Davide Ballardini threw a curveball by starting Charles Pickel at right wingback, with supersub Daniele Ciofani up front and Viola loanee Marco Benassi in midfield. Too, he was missing 2 of his 3 starting defenders. Vincenzo Italiano lost Nikola Milenković to the flu, so Lucas Martínez Quarta and Igor reprised their partnership.
And how about the traveling support? The several hundred strong group making the trip north turned the Giovanni Zini into something that looked pretty welcoming for the visitors.
It was pretty ragged to start off, with both teams focusing more on verticality than possession, but Fiorentina did seem to edge it. Antonín Barák and Jonathan Ikoné combined to create some chaos in the Cremonese box and a roving LMQ lobbed one forward for Nicolás González to cushion down for Cabral to lash wide. On the other end, Franck Tsadjout snuck in behind Dodô to fire wide. The goal arrived in the person of Cabral, though: the big Brazilian rose well to meet a set piece cross and beautifully redirected Cristiano Biraghi cross into the net.
The goal seemed to settle Fiorentina down, and the boys took over pretty effectively from there. Cremonese had trouble getting out of its own half and rarely produced anything threatening. Meanwhile, González came very close with a header from an Ikoné cross that Fallou Sarr miraculously repelled; then turned his man and ran into the box, leading to a Biraghi shot that fizzed over; then had a penalty shout after a tangle with Charles Pickel. LMQ forced Sarr to tip over just before the half. The triple blast only punctuated Fiorentina’s obvious superiority, and everyone was feeling pretty good going into the break.
Things began about how they’d ended: with the visitors in the ascendancy. Ikoné was inches away from doubling the lead moments after the restart. The hosts responded well, though, with a lot of direct passing and hard running. Cyriel Dessers gave Igor a tough time and nearly created a chance from nothing as Cremonese seemed to grow into things, but Nico settled it with a neatly taken penalty after a brief VAR check determined that Emanuel Aiwu clearly blocked Cabral’s shot with his arm, earning a red card.
That pretty well settled things, as Cremonese never looked like pulling one back. Fiorentina kept the ball in the final third well and had a couple of half chances, but the 0-2 scoreline felt like a good reflection of the action, even with Dessers missing a late chance off a free kick.
Goals: Cabral 20’ (ass. Biraghi), González PK 75’
Cards: Aiwu red card 73’; Martínez Quarta 38’
Arthur Cabral remains perhaps the most in-form striker in Italy; he’s got 8 goals in his last 11 appearances and is scoring in a variety of ways, highlighting just how good he’s been. Nico, too, fully deserved a goal, given that he wrought desolation upon anyone who tried to stop him. Their efforts propelled Fiorentina to an 8th straight win across all competitions. The Viola now have a nice little cushion ahead of the second leg of the semifinal at the Franchi in 3 weeks.
Before that, though, the Viola continue their twice-weekly fixture list. Up next is a visit from a dangerous Spezia side that will certainly have a bit of extra motivation to get a result in Florence, with the long trip to western Poland for the Conference League quarterfinal against Lech Poznań lurking in the midweek. For now, though, let’s just bask in another win that takes Fiorentina that much closer to the Coppa Italia.