Delio Rossi. He came, he saw, he conquered. The Palermo Coach can bask in the glory, fully aware he has put a severe dent in Fiorentina’s Champions League hopes, and propelled his own team up to 8th. The Rosanero were simply awesome in a dazzling first half display, which saw the hosts miss a penalty and their captain being dismissed. The 2-1 reverse leaves Fiorentina in a very precarious position, just one place off the relegation zone. There was nothing Sinisa Mihajlovic’s team could do to halt the onslaught that came in the shape of Josip Ilicic, Javier Pastore and Mauricio Pinilla. At the end of the game, 39-year-old Mihajlovic bemoaned: “In the opening minutes I saw far too many errors and we were passive out there. After the break, the chances started to flow and, with a little more fortune in front of goal, we could have levelled the scoring.” It seems to be the same old story for La Viola all the time: the lights seem to be on but no one is at home.
The game had started brightly, with the Rosanero pulling all the strings. Ilicic came close to scoring straightaway, when he crashed a sweet left-footed strike off the bar as Sebastian Frey was left flat-footed. On 20 minutes, however, the impressive Slovenian went one better, collecting the ball 25 yards from goal and sending a glittering strike into the top corner, which took Frey completely by surprise. The hosts were helpless to deny the excellence of Pastore, adding a few more strings to his impressive-looking bow. The Argentine attacking midfielder began and ended a flowing counter-attack which ripped apart the hosts and eventually culminated in Pastore coolly rounding Frey and slotting into the back of the net.
The small army of away fans was clearly in raptures, safe in the knowledge that yet another win at the restless Stadio Artemi Franchi was now well within their reach. On resumption of play, Mihajlovic replaced Marco Marchionni with Mario Santana, perhaps to add some much-needed punch into the ranks. And, indeed, things did seem to improve thereafter for La Viola, when Alberto Gilardino slotted home from a diabolical Santana cross. But, as it happened, that was just about as good as it got for the home side. Soon after, more drama was to follow: attacking midfielder, Adem Ljajic – despite being presented with the chance to equalize from 12 yards – let himself be foiled by the ever-more startling Salvatore Sirigu, thereby ensuring their hopes of scoring were dashed in the process. Sirigu’s heroics continued, however, as he denied both Gilardino and Ljajic by managing to push the 21-year-olds’ effort onto the post when a goal looked likely. Rather ironically, it was Viola captain, Riccardo Montolivo himself, who then ended up leaving his mark on the game and ultimately ended Fiorentina’s chance to snatch a draw. The 25-year-old was given a straight red for scything down Cesare Bovo, when through on goal. It capped a miserable week for the Azzuri international who has been struggling with injury all season and is likely to need surgery. Palermo president Guglielmo Miccichè praised his side’s first-half performance as being the main catalyst for the Rosanero’s second league win: “It was a great game”, he enthused. “Objectively, I think we had a great first half. I have never seen in recent years the squad play at such a high level, hitting the crossbar and scoring two wonderful goals”.
Contrastively, Fiorentina president Andrea Della Valle chose the avenue of defending Mihajlovic after the team’s slow and sluggish start. He exclaimed: “We thought we’d overcome the difficulties, but I wouldn’t dramatise anything. When things go badly, we are used to looking at other aspects. In the interval, Sinisa was good at changing things. In the first-half, there was too much fear.” Surely, in such circumstances, it is not difficult to imagine La Viola supporters’ increasing frustration at their abortive start to the football season. While it cannot be doubted they have been suffering from a run of bad luck, characterized by a string of injuries to Steven Jovetic and Juan Manual Vargas, it is also worth emphasizing the lack of concerted effort, which must be – at this particular point in time – the most excruciating factor. Key players are not pulling their weight and Mihajlovic is quite likely to come under fire because of this.
Once again, he is going to have to juggle his team around with Montolivio suspended. It is vital the squad find some rhythm and discover the chemistry that resulted in a reassuring win over Parma. Nonetheless, Mihajlovic is going to have to reignite the ‘fire’ the players know they possess to prevent them from drifting off to sleep like they did on Sunday.