After a massive win in the Derby Derby Dell’Appennino, came the even greater test against the enemy Juventus. Pioli has placed huge faith in Nikola Milenkovic who started successive games and played alongside Davide Astori. The only change in the side is that Vincent Laurini dropped out and German Pezzella came back into the team after his suspension.
Juventus lined up with the expected 4-3-3 with the return of Federico Bernardeschi getting only his 6th start. With no Paolo Dybala or former Viola player, Juan Cuadrado; Mario Manzukic and Higuain play alongside Bernardeschi in the front three
From the outset it was easy to see the Viola game plan, that was to sit deep and frustrate Juventus and get there chances on counter attacks. The most notable moments from the first ten was the amount of abuse he received on his return, which didn’t come to any surprise.
It took until the 18th minute where the first bit of drama occurred. After a Marco Benassi crossed the ball it struck the arm of Giorgio Chiellini and originally it was given a penalty. After three minutes with Jordan Veretout waiting to take the penalty to see it not given. After consulting with VAR, it appeared as if Benassi was adjudged offside, but on further viewing, it was clear that the final touch was from Alex Sandro who played the ball to Benassi. There was much confusion as to why it was disallowed as Sandro definitely played the ball back to Benassi, the only thing which could make the slightest sense was that it could have been a foul on Alex Sandro prior to the cross.
Despite the negative decision, it had spurred on the hosts who were seeing a lot more of the ball. 38 minutes into the game and the deadlock was almost broken. On the counter after some great work from Chiesa, it was played to Gil Dias who displayed his incredible pace and great skill has he skipped past Stephan Lichtsteiner and fired a shot which beat Gianluigi Buffon but came crashing back off the post. It would have been a deserved lead for the Viola who had been much the more positive side after the opening 15.
Seconds into the half Viola displayed the same sort of intensity that had worked so well in the first. In the opening minute from a brilliant Jordan Veretout corner, Milenkovic rose highest and should have done better, but saw his header go well wide.
Fiorentina were doing all the attacking and were getting closer to that opening goal. The ball was played into Chiesa wide left, he played an incredibly inviting ball into the area but, there was no Fiorentina shirt was at the back post to help themselves to an easy goal.
55 minutes and what every Viola fan didn’t want to see. Milan Badelj was victim of fouling Bernardeschi right on the edge of the box. The former Fiorentina player picked himself and fired a free-kick around the wall onto Sportiello’s side and beat the keeper who edged too far to his left-hand side. Sportiello had thought he would float it over the wall but guessed wrong and paid the price.
While Fiorentina had responded well, they were yet to really test Buffon in the Juve goal. It took until 70 minutes for Fiorentina to create an opening. Cyril Thereau who had replaced Gil Dias was the first to test Buffon in the half. Chiesa somehow managed to receive the ball in the area as he wriggled past two black and white shirts. It fell to Thereau who couldn’t get a meaningful shot away past the onrushing Buffon.
With just over 10 minutes left, Milan Badelj was next to try his luck at Buffon who hit a shot brilliantly from 25 yards out but, the goal-bound shot was blocked and to and further insult was blocked by Marco Benassi.
Fiorentina looking for that equalizer were playing a high line and paid the price. Chiellini a played it through to Gonzalo Higuain who was clean through on goal in acres of space and showed his composure in front of goal as he fired it past Sportiello who had no chance. Just about ending the contest.
A story simply of what could have been. With the whole VAR situation and Gil Dias’ shot, it could have easily been 2-0 to Fiorentina. Fiorentina’s intensity and effort were brilliant for large parts of the game. Juventus simply do what they’ve been doing for years, sadly, they rarely let a game get away from them. After the first goal from Bernardeschi the real villain of the piece, Juventus never really looked back. Stefano Pioli can take a lot of positives from the game he saw is young team play their hearts out it just wasn’t to be.
Marco Sportiello- 5 Really should have done better for the freekick, the pivotal moment in the game.
German Pezzella- 6 Was nice to see him back in the lineup and didn't do a lot wrong despite the side conceding two.
Nikola Milenkovic- 6 Looked so assured for a 20 year old, despite being a bit too hot headed at times. This guys got a big future ahead of him.
Davide Astori- 7 Was a great display from the captain, showed how capable he is on the ball and his defending on the whole.
Cristiano Biraghi- 6 Was allowed often to get forward as he does but it just didn't go his way.
Marco Benassi- 7 One of his best performances in a Viola shirt hes looking better and better every game.
Milan Badelj- 6.5 Would be a 7 but he gave away that foul for the Bernardeschi goal. However, his passing was exemplary at times.
Jordan Veretout- 7 In the first half he was brilliant he’s already established his as the best summer signing. Was guilty of letting the occasion get to him despite it being nice to see him do a few lets say hard tackles on a certain Juve player.
Federico Chiesa- 7 Boy have we got some player on the books. How long he stays is for another day, but his energy and ability is there for all too see.
Gil Dias- 7 Came so close to opening the scoring after hitting the post. Was harsh on him to leave the pitch in the second half.
Giovanni Simeone- 6 He was marshaled very well by some experienced defenders but he needs to start creating some goalscoring chances on his own,
Cyril Thereau- 5 Should have got an equalizer in the second half. Baring that didn't offer much.
Valentin Eysseric- 5 Never influenced the game at all. although he was on for a short time.