Prandelli made the interesting (and successful) choice of going for Lorenzo Venuti and Martin Caceres at wingback, while Giacomo Bonaventura returned to the starting lineup in place of the suspended Sofyan Amrabat. Franck Ribery also came back into the XI after missing the Parma match due to suspension.
In effect, the Dusan Vlahović show. The Serb notched a hattrick by the end of the half, his first being a tidy finish from six years out. A bit of luck (and great positioning) got him his second, and the third...
I’m still undecided whether that strike or Bonaventura’s vs Crotone is our best goal of the season so far, I’d love to hear everyone’s opinions. Nonetheless, Vlahović now has twelve goals on the season and has established himself as not just Fiorentina’s #9, but one of the best players on the team. While a three-goal cushion may have been a tad generous to the Viola, it was a thoroughly deserved lead.
It started out exactly as I expected, with Fiorentina bunkering down while Benevento was relentless with pressure. The Viola looked flat and lifeless, conceding a soft goal of a corner. After facing more pressure, none other than Valentin Eyserric got the clincher with a cheeky chip.
One of the highlights had to be not just Tofol Montiel coming on late, but Maxi Olivera(!!) getting his first Viola appearance in over a year. Seriously did not see that happening this campaign.
The Viola enter their toughest six-match stretch of the round when they face off against Milan next Sunday, followed by a weekend off due to an international break which hopefully will not happen. Three points here were critical, as the Viola are now nine points ahead of Torino in 18th place (with three matches in hand), and seven ahead of Cagliari. Most importantly, the Viola now have three points on both Benevento and Spezia, who I expect to both be fighting for survival until the very end. Somehow, Fiorentina now is in twelfth place, although either Genoa or Bologna could pass the Viola with positive results this weekend. One sobering fact: In order to reach the point total accumulated last season, Fiorentina will need to notch 22 from their final 11 matches. Who said that’s not possible?