Both sides rotated heavily after weekend matches; out of the 22 players starting those 2 games, only 6 returned to the lineup. The real “news” was that felonious memelord Aleksandr Kokorin made his first Fiorentina start, with Antonio Rosati joining him in the Viola XI for the first time since 2014.
While the visitors looked frisky early on, Fiorentina opened the scoring via their central defenders: Igor headed a José Callejón to Nikola Milenković, who was completely alone in front of goal to finish with his noggin as Benevento’s defense failed to step up in time.
The Stregoni hardly folded, though, and created several shooting opportunities to keep Rosati a bit busier than you’d like. The best chance of the half came on the other end, though, as Kokorin was played through clean on goal and failed to score. Just as you might’ve expected.
Fiorentina got off to a flying start as Riccardo Sottil headed a Benassi cross on frame at the back post just after halftime. Nicolò Manfredini parried it but spilled the ball right back to Ricky’s feet, and the youngster made no mistake at the second time of asking.
This being Fiorentina, that lead lasted all of 4 minutes. Some nice passing from Benevento combined with some atrocious defending allowed Gabriele Moncini to slide home a cross from Marco Sau.
Despite bringing on Nicolás González and Dušan Vlahović, Fiorentina didn’t really create much more and spent most of the remaining minutes on the back foot, allowing their visitors to create a few chances and even get the ball in the net via Gianluca Lapadula, who was correctly ruled offside. Erick Pulgar made his long-awaited return from injury and lasted just 10 minutes before getting hacked and going out with an ankle injury, but at least the Viola hung on for the win.
Goals: Milenković 19’ (ass. Igor), Sottil 47’; Moncini 51’ (ass. Sau)
Cards: Bianco 90’+3; Calò 73’
What matters is that Fiorentina made it through to the round of 16, where they’ll face Napoli next month. The result should keep the momentum going; this is the team’s 4th straight win, and they did it despite fielding a 3rd-choice goalkeeper and just a single regular starter. While it’s concerning to see Pulgar go out injured, as that likely means Sofyan Amrabat will stick on the roster through January, some of the reserves showed that they can play.
But oh my goodness does this team need another striker. Kokorin is a pure catastrophe and belongs nowhere near a professional pitch, even as a spectator.