Spirits were high in the Fiorentina camp for this one and you could see why. Despite lacking 3 of their 4 central defenders, the Viola had just beaten high-flying AC Milan. With those defenders and dynamic winger Nicolás González returning (albeit to the bench), it felt like the noisy neighbors down the road in Empoli, despite impressing in their return to Serie A after a 2-year absence, were the perfect sacrificial lamb for a a Viola outfit finally starting to roll and hoping to put on a show in front of Rocco Commisso for his birthday.
A torrential downpour and even a touch of hail before kickoff should have warned us. Fiorentina, despite not looking their snappiest, created numerous chances in the first half, but Nikola Milenković, Giacomo Bonaventura, Lucas MartÍnez Quarta, and José Callejón all missed them. When a Jack shot took a deflection and looped over a rooted Guglielmo Vicario before kissing the bar and ricocheting down and out, it felt like we were in for that sort of game. Credit to the hosts, though, whose direct passing found space both behind and in front of the defense and forced Pietro Terracciano into some nervous moments.
After the break, though, Fiorentina eventually ramped up the pressure, and it eventually paid off via Dušan Vlahović (who else?). The big striker played a lovely pass out for Callejón then spun in behind to meet the Spaniard’s low cross and turn it home for his league-leading 11th goal of the season. Despite the lead, Vincenzo Italiano kept his charges pressing forward, leaving way too much room for Empoli to counter into. And counter they did, scoring via deep free kick when Terracciano flapped at the ball, leaving ex-Viola academy player Filippo Bandinelli to scramble it home, and then letting Nedim Bajrami sprint down the wing and center it for Andrea Pinamonti to finish 3 minutes later.
Even worse than losing a game you were leading until the 87th minute is the fact that a fan groped team reporter Greta Beccaglia outside the stadium after the match on live TV; we’ll update that story as we learn more, but he’s clearly a fucking scumbag and deserves to face all the legal and social repercussions that Italy can muster.