Despite a downpour when the match started, the clouds eventually thinned and the rain was mostly done by halftime. Vincenzo Italiano didn’t spring any huge surprises, with Lorenzo Venuti spelling Dodô and Luka Jović getting the nod up front. John van den Brom, on the other hand, made a raft of changes to his XI, most notably moving midfielder Jesper Karlström to the heart of defense in a 3-5-2.
Fiorentina were a bit sleepy from the jump and Lech Poznań took advantage, sitting deep and grabbing one early on the break. Lorenzo Venuti’s poor clearance will draw the most ire, but the whole team pretty well switched off to create a situation which the visitors punished them for.
After that, the game devolved into a rock fight as the Lech engaged in some truly alarming cynicism, hacking Riccardo Sottil and Nicolás González every time they touched the ball, if possible, and pulling them back if not. Referee Rade Obrenović was shockingly bad, allowing 4 bookable fouls on Sottil alone in the first half hour. It was so bad that van den Brom subbed off main offender Alan Czerwiński after 24 minutes.
That wasn’t the worst, though, as González caught an elbow to the head that left him bloody while leaping for a high ball in the box, but Obrenović declined to even check it for VAR; Artur Sobiech was booked for a similar elbow on Nikola Milenković earlier (it could’ve been red), but then Milenković went into the book himself after a completely clean tackle. You got the sense that the visitors were thrilled with the halftime result, but they’d created almost nothing and deserved to have given away a red card and a penalty at least.
Fiorentina started brightly and pinned Lech back. Luka Jović, who’d been utterly indifferent to the proceedings, had a 1-v-1 after some genius from Giacomo Bonaventura, but couldn’t beat Filip Bednarek. The Kolejorz, for their part, continued their program of simply trying to hurt their opponents, and Obrenović continued letting them get away with it. The Viola compounded the problem by allowing Michał Skórás get into the box, where Aleksa Terzić “caught” him (actually took the ball first), but after a VAR check, Obrenović gave the spot kick, leaving us all incredulous that he’d given this one and not even looked at the González incident. Kristoffer Velde duly slotted it home.
Clearly rattled by conceding and by the atrocious refereeing, Fiorentina got even more rickety and Lech Poznań grew in confidence, coming close after a Velde burst past Venuti. They made it count when Terzić was beaten again down the wing and switched off, allowing a quick throw to Karlström, who squared it for Sobiech to smash home from point blank. And just like that, the tie was level at 4-4.
And yes, the Railwaymen were loving it
The bedlam of 40,000 in the stands of the Lech Poznan stadium at the moment of the momentary equaliser with Velde. What a spectacle! #LechPoznań #LechPoznanFiorentina #Fiorentina pic.twitter.com/bI2Uyyrd0w— Matteo Dovellini (@MatteoDovellini) April 14, 2023
The visitors continued their policy of hacking everything every chance they got and even added a handball, but Obrenović’s cards stayed firmly in his pocket, except to book Venuti for asking why he was calling such a terrible game. Finally, though, Lech’s cynicism bit them: Rolando Mandragora swung in a free kick that popped back out to an unmarked Sottil, whose first time volley fizzed straight into the net and reestablished supremacy in the tie.
Lech Poznań gamely threw numbers forward and had a half-chance or two, but the drama was at the other end. Antonín Barák picked off a pass and drove forward before squaring to Gaetano Castrovilli, who couldn’t corral it. Arthur Cabral tracked it down and it eventually got back to Tanino, who made no mistake at the second time of asking and settled the tie nicely.
Tanino had a chance to add a second and level it, but missed wide with Cabral wide open. Fiorentina still emerged as 6-4 victors across two legs, even if they’d lost 2-3 in the game.
Goals: Sottil 78’, Castrovilli 90’ (ass. González); Sousa 9’, Velde PK 65’, Sobiech 69’ (ass. Kalström)
Cards: Biraghi 19’, Milenković 35’, Terzić 63’, Venuti 68’; Sobiech 17’, Czerwiński 23’, Kvekveskiri 84’, Skórás 88’
First of all, Rade Obrenović should never referee another European game. This was, without a doubt, the worst officiating I’ve seen since Fiorentina played Bayern Munich. The Slovenian was bad in every possible way, ignoring a stone cold penalty, allowing players to commit tactical foul after tactical foul without repercussion, getting defensive when called out on it, and even missing obvious calls like deflections. He has absolutely no business working at this level.
Anyways, Fiorentina are through to the semifinals to face the winner of Nice-Basel later today. They join Inter Milan and AC Milan as Italian representatives in the semis of European tournaments, although they’ll be without Milenković in the first leg due to his utterly bogus booking in the first half, unless UEFA overturns it; expect to hear about a formal complaint in the coming days.
For now, though, these guys need to rest and recover ahead of Sunday’s clash at Monza and Thursday’s Coppa Italia semifinal against Cremonese. This was an outrageously physical match and there are bound to be any number of bruises, so don’t be shocked if we see some more rotation to keep the likes of González fit. The undefeated streak ends at 14, but Fiorentina keep rolling; that’s not the best outcome but not the worst, as it ends the pressure of avoiding defeat while still advancing.