The Viola needed a victory this evening to guarantee passage into the next phase of the Conference League and achieved it with a late penalty converted by Nico Gonzalez.
Genk had taken the lead at the Stadio Franchi against the run of play, cancelled out by Lucas Martinez-Quarta on the rebound from a parried Yerry Mina header on the stroke of half-time.
“It was a great second half performance, because at the break we pointed out that we were too sluggish in the challenges and allowed several counter-attacks, which allowed Genk to score with our errors,” Italiano told Sky Sport Italia.
“We stepped up the tempo, the second goal was a penalty that we earned with at last a good team passing move in the build-up with a lot of quality.”
However, in order to top the group and avoid a play-off, Fiorentina must avoid defeat in the final trip to Dejan Stankovic’s Ferencvaros.
“Now we have secured qualification, but still need to go and get the result in the last match. It is very important that we avoid the play-offs.”
The coach surprised with his starting XI by leaving both misfiring strikers M’Bala Nzola and Lucas Beltran on the bench, starting Christian Kouame upfront with Yerry Mina in defence.
“I tell the players that nobody is forgotten, you either make an impact from the start or off the bench. A great example was for Lazio against Celtic, when Ciro Immobile – the captain – came on as a substitute, scored and decided the victory.
“Today we saw players come on with the right attitude and I am happy, as it was an excellent second half performance.”
Dodo is out for six months with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and Michael Kayode had been out for over a month with a sprained ankle.
Fabiano Parisi was used as a makeshift right-back, but he is left-footed, so was it a coincidence that when Kayode came on, he won the penalty?
“Mina and Kayode did not have many minutes in their legs, so I decided to only risk one from the start. Kayo did really well to be ready on that Beltran pass and showed how to use those fresh legs running at tired defenders.
“We thank Parisi, who had been filling in during this difficult period and trying to adjust for the new role, but I love the way we played for that move.”
Fiorentina have struggled more in Serie A than in the Conference League, so Italiano will be glad to have some time to focus more on training.
“Above all, we have to work on our defending for the goal that we conceded today, because it’s not the first time it happened. The high press gains us many advantages, but there are also risks involved. The other thing is to get our strikers scoring, because converting chances into goals is how you get a game on track.”