Vincenzo Italiano threw a couple of surprises out there in the form of Alessandro Bianco and Lorenzo Venuti. Alessio Dionisi picked a midfield featuring Hamid Junior Traoré and Pedro Obiang, which felt like he was trolling the Viola, but mostly fielded his expected XI.
The teams observed a moment of silence for Gianluca Vialli and Ernesto Castano, who both passed in the past couple of days. The silence was even more poignant in Florence, given that it was also Davide Astori’s 36th birthday.
Fiorentina were energetic to start, as usual, but didn’t create much, as usual, and Sassuolo grew into the match. It wound up being rather open as neither midfield was able to impose much control, but it didn’t take long for the half’s defining feature to become apparent: the Viola made mistake after mistake in possession, especially at the back, constantly gifting the Neroverdi a short pitch to attack. Pietro Terracciano made a couple of good saves on Davide Frattesi and Andrea Pinamonti (who really should’ve scored), but the defenders and Alfred Duncan were just woeful. Vincenzo Italiano must’ve felt equal parts grateful to get to halftime without conceding and furious that his team had played so badly without even registering a shot on target.
The fans had barely sat down before halftime substitute Riccardo Saponara equalized. Cristiano Biraghi heaved in a cross that Christian Kouamé knocked down, leading to a bit of havoc in the box, and the Cheese lashed home the bouncing ball.
Naturally, Fiorentina conceded moments later; this team hates having the lead more than any I’ve ever seen. This time, it was Dodô blocking a Pinamonti shot with an upraised arm from point blank range. It took referee Gianluca Manganiello awhile to point to the spot but point he did, and Domenico Berardi made no mistake.
GOAL! Fiorentina 1-1 Sassuolo— TheFootballHub (@TheFootballHubs) January 7, 2023
The game remained a bit too open for any Viola fan’s liking, but it felt like the hosts refocused rather than collapsed—a novel approach for them—and went looking for another. Italiano made some very attacking subs, ending up with a 4-4-2 and a double pivot of Bonaventura and Gaetano Castrovilli, as Nicolás González made his much-anticipated return, although he mis-headed a glorious chance to take the lead.
The surfeit of creative players kept the Neroverdi pinned in their own third, but the breakthrough came from nothing less than divine justice: Aleksa Terzić smacked a ball in the box off Ruan’s arm in identical circumstances to the penalty in the first half. It took Manganiello a loooooong time to check, but he eventually gave the spot kick (although he declined to book the defender, which was weird since he’d shown Dodô a card as well). Nico stepped up and marked his return to the pitch with aplomb.
Sassuolo tried throwing numbers forward but Fiorentina never looked troubled. Indeed, they nearly added a third, but Saponara somehow didn’t shoot or pass when through on goal and with runners attacking the post. When Manganiello finally whistled for full time, the Franchi erupted.
Goals: Saponara 48’, González PK 91’; Berardi PK 57’
Cards: Milenković 10’, Dodô 56’, Castrovilli 75’, González 90’+4; Traoré 19’, Ruan 26’, Berardi 90’+1
The win past Torino for now (il Toro plays at Salernitana tomorrow) and into 9th place with 23 points, keeping them in the hunt for that final Conference League spot currently occupied by AS Roma with 30, pending their result at AC Milan. More importantly, though, it marks Astori’s birthday with a win.
It’s also great to see Nico and Castrovilli back and starting to look like their former selves. Now it’s just a matter of getting Sofyan Amrabat back and we might finally get to see a full strength Fiorentina for the first time this year. Can’t wait.