Both managers had late injury scratches: Sofyan Amrabat for Fiorentina and Ademola Lookman for Atalanta. Both sprung mild surprises: Vincenzo Italiano picked both Gaetano Castrovilli and Antonín Barák in midfield with Aleksa Terzić at leftback, while Gian Piero Gasperini opted for Toon Keupmeiners as the 10 and Duván Zapata up front.
But let’s talk about Viola legend Gonzálo Rodríguez popping up in the Curva Fiesole.
Gonzalo Rodriguez in Curva Fiesole a seguire Fiorentina-Atalanta. Osannato dai tifosi viola pic.twitter.com/6MdfV9uW0p— Passione Fiorentina (@PassioneFiorent) April 17, 2023
Fiorentina opened brightly, with Lucas Martínez Quarta heading a Rolando Mandragora free kick just wide. Atalanta looked for Rasmus Højlund in the channels, and he gave Nikola Milenković a couple of tricky moments, but the hosts produced a succession of chances: Barák, Arthur Cabral, Nicolás González, and Mandragora shot from range, and Nico was desperately unlucky not to score off a corner as Marco Sportiello produced a lucky reflex save. The cracks started to show with a couple of sloppy backpasses, though, and Atalanta finally pounced: Joachim Mæhle latched onto a loose ball at the top of the box and got past the defense far too easily to snap it home.
Joakim Mæhle using the oldest trick in the book to score vs. Fiorentina! #SerieA #FiorentinaAtalanta pic.twitter.com/5CETEUvap4— Danish Scout (@DanishScout_) April 17, 2023
The goal, completely against the run of play, gave la Dea some confidence for a few moments, but the Viola grew back into well and continued to dominate, although they seemed a bit too anxious to throw numbers forward the way they had, though. Gasperini will have been delighted to have the lead despite his side being clearly second best, and Italiano must’ve been wondering what he had to do to get the ball into the net.
Fiorentina immediately took the initiative again, with Castrovilli find Nico in the box with a cross. Barák had another weak shot on frame, but Marco Guida took center stage with a loooong VAR check for a Rafael Tolói handball, and Cabral buried the penalty with authority.
Arthurrr @diegoalmeidaGK @ArthurCabral_98#Fiorentina #SpaceViolapic.twitter.com/v1cBRcgYde— SpaceViola Fiorentina (@SpaceViola_) April 17, 2023
After a scare for Josip Brekalo, who was clearly knocked out but allowed to stay on the pitch for a few extra minutes, the Viola began to turn the screws again. Atalanta had a chance against the run of play again from a lovely Koopmeiners move, but Højlund headed wide. At the other end, Cristiano Biraghi’s first touch as a substitute was a free kick that he banged off the upright as the hosts continued circling closer to a winner. They nearly had it from a Biraghi corner, but Sportiello miraculously stopped Giacomo Bonaventura’s perfect header. Despite their dominance, Fiorentina nearly gave it away at the death, but Luis Muriel couldn’t track down Jeremie Boga’s pass in a 1-v-2 situation.
Goals: Cabral PK 56’; Mæhle 37’
Cards: Martínez Quarta 75’; Mæhle 38’, Ederson 60’, Tolói 71’
First of all, let’s just breathe. That was the closest, tensest, and most exciting game we’ve had in quite some time. Those final 15 minutes especially were wild, as the game opened up and both teams had chances to scoop the victory, although I don’t think anyone will argue that, if not for Sportiello’s best day ever, the hosts would’ve walked away with all 3 points. As is, though, the point takes them to 42—2 behind Juventus and Bologna—and keeps the unbeaten streak going at 14.
Now it’s time to rest for 3 days ahead of Lech Poznań’s visit to the Franchi. Given the 4-1 lead that Fiorentina earned in the first leg, expect heavy rotation to rest some tired legs, with Monza up at the weekend and then Cremonese in the Coppa Italia next Thursday. The marathon continues, but these guys look ready for it.
Finally, let’s hope that Brekalo’s brain isn’t too damaged, as he was obviously concussed. The medical staff were very quick getting out there to check on him, but it’s pretty awful that he was allowed to continue after he’d clearly been knocked unconscious. That’s just not okay.