Match Report: Fiorentina 5-1 Hearts

14 October 2022

A bruising opening saw the Serie A side claim four first-half goals, and despite Stevie Humphrys notching early into the second half, a Nicolas Gonzalez penalty ten minutes from time finished the game off.
The Jambos drop to third in Group A ahead of our home meeting with Latvian side RFS at Tynecastle Park in two weeks’ time.
The team that Robbie Neilson sent to the field against Fiorentina had three changes from the eleven that was beaten 3-0 by the Tuscans a week prior in Gorgie. Craig Gordon kept his spot between the posts whilst a new look back four comprised of Stephen Kingsley and Alex Cochrane in the centre, with Atkinson and Halliday coming in at full-back.
That left a three-man midfield made up of Peter Haring, Jorge Grant and Cammy Devlin. On attacking duties from the wide areas was a front two of Barrie McKay and Alan Forrest – whilst Stevie Humphrys was charged with spearheading the Hearts assault after notching his maiden maroon goal against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park on Sunday.  
What a start it proved to be at the Stadio Artemio Franchi; some sloppy passing between I Viola’s defenders in the first minutes allowing Humphrys to nick the ball and charge up the field for Hearts’ first chance of the match. He boldly took the shot, hitting the woodwork and spinning out for a rebound. Jorge Grant swooped in to try and apply the finishing touch, but a diving stop from Gollini belayed the lack of power behind Grant’s effort.
A promising start, indeed, but Fiorentina’s talisman, Luka Jovic, was the main man once again- firing the hosts into the lead after five minutes. Mandragora showed some deft footwork to shake the attentions of Atkinson down the right before floating a cushioned delivery into the area. A lurking Jovic was only too happy to make the leap and nod past Gordon.
The Italians, as we observed at Tynecastle just seven days earlier, are slick operators – capable of gobbling up a half-chance within seconds. By now enjoying the lion’s share of possession, an aerial bombardment was underway. Hearts eventually cleared one such attacks, but it landed straight at the feet of Rolando Mandragora 18-yards-out. Without any hesitation, he slammed home on the volley, battering the bottom of Gordon’s left post.
Cristiano Biraghi soon doubled I Viola’s lead after 22 minutes, with a stunning set-piece delivery. Hearts conceded a free-kick on the right edge of the area – Biraghi stepped up – and curled a marvellous ranged attempt high into the top right corner.
The men from Firenze were in full flow by now and a classy bit of interplay between Jovic and Gonzalez soon delivered their third goal of the evening after 31 minutes. Jovic rolled his marker brilliantly after backing into him holding up the ball – he completed the spin and gently laid the ball into the path of Gonzalez who tucked away with commendable aplomb.
The fourth arrived on the cusp of half time: Antonin Barak’s rifled his close-range finish inside the box high into the net, following a well-placed cutback from Igor. A bruising first-half for the Jambos, with a lot of work to do.
Both sides, for entirely different reasons, made a number of changes as they re-emerged from the tunnel for the second 45. Notably, Luka Jovic withdrew in place of Riccardo Saponara – whilst Connor Smith and Orestis Kio were introduced to the game from the bench for Hearts.
Thrillingly, Hearts pulled an early goal back just minutes from the restart. A marauding run down the left from Andy Halliday culminated in a threaded ball across to Stevie Humphrys in the middle. The Englishman took a touch to compose himself before drilling a powerful effort into the bottom corner past Gollini.
In truth, Hearts looked a far more composed side than the one that exited the field after those initial bruising first 45 minutes and enjoyed periods with the ball as they made their Tuscan opponents work for the win.
But when Alex Cochrane tripped Riccardo Saponara in the area, and Croatian referee Ivan Bebek pointed to the spot, Hearts knew their time on Italian soil was unlikely to get any better. Nicolas Gonazles stepped up, and sent a placed effort past Gordon to take, and sign off, Fiorentina’s tally for the night up to five.
Fiorentina: Gollini, Biraghi, Milenkovic, Jovic (Saponara 45’), Terzic, Gonzalez, Amrabat, Mandragora (Duncan 45’), Barak (Bianco 79’), Igor, Kouame
Subs: Terracciano, Dodo, Bonaventura, Saponara, Cabral, Ikone, Maleh, Ranieri, Venuti, Zurkowski, Duncan, Bianco
Hearts: Gordon, Atkinson (Sibbick 16’), Cochrane, Kingsley, Halliday, Devlin, Haring, Grant (Smith 45’), Forrest (Kiomourtzoglou 45’), McKay (Henderson 74’), Humphrys (Shankland 74’)
Subs: Stewart, Clark, Kiomourtzoglou, Shankland, Sibbick, Henderson, Smith, Pollock, Tait