As we suspected, Igor Matić went to a 3-5-2 system, leaving out leading scorer Igor Miladinović again. Vincenzo Italiano handed young Nicolò Pierozzi his first senior start, with Maxime Lopez, Jonathan Ikoné, and Riccardo Sottil all getting the nod as well. They were joined by 500 Fiorentina fans who made the trip to Belgrade.
It went about as expected, honestly, although the absurdly slick pitch—which has apparently been a problem all season—led to a lot of slips, trips, and falls. The visitors established their ascendancy pretty quickly, controlling territory and possession, and quickly made it count: Nenad Filipović tripped up M’Bala Nzola when the striker was through on goal. The Angolan maintained his excellent record from the spot (11 of 12 in his professional career) and buried the penalty.
To their credit, the hosts emerged from the break with renewed vigor and pinned Fiorentina back for the opening quarter hour, creating a couple of uncomfortable moments and even having a golden chance to equalize, although Stefan Kovač somehow missed a volley from 5 yards out with no defender near him. Fiorentina eventually regained control, though, and between the pitch and the technical deficiencies of both teams, there wasn’t much else to write home about as neither side showed any ability to create a dang thing.
Goals: Nzola PK 8’
Cards: N’Diaye 6’, Adetunji 40’, Nikčević 47’, Singh 90’+5; Biraghi 44’, Parisi 83’
With Ferencváros and Genk playing out a 1-1 draw in the other match, Fiorentina take the lead in Group F with 8 points, 2 ahead of their Hungarian and Belgian competitors. That means a win over either in the final two games of group play will assure qualification to the knockout rounds, while a win and a draw would assure top place in the group.
That’s looking ahead a bit too much, though, as Fiorentina next get a crack against an unexpectedly good Bologna side that’s undefeated in 11 straight games and has shot up to 6th place in Serie A with 18 points. That’s all the ingredients for a fascinating Derpy dell’Appennino and a perfect opportunity to right a Viola ship that’s listing perilously of late in the league and even leapfrog the hated Felsinei.