Even with Nicolás González, Sofyan Amrabat, and Nikola Milenković—all fitness concerns—on the bench, Vincenzo Italiano picked an experienced team, featuring Christian Kouamé up front and a creative midfield with Antonín Barák and Giacomo Bonaventura. Gian Piero Gasperini opted for youth, with a pair of Italy U21 internationals at the back in Giorgio Scalvini and Caleb Okoli.
Fiorentina started off the better team, with Rolando Mandragora blasting one just high in the early going, but it quickly leveled out. Neither team seemed eager to use the middle of the pitch, opting to attack down the wings or directly over the top, so it seemed rather chaotic at times, although two high defenses facing pacy attackers meant it was probably the right choice.
While there weren’t too many chances—Lucas Martínez Quarta made a boneheaded play to set Luis Muriel in, but the Colombian was offside, and Pietro Terracciano missed a header 25 yards from goal that LMQ managed to clear before Muriel could walk it in—it was a fascinating tactical battle; it felt like Fiorentina were (barely) creating more, but their own mistakes at the back meant Atalanta had the better chances.
The real talking point wasn’t near the goal, but came when Kouamé swung a boot very near to Marten de Roon’s face, earning a straight red from Massimiliano Irrati before a VAR check downgraded it to just a foul. If the Ivorian had caught his opponent, it would’ve been carnage, but thankfully there wasn’t any contact. When halftime arrived, it felt like a goalless draw was a pretty fair reflection of the play so far.
It started out a lot like the first, with both teams scuffling, but Gasperini must’ve had a good chat with his boys, because the hosts looked a bit sharper on the break, finding space in behind a couple of times, especially as the game slowed down due to a succession of niggly fouls. It was at the hour mark that one of those breaks finally paid dividends, as Muriel beat Lorenzo Venuti and LMQ to play a low ball across goal that Ademola Lookman tapped home; Igor and Cristiano Biraghi both neglected to track the forward, leaving him the simplest finish he’ll ever have.
Luis Muriel puts it on a plate and Ademola Lookman eats.— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 2, 2022
The Nigerian international has his second Serie A goal. pic.twitter.com/7YzNtZ4999
Now that they needed a goal, Fiorentina were forced to throw more bodies forward, allowing Atalanta much more space on the break. Terracciano made a superb 1-v-1 save on Joakim Mæhle and Martínez Quarta stonewalled Lookman on what looked another certain goal as the Viola failed to trouble Marco Sportiello all that much; Riccardo Saponara had the best chance but tripped over the ball 8 yards from a wide open net and with no defender nearby, which felt like a pretty clear explanation of how Fiorentina’s day had gone.. Even the late introductions of Luka Jović and Arthur Cabral had little effect, although the former did manage to turn a nice shot on target.
Cards: Scalvini 31’; Bonaventura 4’
While there’s no shame in losing a tight 0-1 to the joint-best team in Serie A and the league’s best defense, it’s frustrating to see Fiorentina fumble the opportunity to pass 3 other clubs (including Juventus). Instead, they remain in 11th place with 8 points through 9 matchweeks.
While they weren’t exactly terrible, Atalanta were also well off the pace, so this felt like a winnable game, even without Milenković, González, and Sottil, who may well have tipped the balance had they been available. Maybe we’ll see them on Thursday when the Viola take the long trip north and west to Edinburgh and Hearts of Midlothian.