Pietro Terracciano—6.5: Made a couple of good saves, especially early on, although he didn’t look particularly graceful out there (probably because he wasn’t sure of his footing on that unholy abomination of a field). Not at fault for the goal.
Dodô—6: Got forward well and caused some problems in the final third, but continues to look like the weak link at the back. Beaten twice by Erdoğan Yeşilyurt, including once for the goal, and had a couple of frightening touches, although again, that’s probably on the grass more than him.
Nikola Milenković—7.5: Didn’t let Jordy Caicedo or any of the other Sivasspor forwards do much of anything. Matched the Yigidos’ ruggedness with some hefty challenges of his own. Maybe could’ve been a bit sharper on the goal but it was also just a great hit. And speaking of goals, clearly too big and strong for anyone to stop at the other end.
Lucas Martínez Quarta—6.5: Mostly pretty solid at the back, shepherding the opposing forwards neatly enough. His long-dormant goal thirst returned with a vengeance, though, leading him to come close with a belter from distance and some nice runs forward, including one that took him all the way into the Sivasspor box before he went over rather shamelessly. Will miss the next Conference League game due to yellow cards.
Luca Ranieri—7: Very solid at the back, erasing the tricky Samu Saíz from the proceedings, and offered more of a presence in the final third than expected; he was more about finding space and keeping the ball moving than crossing, but it worked. Also showed some real grinta, taking a few shots and gritting his teeth. As a bonus, looks like the rhythm guitarist in a band that opened for the Old 97’s in 2008.
Sofyan Amrabat—7: Held Fiorentina together as he usually does. Dominated the center of the park and looked the only midfielder capable of operating in that area. Dropped between the centerbacks to start moves and carried the ball forward quite well. He’s back.
Rolando Mandragora—4: Lucky not to be sent off for an elbow on Hakan Arslan in the first half. Hit a couple of nice passes and got the assist for Milenković’s goal, but also had some really poor moments in possession, including a pair of huge windups to kick nothing but air. Probably just the pitch.
Jonathan Ikoné—6: Made a couple of incisive runs, including one that nearly resulted in a fluky goal, but never got untracked. In fairness to him, it’s tough to be a quick, shifty dribbler on a surface like that. Did play from the left for a bit and looked fine. Also tracked back better than he usually does.
Giacomo Bonaventura—6.5: Active and involved, buzzing around and making really intelligent runs off the ball while adding some clever turns on it. A bit too eager to shoot from distance rather than play in his teammates, especially in the first half, at least until he played a key role in Cabral’s goal. Solid from the day’s captain.
Nicolás González—7: Always looked likeliest to make something happen, whether it was with his pressing, aerial ability, dribbling, passing, or off-ball movement. Came close a couple of times himself but created Cabral’s goal with his pressing and running and determination. He’s starting to hit the heights he did last year at the perfect time.
Arthur Cabral—7: Wasn’t very involved in buildup as he battled for high balls, but scored a fantastic poacher’s goal (the very type that Luka Jović is supposed to provide) and led the line well out of possession. Got a bit more involved as the match wore on, working the channels and holding it up. Love him.
Igor—6.5: Brought on when LMQ got booked and did his job perfectly. Snuffed out everything that Sivasspor threw at him and never looked even remotely bothered.
Alessandro Bianco—6.5: Looked decent enough, but this grade is about him staying on the pitch and looking completely unfazed after some fucking idiot ran onto the field and suckerpunched him in the face, breaking his nose. That kind of composure from a 20-year-old is commendable. Forza Ale.
Gaetano Castrovilli—7: Took a shot shortly after coming on that had everyone worried but bounced back in a big way. That kind of goal is exactly what he needed to add to his game. If he’s a threat to shoot from distance, it’s going to open a whole new world of possibilities for him. And goddamn is it good to have him back.
Christian Kouamé—6.5: His clever run and flick helped create Castrovilli’s goal, and he was a nuisance throughout his brief cameo.
Riccardo Saponara—6: Cheesed around cheesily but didn’t do anything crazy.
Three things we learned
1. They believe. When Yeşilyurt hit that goal, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who flashed back to 2016 in Monchengladbach. This team has shown all the fortitude of wet tissue paper this season. Coming back against Braga felt a bit fluky, and that was only the 2nd time this year (the other was against Başakşehir) that Fiorentina has managed to take a win from a losing position. That is not a winning mentality.
In a hostile environment, against a desperately focused opponent, I fully expected these guys to crumble, concede a second, and go out despite looking like the better side over two legs. What I saw instead was a team that picked itself up after getting scored on, dusted itself off, and went right back to doing what it had been doing, confident that it had the plan, the players, and the toughness to do what needed to be done. That is a winning mentality.
2. Martínez Quarta may have leapfrogged Igor. Lucas had a terrible start to the season and Vincenzo Italiano was justified in dropping him for Igor. The Brazilian, though, hasn’t been as steady as he was last year, while LMQ has only grown. He’s now started 4 straight Serie A games and 3 in the Conference League, while Igor’s started just once (and got subbed off) in that span. I love Thighor and want him to succeed, but it’s so good to see Martínez Quarta get his swagger back, as that allows Milenković to play more of a sweeper role that brings out the best in him.
3. Let’s not take things too seriously. I come back to this theme a lot, but let’s remember that this is a hobby. Watching sports is supposed to be fun. It is not and should never be a reason to run into the middle of a bunch of strangers’ workplace and unexpectedly punch one of them in the head. Sivasspor supporters have universally condemned that idiot, to their credit, but it’s a good reminder for the rest of us that fanhood is a country with definite borders beyond which we should not pass. There be monsters.