Pre Match Thoughts:
Paulo Sousa threw a curveball with the inclusion of Mati Fernandez in place of the free scoring Josip Ilicic amid reports that the Slovenian was suffering from a slight muscle strain. The only other change to the team that faced Palermo on Wednesday was as expected, with Jakub Blazczykowski replacing suspended Federico Bernardeschi in the starting eleven.
Lazio included Brazilian centre back Mauricio despite pre-match concerns over his fitness. More surprisingly, Felipe Anderson was left on the bench in favour of Seydou Keita - which in the end turned out to be a smart decision from Lazio coach Stefano Pioli.
Fiorentina started the half brightly, with Marcos Alonso and Nikola Kalinic both combining to good effect. Mati Fernandez also came close with a guided free kick falling just wide of its target.
Gonzalo Rodriguez was yellow carded ‘taking one for the team’ to stop a breakaway attack. More significantly, the yellow card will rule the Argentine out of next week's game against AC Milan.
Whether it was through complacency or the opposition's high pressing, Fiorentina were knocked out of their usual rhythm. Lazio began to grow into the game, making attacking inroads. Keita on the left wing was busy giving Facundo Roncaglia a wretched time. In the 26th minute, it was Keita who slipped in behind the Fiorentina back line and proceeded to let off a warning shot that was repelled by Tatarusanu in the Viola goal. It was to be a sign of things to come.
Then in the 28th minute some abysmal interplay by the Viola rearguard gave Milinkovic-Savic the first of two gilt edged chances. The young Serbian stabbing a shot wide, the forward was too eager to get his shot off, when in truth he had more time to compose himself. The second opportunity quickly followed. The Lazio man in the 31st minute looping a header goal wards from a corner. Only by the grace of some smart defending from the watchful Davide Astori was the ball cleared off the line.
The pressure from the away side meant that the writing appeared to be on the wall, and in injury time of the first half Keita was adeptly played in by Djordjevic, the Senegalese speedster running across the face of the area before finishing back across Tatarusanu in to the bottom corner of the Viola goal. It was a smart finish and nobody could say that they had not seen it coming. The referee blew for halftime with Fiorentina trailing by one goal to nil.
The second half was a less frantic affair than the first, the crowd seemed to settle down making for a less hostile atmosphere.
The game remained disjointed although Fiorentina started to assert themselves. Possession and territory however did not translate into clear cut chances for the Viola.
Sousa looked to his bench, bringing on Manuel Pasqual for Jakub Blaszczykowski who after just having returned from injury, looked a little off of the pace. Worryingly for the Viola, Milan Badelj went down in a heap in the centre circle and was carried off on a stretcher with what one hopes is not a serious injury. Despite his supposed muscle strain, Josip Ilicic replaced Badelj and was minutes later joined by Giuseppe Rossi who came on for Mati Fernandez.
Ilicic and Rossi’s presence on the field seemed to visibly lift the spirit of the team, and almost instantly Rossi came close with an effort that was beaten away by Berisha in the Lazio goal. Alonso then came close with a header that seemed destined for the bottom corner before it was cleared by Marco Parolo.
Lazio weathered the mini storm and in the 85th minute should have doubled their lead when Candreva played in ex Viola man Matri who rather than finish clinically, opted for a cushioned back pass to Tatarusanu when really he should have blasted a hole into the back of the net.
Six minutes stoppage time was astonishingly enough for three more goals. First Lazio doubled their lead with Milinkovic-Savic, accepting the invitation he had declined in the first half, the ex-Genk man expertly finished after some diabolically sloppy defending. The 20-year-old putting what looked to be a full stop on proceedings.
Of all people, it was Facundo Roncaglia who got one back for Fiorentina, the Argentinian defender speculatively shot from all of 30 yards, the ball somehow slipping under the gloves of Berisha who was left ashen faced in the Lazio goal. Still the scoring was not finished, as Felipe Anderson who had come on as a late Lazio substitute was put clean through. Fiorentina were caught high up the pitch, gifting Anderson all the time in the world to dispatch his shot and give Lazio their third goal of the game to seal a comprehensive 3-1 victory.
That was all she wrote, after a glut of goals at the end, Fiorentina will be left to look back on a match that in all honesty they thoroughly deserved to lose. Lazio seemed to want it more, and Fiorentina looked a long way from the efficient side we have seen so many times this season. Once again the team from the blue side of Rome took maximum points away from Florence, and with Christmas over we are left to wonder why Fiorentina seemed so happy to gift wrap them.
To end on a positive, Facundo’s 'wonder strike' at least kept our record of scoring in consecutive games alive, but other than that there is not much to take away from what was a disparate performance from Sousa’s men. Here is to hoping Milan Badelj’s injury is not as bad as feared. For Sousa it will be back to the drawing board for next week's big clash against AC Milan at the San Siro.
Fiorentina: Tatarusanu; Roncaglia, Gonzalo, Astori; Blaszczykowski, Vecino, Alonso;Fernandez, Borja Valero; Kalinic
Lazio: Berisha; Konko, Mauricio, Hoedt, Radu, Milinkovic-Savic, Biglia, Parolo; Candreva, Djordjevic, Keita