Fiorentina, suffering from a mini-crisis at the back, started Luca Ranieri in central defense. Vincenzo Italiano made 5 other changes, which was quite a bit fewer than expected. RFS switched to a 5-3-2ish shape, which should’ve given us a hint of how they would play on a humid Tuscan afternoon.
As expected, it was the hosts who bossed possession and position. RFS were content to pack 7 defenders into their own penalty box, leaving Andrej Ilić and Emerson up front to try and link up on the break. Antonín Barák thundered a shot off the post early on, but it quickly devolved into the Pāvels Šteinbors show: the goalkeeper made 4 incredible saves—three on Arthur Cabral and one on Barák—to keep his team in it as the Viola did everything but score. This being Fiorentina, they did give us a scare at the other end when Giacomo Bonaventura slipped under no pressure and passed the ball back to Ilić, but Pierluigi Gollini stayed big and made the 1-v-1 save. When halftime arrived, it felt impossible that Fiorentina hadn’t scored, but it also felt like the approach they were following would yield results eventually.
Italiano turned to Riccardo Sottil for the second half and the winger immediately offered a different option, zipping around and creating chaos, but Fiorentina as a whole felt about the same as they had in the first half. The breakthrough finally arrived via Barák, who neatly clipped home a Cristiano Biraghi cross to score his first goal for his new club; it felt like the entire Artemio Franchi exhaled, since the lead surely meant that the Viola would be able to add another one or two as RFS were forced to venture forward.
Goal!— Latvian footy in English. / (@LV_footballnews) September 8, 2022
Antonin Barak with the goal.
Fiorentina vs RFS - 1:0 pic.twitter.com/UpdJvDZVZt
That’s not quite what happened, though. The hosts began slowing the pace, making themselves very easy to press, and offered no real threat going forward, aside from a glorious chance that Jonathan Ikoné somehow contrived to fire miles wide. RFS capitalized when none other than Barák coughed up the ball, allowing Ilić to sneak past a switched-off Ranieri and finish neatly.
If you expected Fiorentina to immediately ramp up the the pressure and pin RFS back, well, you probably haven’t watched them much this year. The Viola were flat and uncreative, doing little to elevate the tempo or create other chances until the final moments, when Luka Jović missed not one but two glorious opportunities to be the hero, scuffing a pair of wide open shots into the stands and a bit wide, respectively. When the triple blast arrived, nobody could argue that the fans whistling Fiorentina weren’t fully justified.
Goals: Barák 56’ (ass. Biraghi); Ilić 74’ (ass. Friesenbichler)
Cards: Panić 33’, Lipušček 43’, Sorokins 54’, Ilić 87’; Maleh 85’
Three straight road trips, including to Bologna for the Derby dell’Appennino on Sunday and to Istanbul for Başakşehir next Thursday, mean that Fiorentina need to fix what’s wrong with the team on the fly. Converting open chances would be a very good start: getting 1 goal from 32 (!) shots just isn’t going to cut it. Italiano may need to consider changing a lot of things up, because if the Viola can’t put away RFS at home, this could wind up being a miserable season.