In a packed Luigi Ferraris, fans and players were greeted by the sound of ‘Freed From Desire’ blasting out of the speakers. Fiorentina is playing in their lovely green kit and we are fielding a good mix of youth and experience. Montella looks as cool as ever in his black sweatshirt. He’s a bit like your ex-wife’s new boyfriend, annoyingly cool but also manages to pick the kids up on time. Everything seemed set for another blockbuster Fiorentina performance.
And it started well. Fiorentina showed their prowess with good pressing play and nearly scored with a lovely spin and shot from Prince Kevin himself. You would have bet your house on Chiesa putting away a volley from a good angle after a delicious long ball from Pezzella but he fired wide. Despite what seemed like cruise control, Fiorentina was soon but under intense pressure by the Route One style of play of Andreazzoli’s side. Every corner seemed to lead to an issue for the defence. In the space of a few minutes, Genoa hit the bar and Ivan Radovanović forced a smart save from Dragowski. Fiorentina couldn’t handle the barrage of long balls coming in and eventually one found its way into the back of the net. Cristian Zapata jumped highest after a short corner routine leaving keeper and defence dumb-founded. Florentines expecting a similar style of come-back to last week would have been disappointed by the response. They continued to pass the ball around trying to work it to the wings but Genoa held their shape well. Fiorentina was only really capable of shooting from distance and producing widely ambitious crosses. The home side were certainly no push-overs. All of the best chances fell their way with Pinamonti especially causing problems with his intelligent hold up play and movement. As the half began to wrap up, Fiorentina were on the verge of finding a rhythm. Castrovilli was creating chances in the middle of the park and a one-two between Chiesa and Pulgar was nearly a thing of great beauty. The whistle went and the players looked dejected. None more so than Vincenzo Montella himself; perhaps she’s gone back with her ex.
Surprisingly there were no changes made during the interval with Montella seeing no need for any tactical tweaking. Like in the first half, Fiorentina started brightly. A good ball in from Serie A debutant Ranieri couldn’t find a player in green but did nearly result in an own goal. When Genoa did come forward, Fiorentina found ways to try and counter as quickly as possible. Lirola will have to put his hands up as he squandered a good chance to get the ball in a promising position after great work by Sottil. However, all the pressing and good work lead to very little. All bark and no bite as the saying goes. Genoa continued to attack and they did so well. Pinamonti could have had a hat trick if he had his shooting boots on. Eventually, they found the net again after a textbook route one goal that would have made Tony Pulis proud. Radu collected from a weak Dalbert cross, thumped the ball into the Fiorentina half where the defence was left looking rather shaky. Kouamé controlled and expertly hit the ball past Dragowski. As he turns to celebrate, the Genoa supporters perform a rendition of Freed from Desire; just rubbing salt in the wound. And there was potential for a lot more salt. We had Saint Stanislaus of Szczepanów (Patron Saint of Poland, thanks Wikipedia) to thank after a miracle save by Dragowski and then Evangelist Luke (Patron Saint of Paintwork) after Radavanovic hit the crossbar. The inclusion of Ribery and Vlahovic seemed to inject some energy into the squad but it was new boy Dalbert who won a penalty for the away side. A bit soft but certainly nowhere near as dubious as either given last weekend. Up stepped Pulgar to score his 2nd penalty in as many games with just over 10 on the clock. Genoa sat back and defended well. Particular credit should go to their keeper Radu who made very good saves against Ribery and Chiesa late on in the match (despite constant ‘come and get it’ games with the strikers). A late Chiesa shot which hit the upright aside, Fiorentina never really looked like they were going to score another, especially in open play. At least we got to see Dragowski come up to try and score from a corner in the last minute, that’s always fun.
Dragowski - Arguably our man of the match. A cynic might say he should have done better with the first goal but certainly wasn’t a howler. Saved our backsides on several occasions and his distribution is getting a lot better. A positive in an otherwise bleak evening. 7
Milkenovic - The man-mountain had an unspectacular game. Didn’t cover himself in glory with either of the goals and at points was made to look incredibly foolish by Genoa’s attack. A blip for sure. 4
Pezzella - It’s a bit worrying when your center back is your biggest attacking threat, but here we are. Some good heading from corners aside, a weak performance and you would hope that a captain would rally his team more when going down. 4.5
Lirola - Let down. Never threatened when going forward and looked shaky at the back. Frequently lost his man. 4
Ranieri - Impressive, considering the circumstances. Was strong when playing at left back and looked … fairly comfortable when in a back three. We should be happy to have a good young defender in our ranks that’s for sure. 5.5
Badelj - Not the best performance from the Croatian. Usually bosses the midfield with his eyes closed but could never really get a foothold in the game. Was substituted fairly soon in the second half. 5
Pulgar - Nice to see someone good at taking penalties. Didn’t do a lot else other than miss a good opportunity to score in the first half. 5.5
Castrovilli - I like the look of this guy. Nowhere near the finished article but was the hardest working player on the pitch. Kudos. 6
Sottil - Was nowhere to be seen. Whether this was due to him or the service I’m not sure. Wish I could be writing about how exciting he was in the game. But I can’t. 4.5
Chiesa - Not at the races. Maybe his heart isn’t in it. Should have scored earlier on and only seemed to start playing properly towards the end. 5
Boateng - Provided very little going forward. A very nice turn and shoot in the first half aside he was practically a ghost. 4.5
Dalbert - Won us a penalty. But…. this guy? Instead of Biraghi? No thank you. 5
Ribery - Added some enthusiasm but clearly isn’t fully match fit yet. 5
Vlahovic - Really should have started him. Needed a ‘classic Number 9’ in this game and he could have been that. Not enough time to really add anything of note. 5
Three Things We Learned
- Our defence can’t handle long balls: At points, it was like watching an Under 13 side. There was no sense of direction for the two center backs and this was partly due to how high Ranieri and Lirola were playing. Very easily exploited.
- Our youth is promising. Not all doom and gloom. Castrovilli had a very good game as did Ranieri and this is something we should be holding on to. We’ve seen that Sottil is a very gifted talented as well.
- We can have all the enthusiasm in the world from new owners, all the exciting Ribery announcements, the Rocco bad-mouthing Juve moments but it means nothing if we play the same as we did last year under Delle Valle. Period.