Coppa Italia 22/23: Venezia 2-3 Ascoli

August 8, 2022

In their first competitive match of the new season, Venezia were eliminated in the Round of 32 of the 2022/23 Coppa Italia on Sunday afternoon, going down to visitors Ascoli at Stadio Penzo by the score of 2-3 on a stoppage-time own goal after having dramatically come back from 0-2 to 2-2 late in the match.

But after 13 members of the first team squad and staff had tested positive for Covid on the eve of the match, the focus of the match shifted to handing a valuable opportunity to the young talent in the system and checking their progress and potential. A total of eight players age 21 or younger would make their Venezia debuts, with Mirza Hasanbegovic (21), Damiano Pecile (20), Gabriel Sandberg (19), Melvin Rémy (19), and Noah Baudouin (18) playing from the start, and Kristófer Jónsson (19), Amin Boudri (17), and Nicola Camolese (17) coming on in the second half. Though it was yet another young player, 18-year-old Iceland youth international striker Hilmer Mikaelsson — having already made his club debut in the 2021/22 Serie A season finale against Cagliari — who stole the show, scoring both Venezia goals — his first two senior goals for the club.

In addition to the young contingent, four summer signings — goalkeeper Jesse Joronen, defender Przemysław Wiśniewski, right-back Francesco Zampano, and striker Andrija Novakovich — also made their debuts yesterday, while midfielders Tanner Tessmann and Bjarki Bjarkason were the only starters with any previous experience with the club.

Tessmann assumed a leadership role, helping direct the team’s shape and ball movement while taking it upon himself to create chances with his long-range passing and direct dribbling from midfield into the final third. In the first 10 minutes, he flashed a header from a corner kick just wide, then used a bit of flair to turn into space before setting up Pecile in the box for a first-time shot that was off target.

Unfortunately, those would be Venezia’s two best moments for much of the match, while Ascoli ascended as the first half wore on, focusing their passing movements on Venezia’s right-wing, with tricky midfielder Soufiane Bidaoui a protagonist.

Joronen, filling in as captain on the day, would make three terrific saves in the match to keep Ascoli at bay, but he was first breached in the 35th minute when Bidaoui set up Dario Šarić for an unstoppable shot through traffic, and the visitors took the 0-1 lead into half-time.

In the second half, the play was fairly even and uneventful, until substitute and former Venezia man Marcello Falzerano struck from close range in the 70th minute to double Ascoli’s lead.

With 20 minutes to play, Venezia refused to go out quietly, sparking to a wild finish to the match.

In the 88th minute, Novakovich, still bustling with intent, beat his defender in the box to set up Mikaelsson for a calm finish into the far post. Just one minute later, Novakovich used all of his 6-foot-4 frame to latch onto a long ball and flick on for Mikaelsson to run in on goal. With just the ‘keeper to beat, Mikaelsson beautifully chipped Nicola Leali for a stunning equalizer in front of Stadio Penzo’s Curva Sud. Suddenly, Novakovich and Mikaelsson had turned the match.

But through the chaos, Ascoli kept their heads and grabbed a winner in stoppage when Anthony Fontana connected on a spectacular overhead kick that went off Baudouin and into the net.

In the dying moments, Venezia nearly equalized a second time, but Leali bravely stuffed a 1v1 chance at the edge of the box., and the final whistle blew.

After bowing out of the Coppa Italia, attention now turns to the recovery of Venezia’s senior squad, with the 2022/23 Serie B opener against Genoa at Stadio Penzo just ahead on Sunday 14 August.