo: 6—Looked a bit lost at times without Pezzella, but battled well with Palacio and Santander. His distribution remains basic at best, but he’s quite effective even if he’s not the most elegant defender to wear the purple shirt.
Biraghi: 7—Shut down the highly touted Orsolini for 90 minutes and got forward to provide a few good crosses. Not as dynamic going forward as we’ve ever seen him, but as solid on the back foot as he’s been.
Benassi: 5—Had one nice shot that nearly scored and was otherwise barely there. That’s pretty much the Marco experience: if he doesn’t score, he’s invisible. If he does score, he’s invisible both before and after the goal.
Veretout: 7—Really strong match for the Frenchman, who settled things down and set the tempo with his excellent passing. Recovered the ball well and moved it forward into dangerous positions. Maybe it was partly because Bologna are not good, but this was his best match as a regista.
Fernandes: 4—Completely MIA. Gave up the ball, rarely connected passes, ignored better options, and didn’t do enough defensively to warrant his selection. Always looks a bit confused about where to be unless he’s on the ball, and that’s not a great sign.
Gerson: 7—Man of the match for me. Barreled down the wing countless times and made the defense react. Couldn’t quite get the final ball right, but was inches away several times. Seems a cruel joke that he’s the only loanee who’s impressed and is the only one Fiorentina can’t buy outright at season’s end.
Simeone: 3—Bottled enough chances to start his own brewery. Still hustles like crazy, but that’s not enough for a striker you paid €15 million for. If this is it, it’ll be hard not to label him a bust at year’s end.
Chiesa: 6.5—Had a few bright moments, but seemed a bit hesitant at times. Maybe he’s heard all the criticism about his selfishness, which is good, but just seemed out of sync. On the plus side, had more space than he’s seen all year with Gerson pulling the defense away from him, so maybe this is where he takes the next step.
Théréau: 4—Not sure he even touched the ball. Completely washed. Turns out there was a reason Pioli hasn’t been using him.
Mirallas: n/a—Barely saw him.
Dabo: n/a—Give him a damn start at some point, because there’s no way he could be worse than Fernandes was today.