At long last Sinisa Mihajlovic can sleep comfortably knowing he has his first win in the bag as Fiorentina coach. The former Inter midfielder has come under pressure in recent weeks as La Viola began this season’s campaign with a series of hapless displays.
Former coach Cesare Prandelli had excused the team’s wretched start to the campaign and blamed fatigue. On Sunday’s showing against Parma, the Florentines showed much more grit and determination to overpower their opponents on the way to a 2-0 win. Perhaps Prandelli was right in blaming fatigue because at long last Fiorentina delivered a swashbuckling performance to match their credentials as Champions League hopefuls.
They were full of energy, passion, charm and charisma on their way to dismantling Parma. Mihajlovic has been pleading with his team to distribute these kinds of attributes all season and at long last things seem to be working out. Before the match Mihajlovic defended captain Riccardo Montolivio, who had come under criticism after the defeat by Lazio. “He is still recovering from an injury which he picked up in the World Cup. But he is the captain and always willing to show his commitment by making himself available even if he is not at his best.”
Montolivio was showing no side effects to the niggling injury that had apparently decelerated his season as he was crucial on Sunday. The main driving force behind Viola’s win, he ran the midfield and drove his team forward when attacking. Adem Ljajic was showing why Manchester United had him on their books with a very mature display supporting Alberto Gilardino in attack. The Serbian scored a penalty to round off an impressive display.
Parma defender Cristian Zaccardo even found time to praise the youngster: “Last year he [Ljajic] arrived in January and needed some time to settle, but it is undeniable that he has great quality and is now showing it.” Many more performances like this and the youngster can expect much more praise from rival opponents and the Florence faithful will be hoping they have unearthed another gem.
As for the game itself Fiorentina started brightly, despite the treacherous, rainy conditions and found the impressive Antonio Mirante hard to beat in the visitor’s goal. Gilardino, Alessio Cerci, Juan Manual Vargas and Montolivio threatened before Ljajic forced the breakthrough. Alessandro Lucarelli clumsily bundled over Gilardino which allowed the Serbian youngster to dispatch from the penalty spot with confidence and ease.
Energetic full back Lorenzo De Silvestri bombed down the right hand side and scored the second as his shoot took a deflection on its way to looping over Mirante in the Parma goal. Former Manchester City striker Valeri Bojinov squandered a chance to set up a tense finally as he ballooned high and wide when it seemed easy to score.
At the final whistle it was plain for all to see the relief on Mihajlovic’s face as he has proved his doubters wrong, for now at least. The former Yugoslavian international said: “I want to take this opportunity to thank our fans who helped us, they responded to my appeal yesterday and they were great. The team played well and took more risks. Now we have to look forward and keep going.
“We are Fiorentina and we must always set out to win, even if it means risking a bit more. At home we must take more risks because we have great quality.”
There was also more good news off the pitch as Montenegrin starlet Steven Jovetic has set himself a target of March to return from his injury. The young striker thanked Mihajlovic for the supportive phone calls he has been receiving.
Nikola Gulan made his debut in front of what was a disappointing crowd at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Another Serbian amongst the ranks, Gulan impressed his coach in what has been a tough opening to the season.
However, the visit of Palermo next weekend will really test Mihajlovic’s credentials as La Viola must carry the confidence and class they oozed on Sunday and pick up their second consecutive win. Mihajlovic knows that his head is above water but he will be desperate to dry himself off and prove his doubters wrong and take Fiorentina up to the next level.