Both managers made some big changes. Genoa’s Davide Ballardini got Milan Badelj back from injury in central midfield and started Filippo Melegoni over AARP member Goran Pandev up front. Fiorentina’s Vincenzo Italiano countered by dropping Nikola Milenković from the defense and bringing Bartłomiej Drągowski, Erick Pulgar, Gaetano Castrovilli back to the XI. The real story, though, was the rain sheeting down in Liguria that made the field look like it was ready for water polo.
Fiorentina dominated the ball (66% possession) and were clearly the team trying to make something happen from the opening kickoff, but Ballardini and Genoa’s reputation for a well-drilled (and, hm, “rugged”) defense exists for a reason. A couple of decent moments from Nicolás González and Giacomo Bonaventura weren’t enough to beat Salvatore Sirigu in goal.
At the other end, Drągowski made a tremendous save on Mattia Destro after a brain fart from Álvaro Odriozola and Erick Pulgar gave the striker a chance from nothing. The real drama, though, came when Gaetano Castrovilli slammed into the post while chasing a cross; the slick pitch meant he couldn’t hit the brakes in time, and the impact forced him off. Here’s hoping he’s okay.
After González went off at the break with a knock, things resumed about as they’d ended. Substitute Riccardo Saponara broke the deadlock with a piece of really marvelous skill, cutting inside and unleashing a crack to beat Sirigu.
Riccardo Saponara with a stunning effort to get Fiorentina started pic.twitter.com/AYdoBnYEcD— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 18, 2021
Genoa had a penalty shout moments later as Erick Pulgar got tangled up with Valon Behrami, but VAR didn’t overturn it do to Goran Pandev’s shove on the Chilean that sent him into his opponent. Substitute Aleksandr Kokorin was very lucky not to be sent off for an awful challenge on Valon Behrami, intensifying his obvious lack of fit. Anyways, it was Saponara who returned the favor to Bonaventura, setting him up for a goal (via deflection) to settle the evening nicely.
Because this is Fiorentina, though, the clean sheet just couldn’t last. Igor made a rather pointless challenge on Badelj deep in stoppage time to give away a “penalty” that Domenico Criscito buried, but that was the last play of the game.
Goals: Criscito PK 90’+8; Saponara 61’ (ass. Bonaventura), Bonaventura 89’ (ass. Saponara)
Cards: Tourê 13’, Criscito 15’, Vanheusden 20’, Behrami 66’; Odriozola 36’, Biraghi 45’+2, Martínez Quarta 54’, Kokorin 85’
Fiorentina win three in a row for the first time since about this time in 2019 despite wasting the chance for the first clean sheet of the season. More importantly, the team showed that it can score even when Dušan Vlahović has an off night. With a trip against Inter Milan looming on Tuesday, that might give last season’s leaders something to think about. For Genoa, a third defeat in four games could signal that Ballardini is getting the sack from Enrico Preziosi for roughly the 85th time.