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Friday March 14 2014
Golden Gomez gives Fiorentina command

Mario Gomez’s late equaliser has given Fiorentina the edge in their Europa League showdown with Juventus. Luca Cetta assesses the first leg action from Turin.

Juventus enjoyed the lunchtime offering. Kwadwo Asamoah’s moment of magic was as succulent as a prime cut of bistecca alla fiorentina. Four days later they hoped for another tasty treat. Instead, dinner did not sit as well and it’s the Viola, thanks to Mario Gomez, who are salivating.

Just like in the pair’s last European encounter, the 1989-90 UEFA Cup Final, the Bianconeri got off to a flyer. On that May evening it took less than 180 seconds for Roberto Galia to find the net. Fast forward to match two of 2014’s three-part epic and another midfielder, Arturo Vidal, fired Juventus ahead in the third minute after good interplay on the edge of the penalty area. First bite to Juve.

If the home fans were hoping for a repeat of the 3-1 score, they would be disappointed. By the final whistle it was Fiorentina grinning as they left Juventus Stadium with a 1-1 draw. With the game in a lull, Gomez pounced. He latched on to Josip Ilicic’s 79th minute through ball, his first touch sublime to take Gianluigi Buffon out of the equation, before finishing into an empty net. It was a reminder of what the Viola had been missing ever since Gomez clutched his knee last September against Cagliari. Advantage Fiorentina.

Viola midfielder Borja Valero praised their fighting qualities: “We weren’t set out well defensively at the start and Juve came out fighting, but after the goal we had the courage to take control of the ball in a very difficult stadium to play in.”

A fired-up Bianconeri greeted the Gigliati from the outset. They may well have extended their early lead. Vidal was denied by the woodwork, while Pablo Osvaldo and Sebastian Giovinco – dominant against Trabzonspor – combined to see the pint-sized striker stopped by Neto. Such was Giovinco’s performance, by the time he was substituted the jeers of a month ago were replaced by warm cheers.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic - Alessandro Matri, Mati Fernandez and Valero had chances to reduce the deficit before half-time, but Juve had the better of a pulsating half. With the interval came a reinvigorated Viola.

Vincenzo Montella was outfoxed by Antonio Conte on the weekend, but came out on top here. His three substitutions turned the game purple. Massimo Ambrosini tightened the midfield when replacing Mati Fernandez, while Gomez offered the clinical edge and presence in attack Matri did not. Juan Vargas then added more bite in the final stages when replacing Aquilani.

Valero felt Fiorentina were rewarded for their performance: “Considering the way the game went with that early goal, I’d say we were fantastic. We played our game with the ball and in the end got that goal that will be fundamental in the second leg.”

In contrast, Juventus never got out of the blocks after half-time. On Sunday the Turin club sat deeper to combat Fiorentina’s counter-attacking strength, so was this a ploy from Conte again? “I absolutely do not tell my players to control a 1-0 lead, as I always urge them to score a second and third goal.” Perhaps, as he noted, it’s more a psychological characteristic. Although by the end of the contest they fielded just one striker.

The second period took a similar pattern to matches against Sampdoria, Verona, Chievo and Torino. Each time Juve held a half-time lead but looked fragile following the break. Conte’s men do not give away a host of opportunities, but when faced with some pressure can buckle. Fiorentina took theirs to change the complexion of the tie.

“Maybe we thought, considering in recent games we had controlled the second half well, that we could do so again,” mused Buffon.

Juve’s scorer was left with a bad taste in his mouth. “I am very bitter, as it was a bad performance. There are still 90 minutes to go and we have to win at the Stadio Franchi,” said Vidal.

As the Chilean noted, Juventus must go to Florence and triumph, or claim a 2-2 draw or higher. Fiorentina will advance with a scoreless draw, but Montella is banking on goals: “We are by no means favourites. Fiorentina have scored regularly for the last two years, so at most we have a slight advantage.”

The Viola are the only team to defeat Juventus domestically. It’s a match Juve will want to forget, but aside from that October capitulation their record at the Artemio Franchi is strong. It was their first loss there since 1998.

The tie, tinged in purple, remains delicately balanced. It makes for a fascinating second leg, one which could be determined by the approach taken by the tacticians in this elongated half-time interval.

