Vincenzo Italiano did not surprised with his pre-match selections, as Bart Dragowski and Matija Nastasic returned to the lineup for the first time in months as was announced yesterday. Riccardo Saponara got the nod over Jose Callejon and Jonathan Ikone as Nico Gonzalez’s partner.
Luciano Spalleti also trotted out one of the only fully-healthy lineups he could, starting Andrea Petagna up front and Axel Tuanzebe in the back.
The Viola started much better than they did against Torino, capped off by a brilliant goal from who else but Dusan Vlahovic. It was Riccardo Saponara’s trickery that unlocked the big Serb, so full plaudits go to the Cheese as well.
Dusan Vlahovic… the gift that keeps on giving atm.— Sacha Pisani (@Sachk0) January 13, 2022
That touch and finish
The Serie A player with the most goals in all comps this season, 19 - 16 in Serie A & 3 in #CoppaItalia (@OptaPaolo)pic.twitter.com/1lotIVjjx3
This being Fiorentina, that happiness would not last for long, as a blunder from Dragowski gifted Dries Mertens the equalizer.
Things went from bad to worse just minutes later, as Dragowski body-checked Fabian Ruiz, who was through on goal. This was an obvious red card, and the Viola went into halftime down a man and with little momentum.
Fiorentina brought on Youssef Maleh in place of the Cheese for some energy in the midfield. Miraculously, the Viola scored the first goal of the half, with Cristiano Biraghi tucking his own free-kick rebound beautifully into the far corner.
Captain fantastic!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 13, 2022
Cristiano Biraghi puts Fiorentina back in front pic.twitter.com/vjNNDlh5eo
Fiorentina displayed excellent toughness and grit throughout the entire half, and received a boost when Chucky Lozano was sent off for a nasty challenge on Nico.
Then, one of the worst refereeing decisions I’ve seen happened in stoppage time. With Jonathon Ikonè through on goal on the counterattack, the referee pulled play back to send off Fabian Ruiz. While I know that advantage is typically not played when a player is sent off, in this case, with a clear goal opportunity looming, this was a ludicrous decision.
That is absolute bullshit. Absolutely stolen from Fiorentina. How that referee interfered with a direct goal scoring opportunity amazes me… but it doesn’t. Absolutely amateur by him.— Viola Nation (@Viola_Nation) January 13, 2022
The worst-case scenario struck minutes later when some woeful defending from Nastasic gifted Andrea Petagna a goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
ANDREA PETAGNA— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 13, 2022
WITH 9 MEN NAPOLI EQUALIZE TO SEND IT TO EXTRA TIME pic.twitter.com/kx8sEY0HcQ
Fiorentina still had a man advantage heading into extra time, and with how exhausted Dries Mertens was they practically had two more players than the Partenopei. After 10 minutes of exhaustive pressure, none other than Lollo Venuti stuck a beautiful volley to give the Viola the lead.
Minutes later, it was Krzysztof Piątek getting in on the action, getting his third straight debut goal for an Italian club. Youssef Maleh tagged another one late in stoppage time, completing the beatdown. I must say, I’ve never seen another game like it
Goals: Vlahovic 41’ (ass. Saponara), Mertens 44’ (ass. Petagna), Biraghi 57’, Petagna 90+5’ (ass. Mertens), Venuti 105+1’ (ass. Maleh), Piatek 108’ (ass. Venuti), Maleh 119’ (ass. Ikonè)
Cards: Duncan 32’, Dragowski (Red) 45+2’; Rrahmani 56’, Castrovilli 59,’ Fabian Ruiz 77’, Tuanzebe 85’, Fabian Ruiz 90+3’
Fiorentina has now advanced to the quarters of the Coppa, where they’ll face off against Atalanta in February. There are no excuses for not playing a full-strength team from here on out in the cup, as the Viola are just three wins away from their first trophy in 21 years as well as a guarantee of European competition.
In the league, the Viola host Genoa Monday evening, with the visitors’ manager still a mystery. After that, a trip to Sardinia to face Cagliari beckons, and then an international break.