Fiorentina hosted a plucky SPAL side on Sunday morning, the Viola in fine form having won their last six matches in a row. Their opponents had been on a good run themselves however, Leonardo Semplici’s men unbeaten since a 1-0 loss to Napoli on February 18th. Only two of the seven games that followed have been victories, but a 0-0 draw with reigning champions Juventus proved that the Coach has transformed his backline into a well-organised unit.
Semplici is a self-confessed Fiorentina fan, returning to the Stadio Artemio Franchi as an opposition boss after he had previously taken charge of the likes of Federico Bernardeschi and Khouma Babacar in the Viola youth sector until leaving for SPAL in 2014.
Tenacity displayed from his side came to the fore at the home of the team he supported as a boy, the Viola going all-out to win seven on the trot, only to suffer the same fate as their Torinese rivals with another scoreless draw. Federico Chiesa and Riccardo Saponara were impressive indeed for the home side, the pair creating four chances each during the ninety minutes.
SPAL could only manage one shot on target, their best chance arguably a penalty that was initially given, only to be ruled out by VAR for a clear dive. With a little more precise finishing, Fiorentina could have won the match comfortably, as statistics clearly show. With 63% possession and 24 shots – six of which challenged SPAL goalkeeper Alex Meret – however some wayward finishing was partly to blame for a failure to break the deadlock.
“There is no good luck or bad luck,” said Viola boss Stefano Pioli to reporters after the match. “There is only precision, so if I have to choose between unlucky and wasteful I would definitely say we were wasteful.”
However credit must be given to SPAL, whose fans completely sold out the away sector in Florence, for some brilliantly organised and determined defending. They may not exactly be household names, but Thiago Cionek and Francesco Vicari completed 18/18 of their combined attempted clearances – ten and eight respectively – with that duo also recording three crucial blocks as they worked tirelessly to keep the Viola out.
Fiorentina must not be disheartened though, especially with a midweek game with Lazio on the horizon. Having secured 20 points from a possible 24 since a 2-0 defeat to Juventus on February 9th, the Tuscans still have a real, yet unexpected chance of reaching the Europa League with a squad of young players that were hastily assembled after a fire sale this summer.
If you add in the death of their Captain and key central defender Davide Astori just over one month ago, it really puts into context a result which seems disappointing on the surface. What remains important now is that Pioli and his players can respond to the first time they have failed to win since that tragic event in a tough encounter versus Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio .
How well do you know Italian football? Want to challenge the best Serie A Fantasy Managers? Play www.fantasyseriea.com now!