Panetolikos came in 11th in the Greek Superleague last season, so they're hardly world beaters, but they are a first-division team in a league that's not entirely terrible. Even with the reshuffled lineup, the new formation, and a bunch of youth players, though, Fiorentina utterly dominated Greeks.
Fiorentina (4-2-3-1): Lezzerini; Gilberto, Gonzalo, Astori, Alonso; Diakhate, Schetino; Hagi Chiesa, Baez; Zarate
Panetolikos (4-3-3): Kiriakidis; Kousas, Bauque, Papazoglou, Markovski; Paulo, Rocha, Mygas; Papoutsogianopoulos, Chantakias, Warda
Fiorentina started brilliantly as Mauro Zárate slipped in behind the Aetolian defense and chested a Davide Astori pass down for a brilliant volley past a surprised Dimitris Kyriakidis in the 3rd minute. Fiorentina kept the pressure on, dominating possession and manufacturing some chances, and were rewarded for their industry in the 23rd minute. Federico Chiesa found Zárate behind the defense again, and the Argentine duly finished off the half volley. He nearly completed his hat trick a few moments later, but fired just wide of the back post. The final chance of the half fell to young Ianis Hagi, who skied a shot from 12 yards out after some brilliant work down the right between Gilberto and Chiesa.
Fiorentina (4-3-3): Lezzerini; Diks, Gonzalo, Astori, Alonso; Gilberto, Borja Vecino; Ilicic, Rossi, Baez
The Viola came out firing again, this time with Giuseppe Rossi, Jaime Báez, and Marcos Alonso combining wonderfully down the left side for a dangerous shot/cross from Alonso. Not long after, Josip Ilicic came close with a lovely curler from 30 yards out, that nearly fooled Kiriakidis. With 15 minutes left in the half, though, it was Rossi who salted it away, turning past his defender and then producing a typically cool Pepito finish for the third. He turned creator to provide Borja Valero with a brilliant chance inside the area a few minutes later, but the Spaniard, as per usual, shot weakly and straight at the keeper. The final notable action of the game came from Matías Vecino, who nearly lobbed Kiriadkidis from fully 60 yards out. The whistle sounded moments later, leaving the Viola with a comfortable, controlled, and reassuring win.
Three things we learned
1. The kids are just fine. Chiesa, Hagi, and Báez all looked excellent at times. The Italian is a smart and incisive passer with a trick or two up his sleeve, the Romanian is a slippery dribbler, and the Uruguayan is a powerful and direct little agent of chaos. It is worth noting, though, that 17 year old Abdou Diakhate, who was a surprise star at Moena last year, looked much less impressive this time around, and that Andrés Schetino was also rather underwhelming.
2. Fiorentina can start the second half well. In a break with a tradition stretching back to the Prandelli era, the Viola actually came out after the second half, applied pressure, and controlled proceedings without allowing Panetolikos back into the match. Yes, it's a preaseason friendly et cetera, but it's still sort of exciting.
3. The internationals are trickling back. Ciprian Tătăruşanu was the first of the Viola internationals to take the field with the team this year, entering for (a pretty solid) Luca Lezzerini for the final 20 minutes. Vecino also made a cameo. The rest of the lads should be back in the next couple of weeks for action in the friendlies, too, which will give us a much better look at how this 4-2-3-1 is going to work.