Fiorentina wasted an incredible opportunity on Saturday, throwing away what should have been an easy three points against Cagliari. A win would have put them temporarily even with AC Milan in third place, but rather than make a true challenge for that third Champions League position, the Viola floundered. Rather than put the game to Cagliari with their trademark free-flowing attack, Fiorentina were out of sync, with each player looking as though they were competing in their own private match. Although the visitors managed to grab one back, a brace by Mauricio Pinilla was enough to secure the win for Cagliari.
Cagliari's first came in the 11th minute, courtesy of a defensive scramble by the Viola. A foul, a free kick, a corner: you could see the visitors' desperation. Then Albin Ekdal headed on Andrea Cossu's corner. Pinilla, lurking on the edge of the box, seized his chance, looping his shot over the head of Emiliano Viviano.
Of course, with the home side leading, Fiorentina's desperation only increased. Shot after shot was fired at Michael Agazzi's goal, the majority coming, oddly enough, from David Pizarro. The Chilean seemed disinclined to send the ball out wide, preferring to shoot himself, even from poor positions. After Marcelo Larrondo replaced Stevan Jovetic in the 31st minute, the possibility of a Viola win looked even more dim.
Sure enough, by the 38th minute, Cagliari had doubled their lead. Pure panic on the part of Fiorentina handed the Sardinians a penalty. Juan Cuadrado, racing back to provide defensive cover, cut in on Marco Sau, tripping him up inside the area. It was Pinilla who stepped up to take the spot kick, smashing the ball against the underside of the bar to drop in over Viviano.
It seemed that Vincenzo Montella had to do something at halftime to put the spark back into his side. His solution was to replace Adem Ljajic, whose lack of service meant he'd had but one shot in the first half, with Luca Toni. Toni went on to have just one shot in the second.
But Fiorentina did manage to grab a goal in the second half, courtesy of Cuadrado. The Colombian pounced on a ball from Manuel Pasquale, turned, and volleyed his shot in from close range. It was a beautiful display from the attacker, but it was too little, too late. Montella would do well to find some of his creative answers before next week's match against Milan.
Cagliari: Michael Agazzi, Nicola Murru, Davide Astori, Luca Rossettini, Francesco Pisano, Radja Nainggolan, Daniele Conti (Matias Cabrera 73), Albin Ekdal (Daniele Dessena 45), Andrea Cossu, Mauricio Pinilla (Victor Ibarbo 68), Marco Sau
Fiorentina: Emiliano Viviano, Manuel Pasqual, Stefan Savic, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Facundo Roncaglia, Alberto Aquilani, David Pizarro, Giulio Migliaccio (Matías Fernández 61), Adem Ljajic (Luca Toni 45), Stevan Jovetic (Marcelo Larrondo 31), Juan Cuadrado
Goals: Pinilla 11 (C), Pinilla P39 (C), Cuadrado 73 (F)