Ever since it became clear that Fiorentina were going deep in two cup competitions and started to sort their Serie A form out, there has been a constant focus on Vincenzo Italiano, his strengths, and his future.
There are surely good things to come for Italiano, but the season has ended trophyless for him and Fiorentina after they lost the Europa Conference League final in Prague 2-1 against West Ham.
In a game of much drama but few chances, Fiorentina had the better of the play and apart from scoring, La Viola did much of what Italiano will have asked them to do. As it turned out, there was late heartbreak in Czechia for Fiorentina.
Fiorentina approach final at Italiano’s pace
Ahead of the final in Prague, a huge amount of focus was on Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Italiano. The former Spezia man had never taken charge of a game of this stature, but he is also regarded as one of Europe’s most promising coaches.
He became a serious name in Tottenham Hotspur’s hunt for an Antonio Conte replacement, and various other big clubs are very aware of the work he has been doing in Tuscany. Rather than wilt under the pressure, he set his Fiorentina team out to play their own way.
The first half went by without a goal, the most major incident being Cristiano Biraghi having objects thrown at him from the stands by West Ham fans which drew a huge amount of blood from his head. Objects were being thrown throughout the game, and the players would have been within their right to walk off the pitch.
Apart from a disallowed goal for Luka Jovic at the end of the half, Fiorentina struggled to create much in the way of clear-cut chances. That being said, they had far more of the ball and looked slick at times. Given they had the second-highest average possession in Serie A this season behind only Napoli, it was no great surprise.
Italiano’s desire to keep his own fate in his hands was also shown at half time when he made the early change of Jovic for Arthur Cabral, a player many expected to see start the game.
Chaos in Prague
As much as Italiano may have wanted to be in full control of every facet of the game, he was soon shown why that is not always possible in football. An unfortunate handball against Biraghi gave West Ham a penalty with around 25 minutes to play. Said Benrahma scored and suddenly it seemed things could get away from Fiorentina.
La Viola’s mentality and response were admirable though, with Giacomo Bonaventura firing in an equaliser just a few minutes later. That sequence led to a wonderfully chaotic and entertaining portion of the game which can be seen as a great advert for the tournament.
From that moment on, the game became a chaotic European clash which neither Italiano nor David Moyes had a huge amount of power over. The Hammers were seeing the better of the play in the latter stages as extra time loomed.
In the cruel way that football can act, Italiano’s admirable approach to the final was not rewarded as the winning goal came on the stroke of 90 minutes. Jared Bowen was released and despite the pressure from Igor, the Englishman finished superbly to make it 2-1 and give West Ham their first major trophy for 58 years.