Neither manager made too many weird choices. Vincenzo Italiano surely didn’t want to start Josip Brekalo, but with no other winger besides Jonathan Ikoné available, the Croatian had to play. The real news was the 6000 Fiorentina fans who made the trip up to Sassuolo, turning the Mapei into a very festive atmosphere and clearly outnumbering the home support.
It didn’t take long for Sassuolo to open the scoring. Michael Kayode switched off and allowed Marcus Pedersen to sneak behind him; the Norwegian then had the simple task of picking out Andrea Pinamonti in space, and the Italian calmly finished with his first touch. It was not the best defensive sequence you’ll see this year.
Fiorentina didn’t mount any sort of fightback and Sassuolo even got the ball in the net again, off a throw-in no less, although Domenico Berardi was clearly offside when he applied the finishing touch. The rest of the half was spent mostly in the middle third and marred by a succession of chippy fouls. When the triple blast arrived, it was clear that the Viola simply didn’t deserve anything. Just a single shot in the entire period is all the evidence you need.
Sassuolo doubled the lead almost immediately, with Kristian Thorstvedt pouncing at a corner after some very suspect defending, but referee Rosario Abisso bafflingly waved it off, claiming that Matheus Henrique obstructed Pietro Terracciano before the shot from an offside position. Italiano switched things up and it worked: Lucas Beltrán offered more presence up front and the Viola pinned Sassuolo back. Eventually, the pressure paid off in a penalty as Gianmarco Ferrari handled Nikola Milenković’s header in the box, but Andrea Consigli saved Giacomo Bonaventura’s rather poor penalty.
We weren’t done with VAR, though, as Alfred Duncan crashed a sidewinding volley in from a corner that took a touch on the way through and rattled the bar. After a scramble, Lucas Martínez Quarta smashed it home, but Abisso checked the monitor and correctly determined that the defender was offside when the original shot was taken.
Fiorentina kept the pressure up admirably but couldn’t quite get the final touch, although Beltrán, Martínez Quarta, Nzola, and Ikoné all had chances. When the triple blast finally went, it felt like the obvious conclusion to an inevitability, like having your tongue stuck to a hockey rink with a Zamboni bearing down on you.
Goals: Pinamonti 9’ (ass. Pedersen)
Cards: Matheus Henrique 34’, Pinamonti 52’, Berardi 69’; Martínez Quarta 35’, Ikoné 90’+6
The loss ends Fiorentina’s run of 3 straight wins in Serie A and 8 unbeaten in all competitions, leaving the club in sole possession of 4th place with 33 points when a victory would’ve pulled it even with AC Milan in 3rd. Hopefully the defeat doesn’t damage the momentum these guys have built up over the past six weeks, especially with reinforcements likely en route via the transfer market.
The Viola don’t get dwell on this one for too long, as they take on Bologna in the Coppa Italia on Tuesday before hosting Udinese next week. Don’t forget that an unbelievably moronic trip to Saudi Arabia for the Supercoppa Italiana mini-tournament also looms in a couple weeks, throwing a further wrench into the plans of a club that needs no one else’s wrenches. The only good news is that Nico González should be in the squad for that Coppa game.