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Lech Poznań 1-4 Fiorentina: Match report and highlights

Despite some tense moments, the Viola barge their way into a big win in the first leg of the quarterfinals.

Lech Poznan v ACF Fiorentina: Quarterfinal First Leg - UEFA Europa Conference League
Photo by Mateusz Slodkowski/DeFodi Images via Getty Images


Despite pre-kickoff rumors that Lech Poznań had gone 3 at the back, it looked more like a 4-2-3-1 to match Fiorentina. Also of note was that centerback Bartosz Salamon (a familiar figure to calcio lovers) received a 3-month suspension for a banned substance hours before kickoff. Vincenzo Italiano, for his part, handed a rare chance to Luca Ranieri at the back, as well as a first-ever Viola start for Josip Brekalo on the wing.

Let’s give some credit to the away support, too. A couple hundred brave souls ventured into the Greater Polish rain from Tuscany, and their numbers were swelled by the sparkling attendance of the Viola Club Poland, whose members didn’t pass up this singular opportunity to see their distant love up close. Too, our own Trevor Stynes was in the press box. Maybe if we’re really lucky, we’ll get to hear from him.

First half

Things started just about perfectly. After some excellent pressure from the Viola won the ball up high, Nicolás González cut inside from the right wing and uncorked a lovely shot that crashed off the upright, with goalkeeper Filip Bednarek completely clueless. Arthur Cabral had a clue, though, and bundled it over the line for a typically chaotic finish, giving the visitors a very early lead.

Lech Poznań have gotten to this point for a reason, though, and they quickly reminded their visitors of that fact. A nice 1-2 between Filip Marchwiński and Alexander Ishak saw the striker sneak in behind Nikola Milenković and go down under pressure. While Ishak went over too easily, Milenković was lucky not to give away a penalty and earn a red card. Fiorentina nearly capitalized with another nice move that ended with Josip Brekalo crashing a shot off the upright, but the Kolejorz scored right off the rebound, driving forward and crossing for Ishak to cushion a header down for Kristoffer Velde, whose venmous volley left Pietro Terracciano with nothing to do but ask where his defense was.

González nearly responded with another strong run from the right, but thing seemed to be settling into a definite pattern: Fiorentina dominated possession and Lech Poznań looked to hit on the counter. Both sides generated the odd opportunity but it felt pretty even, until Roalndo Mandragora and Dodô overhit crosses back and forth before Cristiano Biraghi decided to show them how it’s done, hanging a high one up at the back post for González, who hung in the air for an eternity before heading back across goal to retake the lead.

Fiorentina had chances to tack on another before the break: first Dodô simply ran past a simple square ball that Nico played to put him in on goal, and then Cabral somehow whiffed from point blank range after Milenković knocked down a free kick for him. At the half, it felt like the Viola deserved their lead, but only barely.

Second half

Nico only lasted 5 minutes after the restart, as a knee-to-knee collision from just before the break proved too much for him to overcome. Even so, Fiorentina looked pretty calm even when Lech began pushing numbers forward, knowing that they’d be able to pick them off on the break. Jonathan Ikoné nearly made it count but tried to square it to Cabral when all he needed to do was shoot. He was involved moments later again, after some great work by Mandragora put Brekalo through. The Croatian played in Jonny, who dawdled on his shot, but the ball fell to Giacomo Bonaventura, and Jack “Only Scores Bangers” wasn’t going to miss from there, thumping it past Bednarek.

And hey, that criticism of Ikoné? I didn’t mean it. Becaus ea couple minutes later, he dropped deep and central to pick up a nice pass through the lines from Milenković. He showcased his live-wire dribbling to slither past a challenge and burst into the open field, leading a break and generating a fantastic no-no-no-no-YES moment when, instead of laying it off, he scorched his finish perfectly inside the post, turning the proceedings into a rout.

It felt like that fourth goal pretty much took all the wind out of Lech Poznań’s sails. Ikoné had another couple of chances—he just wiped himself out on one and fizzed the other straight at Bednarek—and Luca Ranieri of all people nearly killed Bednarek with a volley in open play after Gaetano Castrovilli scooped him into space. Really, though, Fiorentina killed the game off perfectly, controlling everything and never letting their hosts have a sniff.

Full time

Goals: Velde 20’ (ass. Ishak); Cabral 4’, González 41’ (ass. Biraghi), Bonaventura 59’, Ikoné 63’ (ass. Milenković)

Cards: Ranieri 83’

What’s next

It feels like Fiorentina basically settled this one, and by now, it almost feels routine for the Conference League’s top-scoring side. Yep, you read that right. Fiorentina’s 30 goals in the competition is far and away the most, with West Ham in second place with 20. Yep, this team has scored 10 more goals than anyone else in the tournament. And it’s not like they’re beating up on minnows: Lech Poznań, in fact, leads the Conference League in clean sheets. Cabral, meanwhile, is now the competition’s joint-top scorer with 6. Who’s tied with him, you ask? Why, none other than Luka Jović. Truly are we blessed by the powers of the earth.

Of course, Fiorentina don’t just play in the Conference League and the Coppa Italia. The boys head back to the Stadio Artemio Franchi to welcome Atalanta. While Serie A is probably just training for these guys right now, given the state of the table, it’d be nice to pay old friend Gian Piero Gasperini back for a 1-0 in the reverse fixture. That’s something to worry about in the coming days, though. For now, let’s just bask for a little bit.