Fiorentina vs. Juventus, 25 April, 2021

A quicker-than-usual overview as I’m try to flush memories of this non-spectacle out of my head.

The Squads: Fiorentina 3-5-2: Dragowski (whom I’m convinced appeared as a child actor with a full beard in one of the latter Pirates of the Caribbean films) Milenkovic, Pezzella, Caceres Venuti, Amrabat, Pulgar, Castrovilli, Igor Ribery and Vlahovic up front

Juventus with same formation: Szczesny De Ligt, Bonucci, Chiellini Cuadrado, Ramsay, Bentncur, Rabiot Dybala, Ronaldo.

It seems a nice warm afternoon in Firenze, evidenced by Pirlo jacketless for the first time, I believe, in his tenure. Unlike their manager’s hair, Juventus come out quite flat and disjointed, and basically struggle to find any kind of fluidity through the first half. At 6 min. Dragowski gifts us a chance but Aaron Ramsey mucks it up quite efficiently. Unfortunately this later proved to have been the highlight of his entire match.

Tripping was the major theme of the opening 10 or so minutes, and I’m talking about physically tripping, although at times in this match I thought I was under the influence of the other “tripping”. Either way, I quickly found myself yearning for bygone days when players didn’t launch themselves to the ground over and over, like dandelion spores in a hurricane.

Suddenly Ronaldo inexplicably plays a back pass to Frank Ribery and Tek is forced into serious countermeasures after being wrong-footed by a deflection. Our keeper fending off incoming shots would be a consistent occurrence as La Viola continue to ask the “questions”, as professional football pundits often put it. During this time, and setting the tone for pretty much the entire match, Leo Bonucci bungled several attempted clearances and narrowly avoided a penalty for knocking Vlahovic over in front of goal.

My notes read “he is on a mindless quest for a card”. Leo’s bungling is soon followed by Adrien Raboit inexplicably raising his hand as if to ask the kindergarden teacher if he can visit the restroom, and, given the farcical tone of the match, the ball immediately drops from the sky and finds that hand.

A beautifully taken Panenka penalty by La Viola’s leading scorer Dusan Vlahovic makes a mug out of Tek and we are justifiably down 1-0.

Szczesny continued to encounter steady pressure and at the 30-minute mark I note: “Stuart Robson continues to explore myriad ways to describe our incompetence”.

Moments later the immortal Martin Caceres gives Juan Cuadrado a quick lesson in how Juventus played under Conte and Allegri by knocking the Cuads to the ground with admirable nonchalance. UEFA First Category Referee Davide Massa is not moved by the Colombian’s protests.

Near the end of the half a terrific scoring chance goes amiss after a lovely exchange by Dybala and Bentancur sets up Ramsay just in front of Dragusin’s goal, but the desperately-seeking-form Welshman bungles a chance that my mom (and yours as well) would convert 9 times out of 10, before predictably throwing himself to the ground.

Half #2 (this will be a more truncated section of the story, because, like many others, I have a life outside of waking up at 6 a.m. on a Sunday to watch our team court disaster.):

Kulu and Alvaro M. enter at the start of the half and Morata scores. 1-1. Morata’s arrival seems to revitalize CR7, although that renewed vigor lasts only a few minutes. The Portuguese great seemed a step or 2 slow today. Perhaps ordering his plane to zip over to Manchester for some serious re-uniting chats.

We continued to be porous in defense, especially on the counter.

54 Min: We’re still swiss cheese in defense, Fiorentina whipping the ball around, and Pulgar, who’s been on his game since the opening whistle, slams a shot just inside the right post, forcing an excellent save from Szczesny. ]

58 Min: Why is Aaron Ramsey still out there?

60 min: Caceres receives his long-overdue yellow card, this time for picking on Ronaldo.

In the 63rd minute Cuadrado creates 2 impeccable free-kick chances, which go un-converted, the first by Chiellini and the 2nd by Kulu.

69th Minute: McKennie is finally sent in for Ramsey, who’s had a real time of it.

79th minute: game has become quite fragmented and has started to resemble rugby more than the beautiful game. This favors Fiorentina, who lead.

84th: CR7, alone in front of an exposed goal, declines to make contact with Kulu’s brilliant cross.

87th: Mckennie slips a lovely ball across the box to Juan, who is bundled over by Biraghi, who receives a yellow. It’s a decent chance for a free kick but Ronaldo astonishingly fails to hit the target.

88th: Ribery screaming instructions to his mates from the bench. Ever the competitor.

It ends with a fizzle and not a bang. –Esteban El Chiapaneco