Hernandez 28, 37, Budan 58
Palermo swept aside an underperforming Fiorentina side and maintained their superb home record this season with seven out of 11 wins. Youngster Abel Hernandez started in place of suspended Edison Cavani and scored a brace to bag three points in this important battle for a European spot. The hostile crowd at Stadio Renzo Barbera was in no mood to forget last season’s corresponding fixture as Adrian Mutu and Alberto Gilardino were jeered throughout the match.
The first half was completely dominated by the Rosanero, unleashing shot after shot on Sebastian Frey’s goal. The pace of Hernandez and Fabrizio Miccoli was causing Fiorentina’s defence all kinds of problems. On the other hand, la Viola’s attack seemed very impotent as they could not create a single clear-cut chance. In fact, Salvatore Sirigu was not tested at all during the first half. This was mainly due to Simon Kjaer who had an outstanding game in the back-line. He followed Mutu and Gilardino like a ghost and did not give them any time on the ball. No wonder the Danish kid is constantly linked to big clubs within Italy and abroad. Palermo went into half-time with two well-taken goals scored in the run of the play.
Credit must be given to Coach Delio Rossi who has rejuvenated the Palermo side. Just after the second half, he sensed a hint of fatigue in Hernandez and replaced him with the Croatian Igor Budan. With Budan’s goal, the result was essentially sealed. Fiorentina did try to fight back in the second half but all their attempts were restricted to shots from outside the box. In particular, Juan Manuel Vargas tried a number of attempts with his powerful left foot but hardly tested Sirigu. Mutu attempted to rally his side by getting heavily involved in the play. The introduction of Marco Marchionni and youngster Stevan Jovetic seemed to liven up la Viola by some amount. However, Sirigu was in no mood to blot the home side’s performance as he made outstanding saves off Mutu and Jovetic.
An important aspect of the game for Palermo is the result was not due to a one-man show but the entire team performed like a well-oiled machine. Federico Balzaretti ran his heart out on the left wing and provided several good crosses. Mattia Cassani tested Sebastien Frey twice in the first half. Kjaer’s defensive partner Cesare Bovo made a few errors but was comfortable otherwise. Fabio Liverani dictated the tempo of the game from middle and was involved in second and third goals. Javier Pastore slotted in the hole perfectly and provided the delightful through-ball for the second half.
On the other hand, Fiorentina lost their second game in as many matches, showing cracks in the team. The midfield and defence was absent throughout the game. The only bright spot in this match was the performance of Frey who made a number of excellent saves to keep the score line respectable. La Viola have a very difficult series of fixtures coming up which will give Cesare Prandelli food for thought.