Fiorentina were ultimately lucky to hang on to a draw against Brescia after the Martin Caceres red card, as they wasted chances and saw Franck Ribery’s shot cleared off the line.
The extended season and three-month lockdown gave Ribery the opportunity to fully recover from his late November ankle fracture and make his first appearance under new coach Beppe Iachini, partnering Federico Chiesa and Dusan Vlahovic, but there were some surprises in defence. Sandro Tonali shook off an injury to start, but Mario Balotelli has been frozen out, with Dimitri Bisoli, Andrea Cistana and Jhon Chancellor injured, so the defence was completely reshuffled.
Brescia had a surprisingly strong start and took the lead when Martin Caceres clumsily brought down Daniele Dessena, who was about to tap in a low cross from six yards. Alfredo Donnarumma kept his cool to beat spot-kick specialist Bartlomiej Dragowski and put the Rondinelle in front.
Jesse Joronen’s first save of the game was on a Chiesa scorcher, then Ribery turned and dribbled between five defenders until one finally got the block.
On the resulting Erick Pulgar corner, Fiorentina equalised with an acrobatic German Pezzella diving header from six yards.
The Tuscans were more aggressive as the game wore on and pinned Brescia back, but also took risks on the counter, giving three of the back four yellow cards. Dalbert was fortunate not to get a second booking before half-time for his lunge on Tonali.
Chiesa couldn’t quite redirect a wayward Pulgar effort on target and straight after the restart Dragowski had his gloves stung by Simon Skrabb’s ferocious finish.
Ribery had the ball in the net moments later, but the offside flag was up for Chiesa in the build-up.
Fiorentina had another goal disallowed just a couple of minutes later, as Chiesa accidentally pulled the ball out of play at the by-line before setting up Dusan Vlahovic.
They were pouring forward, but not taking their chances, as Chiesa drilled wide, Gaetano Castrovilli’s shot was charged down by Tonali and on 66 minutes Papetti performed an astonishing flying goal-line clearance just as Ribery’s dink had beaten Joronen entirely on a Chiesa assist.
It was one-way traffic, as Vlahovic turned on a sixpence to force a save with Joronen’s foot, then Lirola sprinted forward on the counter only to fire wide.
Things went from bad to worse for the Viola, as the second yellow card finally came his way for a late tackle on Ernesto Torregrossa, reducing the hosts to 10 men. That also meant poor Ghezzal was hauled off just six minutes after coming on, to introduce a defender.
Fiorentina still kept going for the victory, as another Pulgar set play found the head of Pezzella, but this time it hit the crossbar.
Chiesa pounced on a loose ball, but from the tightest of angles could only hit the side-netting. It was increasingly ill-tempered, with fouls flying around and cards flashed.
Brescia could’ve won it with the very last kick of the game, but Dragowski flew to fingertip a Dessena header over the crossbar on a set play.
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Sent off: Caceres 70 (F)