Antonio Rosati—7: Made several quite good stops on Gabriele Moncini after the defense left him in dangerous spots. Didn’t do anything too outrageous but demonstrated that he can do a job when called upon, which means Fiorentina have 3 Serie A-quality goalkeepers. Good on Antonio for answering the call; this was just his second competitive game since 2018 and first for the Viola since 2014. Welcome back.
Lorenzo Venuti—6: Solid enough at the back, never letting Marco Sau or Enrico Brignola trouble him too much although he did lose track of Moncini once or twice. Didn’t get much going forward as he was clearly told to sit deep and let Terzić get forward more on the other side. Awesome to see him wearing the armband.
Nikola Milenković—7: Scored the opener with some good awareness of the offside line and dominated the physical battle with Moncini and company. Left a lot of space for the Benevento attackers to charge into, though, and was part of the reason a Serie B team carved the rearguard open half a dozen times.
Why does this look like the final shot in an inspirational movie about an athlete? https://t.co/2AzXR0xnNX— Viola Nation (@Viola_Nation) December 15, 2021
Igor—6.5: Notched the assist and, like his defensive partner, won every physical battle. His positioning was dicey at times, although he was sweeping up a lot of ground behind Terzić so he gets a little credit. Did have a couple of surging runs out the back during which he shed multiple defenders.
Aleksa Terzić—6.5: Instantly showed a brilliant understanding with Maleh and Sottil, constantly getting forward on the overlap and delivering some crosses that someone more competent than Kokorin might’ve done something useful with. Also delivered a couple of decent set pieces. Did spend a lot of time too high up and left space in behind that Benevento exploited, but he at least didn’t get beaten too often.
Marco Benassi—5: Had a very Benassi game. Largely invisible outside of some missed passes and bungled touches. Didn’t impress defensively. Had a good chance to score moments after Sottil but scuffed it. And despite that, summoned a brilliant little flick to play Kokorin through on goal and provided the cross for Sottil to eventually finish. There’s obviously talent in there, but poor Marco doesn’t get to decide how often it evinces itself.
Sofyan Amrabat—6: Looked pretty good for long stretches, moving the ball around and not losing it for no reason. Sprayed a couple of passes to the flanks and kept things ticking along neatly. His lack of positional discipline remains a concern, as Benevento too easily dragged him out of position so that one of the wingers or a midfielder (usually Gennaro Acampora) could storm into that space between the lines and create problems.
Youssef Maleh—6.5: Looked, as ever, like a bundle of energy, constantly bursting down the wing and putting in a decent defensive shift too. Showed some great interplay with Sottil and Terzić. Fired a couple of decent long shots and was unlucky that Benassi borked his cross. Looks like he’s ready for a bigger role sooner rather than later.
José Callejón—6: Played the corner leading to the first goal and was involved in the second as well. Made one really good intervention in his own box too, which was weird. Looks a bit more motivated these days to do useful things rather than simply recycle possession backwards and occasionally lose the ball, but still limited by his lack of pace to being more of a passer than anything else.
Aleksandr Kokorin—2: Unbelievably out of sync with the rest of the team. Rarely moved off the ball despite his colleagues teasing numerous nice balls into him. Missed an absolute sitter. The only times he ran were when he inexplicably charged straight into the net like 5 or 6 times. The only positive is that he didn’t do anything horrifically violent. And I guess these photos (swipe/scroll through them) are pretty funny.
- When you’re not sure whether to be violent or useless. Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images
- WHY YES I DID STUDY AT THE ARTUR BORUC SCHOOL OF DEFENDING HOW DID YOU GUESS?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!? Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images
- Falcon PUNCH Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images
- Too feckless to even shriek into the void with good posture. Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images
Riccardo Sottil—7.5: Man of the match for me. Looked like the only player capable of creating anything in the first half, constantly beating Salvatore Elia down the wing and deforming Benevento’s defense. Hit some very good crosses in that deserved much better. His goal wasn’t exactly clinical but they all count, and he’s starting to show the sort of composure in the final third that could see him reach the upper heights of the game.
Alfred Duncan—5: Didn’t do all that much but hit a couple of neat passes and solidified things just fine.
Nicolás González—5: Had one really nice run but didn’t get much else in, largely because his 20 minutes were spent with various Stregoni trying to rip his jersey off without punishment.
Erick Pulgar—n/a: Making his first appearance since October, the Chilean had his ankle taken out within 10 minutes and had to be subbed back off. Really tough situation for the guy.
Dušan Vlahović—5: Even though he didn’t do much outside a run in behind that resulted in a corner, you could feel the Benevento defense’s nervousness when he stepped onto the pitch.
Alessandro Bianco—n/a: Came on in the 88th minute for Pulgar. Did dig out one very nice pass through to Vlahović.
Three things we learned
1. Get Kokorin out of here. Okay, we already knew it, but that was outrageously bad. Yes, it was his first-ever start for Fiorentina. Yes, he’s been injured for awhile. Yes, it’s tough to make your return. Yes, nobody’s going to look good in relief of Dušan. But this Kokorin. He is not a serious player. I’d rather see Louis Munteanu out there. Hell, I’d rather see Jorgy the Hedgehog out there. Kokorin contributes NOTHING. What a mind-bendingly idiotic decision to sign this buster, especially since there is literally no other option on the roster to play up front.
2. The kids are getting there. The Serbian’s energetic overlapping, pace, and good delivery complemented Maleh’s motor, willingness to drift wide, and eye for a killer pass. Sottil’s pace, dribbling, and newfound willingness to play in teammates magnified both.
Quarter hour in and Fiorentina's best chance for a goal looks like the Terzić-Maleh-Sottil triangle down the left. They're all active and moving well. Not much else going on in this team, though.— Viola Nation (@Viola_Nation) December 15, 2021
They’re all backups right now for a reason, but it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which this trio are regular starters for a Europa League quality Viola team circa 2024. Add in a promising debut from Bianco and this is exactly the sort of performance you want to see from your young backups in the cup. The game itself wasn’t fun, but this part surely was.
3. There’s so much momentum here. Don’t get me wrong, this is Fiorentina and that means the team remains incredibly fragile. The slightest touch could send things spiraling back to a relegation battle. But the fact remains that this club has just won 4 in a row for the first time since 2018—that incredible run after Davide Astori died—and sits 5th in the table. They got this win despite starting 1 or 2 of the guys you’d count in their best XI, including a goalkeeper we’ve considered to be a glorified cheerleader, a mostly-washed Callejón, a midfield featuring Benassi and Amrabat, and a literal void up front. Imagine how this lineup would’ve fared over the past couple of years and tell me you aren’t excited about the way Fiorentina is moving.