They wanted to do it for Davide Astori. As Fiorentina huffed and puffed versus Cagliari on Sunday, it was clear that this young side were almost trying too hard to obtain the desired result that would see them finish in the Europa League places with rivals AC Milan still to play next weekend.
Supporters had packed the Stadio Artemio Franchi in order to cheer their team onto victory, but the harder the players tried to please those who turned out to see them, the harder it became.
Of course their Sardinian opponents were fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table, and would make it as difficult as possible to find a way through.
After the Viola looked set to find another gear after the break, the visitors would deliver a blow before half-time thanks to a Leonardo Pavoletti header, and – no matter how hard they tried – the Tuscans could find no answer as the game ended in a 1-0 win for Cagliari.
Despite 65% possession, Fiorentina did not manage to hit the target with any one of their 14 shots on goal, striker Giovanni Simeone an often frustrated figure with just one shot and 25 touches during the entire 90 minutes.
“Cagliari were always first to the ball,” admitted Coach Stefano Pioli to reporters after the match. “Today the team didn’t deliver to its potential, as the fact we had to win perhaps messed with our heads. The last 10 rounds was a great charge up the table, the performances were strong and today we were lacking against a side that played a very physical game.”
His assessment was indeed correct as Cagliari made 29 successful tackles to the Viola’s 18, the away side making 83% of those attempted as opposed to just 67% for Pioli’s men. The Sardinians also won 30 aerial battles, while Fiorentina managed just 20 as any bluster from the home side was successfully negated.
Such a desire to pull off the necessary result boiled over for Jordan Veretout, as the former Aston Villa man was deservedly sent off in the final stages of the game for two yellow cards. This would spark an incident with between players and staff from both teams as the frustration was evident for all to see.
Their will to reach Europe in order to honour the memory of Astori was a noble one, however after Atalanta drew 1-1 with Milan, that dream is all-but over. However this squad of players must realise that they do not need to reach a tangible marker in order that supporters realise just how incredible their achievements have been this term.
Most would’ve crumbled after the sudden and shocking death of a much-loved Captain, however this young side have done Davide Astori proud, and the man himself would have been the first one to say it.
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