Fiorentina 2-2 Inter: The same goal three times, and a good result for neither

April 11, 2010

An exciting game that finished with a deserved point for either side, but it is a result that isn’t of much help to either at the moment – Fiorentina’s vague Champions League hopes are almost dead, whilst Inter are off the top of the table for the first time in months.

Fiorentina’s line-up was extremely surprising, as 21-year-old Brazilian Keirrison started his first game for the club, ahead of World Cup- and Champions League-winning Alberto Gilardino, Serie A’s third top scorer this season. Prandelli hinted that Gilardino needed a rest – especially ahead of the Coppa Italia semi-final second leg between these sides on Tuesday, but he was also surely trying to expose Lucio and Walter Samuel’s relative lack of pace. Prandelli went for the vague 4-5-1 he has used against bigger sides, most notably against Bayern Munich. This means that Jovetic becomes the left-sided midfielder when Fiorentina don’t have the ball, but pushes forward to become a second striker when they do, with Massimo Gobbi providing left-sided width.

Inter’s shape was their 4-2-1-3, with Cristian Chivu in at left-back and Javier Zanetti restored to his central midfield position, which allowed Maicon license to get forward, safe in the knowledge that Zanetti would be covering for him. The three upfront were fluid and interchanged regularly throughout the game.

Despite Inter playing three upfront, Fiorentina’s full-backs weren’t scared to come forward, with Gianluca Comotto on the right charging up the pitch to great effect early on. It was his run that created the first goal, as he met a wonderfully weighted ball from Riccardo Montolivo, and crossed for Keirrison to tap in. Jose Mourinho will be disappointed with the goal, both because Chivu made a positional error and let Montolivo play the ball in behind him, and because Diego Milito didn’t track Comotto’s run effectively enough.

Playing a fluid front three can be very useful going forward, but it is often a worry defensively, in terms of tracking full-backs. If you deploy a player solely as a right-winger, he has the specific brief of defending against the left-back, but if there is a more interchangeable front three, those players have to take responsibility and communicate about who will be tracking back – and the goal came largely because you had Milito – not a player you want defending – reacting slowly.

Inter created half-chances but looked tired and off-form. Chivu, Maicon, Samuel, Cambiasso and Eto’o all had wild efforts that smacked of desperation, and Mourinho changed things at half-time. Mario Balotelli came on in a right-wing role with Chivu departing; Zanetti dropped back to left-back, and Sneijder and Pandev both played deeper.

Balotelli immediately caused Fiorentina problems, and Manuel Pasqual was fortunate to escape a second booking for two challenges near the corner flag. Prandelli sensed the danger there, and immediately removed Pasqual for Felipe, generally a left-sided centre-back.

Inter now had four forwards on, but didn’t look much better. Pandev was uncomfortable playing deeper, whilst Sneijder was too far from the action to influence games as he can. With this in mind, on 71 minutes Mourinho withdrew Pandev for Sulley Muntari, a holding midfielder who allowed Sneijder to get further forward.

The effect was immediate, and the equaliser was incredibly similar to Fiorentina’s opener – Sneijder (in his more advanced role) fed Maicon on the right – he crossed to Milito to sidefoot into an empty net. Replace the names with Montolivo, Comotto and Keirrison, and you have Fiorentina’s goal.

Perhaps Felipe’s natural tendencies dragged him inside, although in fairness he was merely following Balotelli’s run from outside to inside. Nevertheless, Maicon was unmarked in oceans of space in Fiorentina’s left-back zone, and you do have to wonder if a natural left-back would have made it more difficult for Maicon to cross.

Want the same goal yet again? Sneijder into the right-hand channel, a cross into the middle, the striker taps  in:

The difference was that this goal was on the counter-attack after a Fiorentina corner, but again, Felipe may have blocked the cross slightly better.

But Fiorentina equalized just two minutes later with a scrappy goal from a corner kick. Julio Cesar had been troubled by crosses and set-pieces all day and again looked uncomfortable. Although the goal broke the pattern of goals in the game, it was extremely similar to a goal Fiorentina scored from a corner in Munich – the ball breaking loose from a corner, to an unmarked Kroldrup to tap in at the far post; future opponents would do well to work out why Kroldup manages to steal in unmarked.

Mourinho went for broke with Quaresma on for Cambiasso late on, whilst Fiorentina had replaced Keirrison with Gilardino, but a point was a fair result.

Fiorentina continue to defend absolutely abysmally, and there must be questions asked about the sheer lack of quality in the back four. Comotto, Natali, Kroldrup and Pasqual is not a back four that many strikers would be scared of facing, and they consistently get opened up easily and concede such basic goals. Having started the season with 5 clean sheets in 7 games, Fiorentina are now on a run of just 1 in 18. The injury to Alessandro Gamberini has clearly not helped, but the sale of captain Dario Dainelli in January was a strange decision that has come back to haunt them.

For Inter – from 13 points clear to 1 point behind – it doesn’t look good. 3 wins in 11 games is not title-winning form, but the most alarming thing was how tired the Inter players looked at the Artemio Franchi. As Susy Campanale points out, Inter have a large squad but seem to use the same XI in almost every game, which might get Mourinho even more criticism in the Italian media if Inter, still in with a chance of winning three competitions, suffer a Leverkusen-style collapse.

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