NEWS
Thursday March 20 2014
EL: Pirlo ends Fiorentina dream

Andrea Pirlo’s free kick gave Juventus a 1-0 victory away to 10-man Fiorentina and a spot in the Europa League quarter-finals.

The 1-1 result from the first leg left everything wide open for this Europa League Round of 16. It was the third meeting in under two weeks, as the Bianconeri won 1-0 in Serie A. Juan Cuadrado was dropped for the Turin tie, but back in the starting XI here with Mario Gomez and Josip Ilicic. Borja Valero was available, as his ban only applies to Serie A, but Mati Fernandez sidelined. Juve missed the injured Andrea Barzagli, Angelo Ogbonna and Claudio Marchisio, so Martin Caceres stepped into the back three. Giuseppe Rossi was in the stands after flying in from America to be with his teammates.

There was a great chance within the opening three minutes, as Gomez ran on to a Borja Valero through ball and drilled his angled drive inches past the far post. Moments later Cuadrado’s pass rolled beyond Gomez in the middle.

Fernando Llorente’s header was wide and a Carlos Tevez pull-back was crucially cut out by Stefan Savic. Paul Pogba had a good opportunity, as he chested down a long ball and under pressure managed to half-volley with the outside of his right boot for it to flash across the goal.

Neto got down well to parry a Pogba header off the line, but the offside flag was up anyway. A corner was not cleared effectively and David Pizarro blasted just wide of the upright, while Neto smothered Tevez and Pogba snapshots.

Gonzalo Rodriguez was booked for a challenge on Tevez and will be suspended for Fiorentina’s next European game.

The visitors had a long move on 37 minutes that saw Mauricio Isla’s shot charged down and Arturo Vidal knock down a cross for Tevez’s volley over.

Ilicic wasted a golden opportunity, scuffing his finish high and wide off his right foot after Giorgio Chiellini’s defensive error.

At the other end, Tevez again stung Neto’s gloves with a sudden strike. Straight after the restart the Argentine was dangerous with an effort deflected over by Rodriguez.

The second half started badly for the hosts, as Pizarro keeled over with a muscular problem and made way for Massimo Ambrosini.

Cuadrado went on a promising counter-attack and was barged over in the D by Vidal, who received a yellow card that means he’ll be suspended for his next UEFA match. Borja Valero curled the resulting free kick over the wall, but too slowly to trouble Gigi Buffon.

Another set play was knocked on for Nenad Tomovic, but the defender hesitated and allowed Bonucci to charge down the finish. Cuadrado was also booked for tripping Kwadwo Asamoah and goes into a European ban.

Buffon finally had a tough save to make on 56 minutes, beating away a powerful Cuadrado strike. Vidal should’ve done better when nodding an Isla cross over the bar from eight yards.

Gomez pounced on a Chiellini error and combined with Cuadrado, but the German was closed down in the area. A Pogba overhead kick was off target and Tevez again fired straight at Neto.

There was a turning point on 69 minutes when Llorente turned Gonzalo Rodriguez and was brought down on the edge of the box. It was the defender’s second bookable offence, leaving Fiorentina with 10 men. More importantly, it gave Pirlo a free kick that he smashed into the far top corner with power and precision rather than his usual curled finish. It was his fifth free kick goal of the season, the second in a week after he decided a 1-0 victory at Genoa.

That goal put Juve ahead on the night and on aggregate, so 10-man Fiorentina needed a goal to force extra time.

It was Neto who needed a desperate reaction save on Llorente’s diving header from point-blank range, then a one-handed parry on substitute Stephan Lichtsteiner at the base of the near post.

Alberto Aquilani’s strike was smothered by Buffon, but the Viola were unable to turn it around with 10 men. In the final minute Vidal wasted the chance to secure the win with a free header wide from Daniel Osvaldo's chipped cross, much to Antonio Conte's fury.

In stoppages Osvaldo went on the counter and rolled across to Tevez, but Neto smothered at his feet and was kicked in the back of the head. The goalkeeper was livid and referee Howard Webb booked both players.

Fiorentina 0-1 Juventus (1-2 agg)

Scorers: Pirlo 70 (J)

Fiorentina: Neto; Tomovic, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Savic; Cuadrado, Aquilani, Pizarro (Ambrosini 48), Vargas; Borja Valero; Gomez (Matri 63), Ilicic

Juventus: Buffon; Caceres, Bonucci, Chiellini; Isla (Lichtsteiner 76), Vidal, Pirlo, Pogba, Asamoah; Tevez, Llorente (Osvaldo 87)

Ref: Webb (ENG)

Sent off: Rodriguez 69 (F)

Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's World Cup tipster competition - £10,000 to be won!

FOOTBALL ITALIA RELATED NEWS

TODAY'S FRONT PAGES