Both managers rotated the XI pretty heavily ahead of an essentially meaningless match. Viktor Morozs gave Vitājlis Maksimenko, Tomáš Simković, and Deniss Rakels the chance to do something cool. Vincenzo Italiano, meanwhile, kept Pierluigi Gollini glued to the bench, turning to Pietro Terracciano. Nikola Milenković, Cristiano Biraghi, Christian Kouamé, and Luka Jović all got the night off, leaving Jonathan Ikoné as the main creative force in front of 400 raucous traveling fans.
It was a slightly somber start as Kaspars Dubra went down with a non-contact injury in the first minute and couldn’t continue, but it was pretty clear that Fiorentina were going to dominate the match from the word go. They immediately set up shop in the final third, pinging the ball around and keeping RFS from doing anything. The pressure paid off when Riccardo Saponara swung in a cross from the left that found an unmarked Antonín Barák; the Czech’s header wasn’t especially strong, but Pavels Šteinbors, perhaps unsighted by Arthur Cabral, somehow let it trickle in at the near post.
After taking the lead, the match settled into a familiar pattern: Fiorentina controlled the game, often with a centerback approaching the 18-yard box in possession, while RFS defended deep and narrow. The hosts were actually pretty well organized, too, not conceding too many real opportunities after the goal; Ikoné was probably the most active Viola attacker, but his end product simply wasn’t good enough. It felt like the visitors were maybe getting lulled to sleep when the hosts suddenly roared forward, with Andrea Ilić narrowly heading Petr Mareš’ cross over the bar. That wake-up call was just what Fiorentina needed, apparently, as Cabral poked home a lovely Barák flick off a Lorenzo Venuti corner right on the stroke of halftime.
Saponara, perhaps underwhelmed by the slightly scrappy nature of his side’s goals thus far, decided to up the ante with a vintage Cheese curler from 25 yards out that left Šteinbors absolutely no chance. That, friends, is how you tiro a giro. Good gracious, Ricky.
Fiorentina brought on Szymon Żurkowski and Alessandro Bianco to start the half, perhaps indicating that Italiano was taking his foot off the gas. While the good guys still controlled things for the first quarter hour or so, with Ikoné still central to everything, RFS began pushing forward around the hour mark and looked the better side for the final 30 minutes as Pietro Terracciano made several very good saves to keep his clean sheet. A debut for Filippo Distefano was really the only interesting thing for the visitors through this stretch, as the former Primavera star looked active rather than incisive. Still, when the triple blast sounded, it was pretty clear that Fiorentina had deserved the 0-3 win, although the Latvians might’ve deserved a consolation goal for their late efforts.
Goals: Barák 7’ (ass. Saponara), Cabral 44’ (ass. Barák), Saponara 45’+2 (ass. Ikoné)
Cards: Zjuzins 55’; Martínez Quarta 77’, Venuti 79’, Bianco 89’
Despite the win, Fiorentina finish second in the group, as Başakşehir dispatched Heart of Midlothian 3-1, a result that left the Viola and the Grey Owls even on 13 points, but with the latter in the top spot due to goal difference; that draw against RFS in Florence and Gollini’s horror show in Istanbul really feel like missed opportunities now.
Still, a third straight win in all competitions feels like a significant step forward for Fiorentina. Having rested some key players, they should be all systems go for Sunday’s clash at moribund Sampdoria, with Salernitana looming on Wednesday and a trip to the San Siro and AC Milan the following Sunday before the World Cup. Hopefully, this positive momentum means the Viola head into the break (which is still wrong and bad and stupid to have to write in early November) with some good vibes, ready to push up the standings in the second half of the season.