Juventus 1-1 Fiorentina: the viola fail to hold on
Two goals from improbable angles from Juan Vargas and Simone Pepe meant these bitter rivals had to settle for a point apiece.
Juventus continued to use Gigi Delneri’s favoured 4-4-2 system. Vincenzo Iaquinta was benched with Alessandro Del Piero and Fabio Quagliarella starting upfront. Elsewhere, the side was unchanged.
Sinisa Mihajlovic had both the centre-backs that started last week’s defeat to Milan unavailable, so brought in youngster Michele Camporese, and Alessandro Gamberini returned. He used his usual 4-2-3-1, with Mario Santana on the right and Vargas fit to start on the left.
It was down Vargas’ side that the key battle of the game took place. The Peruvian offered Fiorentina’s biggest attacking threat, and his pace was always likely to cause Marco Motta problems.
Battle down left
It was not just an attacking job for Vargas, however, because Juve’s main man Milos Krasic was also playing down that side, and therefore as well as getting down the line and providing crosses into the box, Vargas had to get back and play as an additional left-back when Fiorentina lost the ball, doubling up with Manuel Pasqual against Krasic.
It was Vargas who created Fiorentina’s goal within the opening five minutes, when his wicked cross-shot was deflected past Marco Storari by the head of Motta. The goal came from nothing – before the game had settled down into a pattern, and before we could probably assess how Fiorentina were going to play.
Fiorentina sit back
As it was, with the early one-goal lead, they quickly sat very deep and tried to put nine men behind the ball. Vargas played conservatively and Fiorentina’s full-backs rarely looked to get forward. The away side were doing a decent job in shutting Juve down in midfield – Alberto Aquilani was pressed and Fiorentina forced him to play simple balls from side to side, rather than ambitious forward passes.
When Juve did play the ball long from midfield, they hit the ball out towards Krasic, but (partly because of Vargas’ presence) he rarely threatened. On the other flank, Claudio Marchisio was coming inside but there was relatively little overlapping presence from Fabio Grosso, who still doesn’t look match fit.
In fact, for much of the first half Fiorentina looked quite potent on the counter-attack. With a numerical advantage in the centre of midfield, they were able to quickly work the ball around Juve’s central midfield duo, and Adem Ljajic played his usual role of drifting to the flanks – generally to the left, where he combined well with Vargas. He found pockets of space and was the game’s brightest attacking player early on. Fiorentina wasted an opportunity when they failed to take advantage of a 3 v 2 counter-attack.
Juve were equally wasteful, with both Del Piero and Quagliarella shooting over when square balls to Krasic would have seen the Serbian convert simple chances. At the break, Fiorentina went in 1-0 up.
There were no changes at half-time, but the game changed when Fiorentina were forced to replace their lone striker Alberto Gilardino, with Khouma Babacar coming on instead. Gilardino wasn’t having a fantastic game but he does have the ability to hold the ball up, which was important as Fiorentina were increasingly being penned back into their own half. Babacar offers speed, but was completely unable to hang onto the ball against Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, and Fiorentina invited constant pressure from Juve.
Delneri made a double change, bringing on Iaquinta for Del Piero and Pepe for Aquilani, with Marchisio moving into the centre. It was a surprise to see Aquilani depart as he had been brighter than Marchisio, but a slight knock may have influenced Delneri’s thinking.
Still, the tactical battle remained the same – Juve’s 4-4-2 against Fiorentina’s 4-4-1-1 / 4-2-3-1, and there were no real change in shape from either manager.
It was simply constant pressure that eventually got Juventus their goal. Artur Boruc had been having an incredible game until Pepe struck a superb free-kick into the top corner from a tight angle – the Polish keeper had just received treatment to his left shoulder, and looked slightly hampered as he attempted to stretch for the ball with that arm.
Still, Fiorentina had given away too many free-kicks around the box (most of which had been taken by Del Piero) and in that sense, they were inviting trouble and on the balance of play, the goal was more than deserved. Substitute Felipe was dismissed for another reckless tackle.
At 1-1, Juve suddenly weren’t such a threat. It was a strange end to the game – it was difficult to tell whether it was Juve sitting back slightly at 1-1 or Fiorentina moving higher up the pitch, but after constant pressure for most of the game, there was suddenly less urgency in Juventus’ play.
The most interesting part of the game in tactical terms was the first half battle down the left. Vargas’ pace, energy, positional sense and powerful shot were all obvious as he both stopped Krasic from playing, and gave Fiorentina the lead.
Juve were the better side for almost the whole game, but there was a lack of interplay between their forward players. Their best efforts on goal came from long-range attempts, or when one player bundled his way past a couple of defenders to get a shot away. Despite two talented, skilful strikers and three creative midfielders, they seemed to lack finesse in the final third.Juventus 1-1 Fiorentina: the viola fail to hold on