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Have your say...
Ridiculous to make silly statements stating Fiorentina are much better than Juve.
No idea what you've been watching of late
on the 16th March, 2014 at 4:27pm
fiorentina are way better then juventus. results are not comming in serie a due to injuries and refreeing errors . let us reach cl then next year we will conquer scudetto
on the 16th March, 2014 at 7:47am
I wonder if I am the only one who thinks that Buffon was at clearly at fault for Gomez's goal. If he hadn't charged out he would have forced Gomez to work a lot harder to score. His agility and decision making is now very questionable. He regularly parries shots straight back into danger I cringe every time he deals with a pass-back, because he always has to take a touch and Lecce comes screaming back into my head. Like Alex before I think it's time to say goodbye to a Bianconeri legend.
on the 15th March, 2014 at 11:18pm
I have being saying this all season, that the squad is just not strong enough to make so many changes. We have 15-16 quality players, after that we are left with players who are average at best. I do not believe in rewarding players for previous performances, I believe we should always play a strong side from the start, especially v Italian opposition. We have missed out on 3 Coppa Italia's due to over rotation. Play a strong side in Florence, unleash Hell and we will destroy them.
on the 15th March, 2014 at 6:20pm
Conte got it all wrong this time , he should've rested Tevez and Llorente , prioritised in the Serie A game and played them in the EL , drawn the Serie A game and won the EL one . Now he's made it all difficult for us , it's gonna be a battle , but I'm afraid its gonna be one of them disappointing nights ( doable on paper tho ). Shame EL is all there for the taking .
on the 15th March, 2014 at 2:12am
dennis@

You are wrong borja gave the ball to ilicic who gave that perfect pass with his left foot to gomez.

Don't think borja got such superb left foot
on the 15th March, 2014 at 12:47am
I have since understood that juventus's philosophy is to dominate italian football just as they prove last night.with 14 points lead on top of the table with almost 1 remaining top game which against Napoli, then you rotate in favour of serie A. And then letter you'll tell the media that you take EL serious.anyway, it gonna be a real shame 4 juve not to play EL final which I already see gonna happen. Not happy with this rotation of conte!
on the 14th March, 2014 at 9:35pm
The way Fiorentina's goal was described is wrong. I do think Valero was the one who gave the pass, Gomez's first touch took out Ogbonna and not Buffon and he certainly did not put the ball into an empty net but past a diving Buffon unless of course my screen was all wonky.
on the 14th March, 2014 at 6:14pm
@Adam

who's this new guy coming here and cursing italian football but absolutely adore Juve. Got your first jersey or what? There are other teams then Juve you know that right? Sad.
on the 14th March, 2014 at 6:11pm
Juve should have killed them off in the first half. Fiorentina were absent for around 70 minutes. Juve will beat them there...Fiorentina can't sit out a 0-0.
I expect Conte will rest a few first team players this weekend and unleash hell next week.
on the 14th March, 2014 at 4:59pm
Where's Muuuuussstttaaaffaaaaa? Not much to say when your "fav" team loses? I guess there's no mention of AC Milan so no reason to get your hate on lol?
on the 14th March, 2014 at 4:32pm
I always feel when Juve score early, they take the foot of the pedel. Try to score the perfect goal or look for a fancy pass. By the end of the 1st half it should of been 3 nil. They gave Fiorentina a life line, and they took it with Gomez. The good news is after a Juve lose or tie, Conte gets them fired up and they win the following game.
on the 14th March, 2014 at 3:51pm
What's wrong with Conte? He has practically won the Scudetto yet still doesn't take the EL seriously. At this point he shouldn't be rotating for the EL, he should be resting his players ahead of EL games. Anything less than making the final of the EL is embarrassing for Juve since its played in their own stadium. I don't see that happening anymore though, Fiorentina will knock them out.
on the 14th March, 2014 at 3:47pm
@ Adam: Do you really believe that Fiorentina can defeat Juventus ?? One 4-2 defeat doesn't make Fiorentina better....
on the 14th March, 2014 at 1:43pm
If Juve win this tie they will win the whole thing...If Fiorentina win this tie they will do an Italian and blow it against someone average in the next two rounds.
on the 14th March, 2014 at 11:17am

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