With owner Rocco Commisso in attendance, Vincenzo Italiano sent new signings M’Bala Nzola and Arthur Melo out for their debut starts. The real story, though, was 18-year-old Primavera star (and U19 Euro winner) Michael Kayode starting at rightback instead of Dodô. Alberto Gilardino (beloved) didn’t pull any surprises with his lineup.
Things started about as well as they could have. Cristiano Biraghi got down the left and accidentally rifled the ball into Nzola, who neatly returned it. The captain did the rest, beating one, two, and three defenders as he jetted infield before rocketing his finish off his “weaker” right foot and into the top near corner. Outrageous for anyone, but even more so for a defender.
It took all of 6 minutes for Fiorentina to double the lead. This time it was newly-minted number 10 Nicolás González unleashing a venomous drive after cutting inside onto his left. It beat Genoa goalkeeper Josep Martínez but pinged back out off the post, but no farther than Giacomo Bonaventura, who made no mistake, marking his 350th Serie A appearance in style.
The Viola remained in the ascendancy, not allowing the hosts a sniff aside from a spectacular effort from Milan Badelj, whose spinning effort fizzed just past the post with Pietro Terracciano nowhere near reaching it. Other than that, though, it was one-way traffic, with Nzola’s physicality providing a constant outlet up front and pulling the Genoa defense narrow, allowing González and Josip Brekalo acres of space. The latter eventually won a corner and it was, of course, Nico who rose head and shoulders above everyone to head it home magnificently.
Even then, it felt like Fiorentina might’ve had another in them. They were clearly the superior side and Genoa must have been begging for the halftime whistle to get in and regroup.
With the result pretty much settled, Fiorentina didn’t slow down and kept looking for a fourth, dominating the play and keeping Genoa scrambling around its own penalty area. Eventually all that scrambling opened up a whole for Jack to delicately lift a cross to the back post for an onrushing Rolando Mandragora, who headed it past a despairing Martínez to make it 0-4.
This being Fiorentina, of course, they conceded almost immediately. The Grifoni won a corner which was only half-cleared, and Morten Fredrup dinked it back into the area, where Biraghi was slow to step up and kept Davide Biraschi—the active player with the most Serie A appearances without a goal—onside. The big defender brought the ball down with a lovely touch and finished past Terracciano coolly.
Even then, though, the visitors weren’t done and continued besieging the goal, producing a number of half-chances and keeping their hands firmly on the wheel. Aside from late debuts for the recently-arrived duo of Lucas Beltrán and Gino Infantino, there wasn’t all that much to write home about, aside from some dude in a suit sitting in Italiano’s chair and getting rudely ejected by the Viola mister in one of the funnier sideline moments you’ll see this year.
Goals: Biraschi 58’ (ass. Fredrup); Biraghi 5’ (ass. Nzola), Bonaventura 11’, González 40’ (ass. Biraghi), Mandragora 56’ (ass. Bonaventura)
Cards: Retegui 21’, Bani 80’; Biraghi 22’, Bonaventura 34’, Milenković 87’
The win means momentum, and that can’t hurt as Fiorentina travel to Vienna for the first leg of the Conference League playoff with Rapid Wien. Expect a fair amount of squad turnover, but for now, let’s just celebrate an opening day win. It’s the first time the Viola have triumphed away from home in their first game since 1997, and they did it in style.