Yesterday in Florence, Fiorentina drew PSV 1-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Cup quarter-final clash. The Viola played well and did the majority of the attacking, but had obvious trouble setting up and finishing their scoring. They also gave up a precious away goal. Fiorentina will now at least have to score in Holland if they hope to advance to the semi-finals.
While Fiorentina played well for the majority of the match, yesterday must be counted as a disappointment. With the Viola’s continuously-shaky away form, a 2-0 (or more) win was what the doctor would have ordered to see Fiorentina advance. They now have a very difficult task ahead of them in next week’s clash. Instead of criticizing the Fiorentina players, however, I will tip my cap to PSV, who did a masterful job of staying behind the ball, controlling the pace and tone of the match, and only letting in one (fluky) goal. They were tough yesterday, and will probably be even tougher next week.
Lots of all-out action early; both Fiorentina and PSV have clear-cut chances within the first three minutes. PSV, despite being on the road, is coming right at them. Kuzmanovic has the first of a number of strong shots from outside the box in the 6th minute. The attacking continues unabated for the next ten minutes, but by the 18th PSV is settling into possession and controlling the tempo. In the 26th Fiorentina has a dangerous free kick, but Liverani hits the wall. (He looked rusty all day and was terrible on set-pieces.) In the 30th PSV ‘keeper Gomes makes a great save off a Ujfalusi drive, but I am distracted by the hideous announcing team on FSC, (who broadcasts the game here in the States) who decide to go on an extended, minutes long discussion about American players like Michal Bradley and Freddy Adu, who ARN”T EVEN PLAYING IN THE GAME. Uh, fellas, the match is actually pretty interesting. You can hold our attention without talking about Americans.
The rest of the half features Mario Santana making effective moves down the right side of the pitch, but then putting in ineffective crosses. The boys in purple look okay, but not razor-sharp, and the later is what was needed to beat PSV yesterday. We go into the half nil-nil.
The back half kicks off with Frey making a great save on a blistering shot, and a few moments later an extremely dangerous cross by PSV somehow doesn’t find the Viola net. Maybe we had some karma going. In the 57th Frey launches a booming free kick that gets all the way down to Mutu in the opponent’s box. He controls it nicely but needs a little luck to see it go in, putting the Viola up 1-0. Good for Adi. He was out most effective offensive player yesterday.
Things are looking up for Fiorentina as the club goes up and vaunted PSV keeper Gomez is forced out with an injury. However, mere moments later (in the 63rd) a superb pass by Ibrahim Afellay set up Danny Koevermans alone in the box with the ball at his feet, and he shot a laser by Frey to make it 1-all. Once again, Fiorentina have been unable to protect a lead. Frustrating.
The last 25 minutes are fairly predictable. Fiorentina pours in on but are unable to score. Guys like Ricky Montolivo have an up-and-down day; he passes up a one-on-one with the keeper, in the box, in the 71st, but launches two rockets at the net from outside the box. Bobo come on for Liverani (who was terrible) with fifteen minutes left, and Osvaldo comes on for Santana far too late; even though it is all Fiorentina in the last ten minutes (including EIGHT minutes of injury time) the match ends 1-1. And now the Viola are in a spot of trouble.
Fiorentina played well, but not good enough. PSV came into the match looking to defend their goal and counter-attack when the opportunity presented itself. They did both admirably. Pazzini and Santana needed to do more up top to help Mutu, Liverani needs to get better in the next week, and the defense has to protect leads.
The bigger picture is that Fiorentina will almost definitely need to win the return leg next week in Holland, and that means they will need to defend and score some goals. Both have been a tall order on the road for the Viola this season. All hope is certainly not lost, but Fiorentina now have a slog ahead of them if they are to get to the semi-finals.
On Sunday Fiorentina will be playing Reggina at home in Series A. It’s a critical match: they MUST get three points. I am endeavoring to get a preview of the match up on Saturday, but I may not, and if I do it might be brief. The games are coming fast and furious at this point and I do have some other things I need to address this weekend, even if I am always THINKING about the Viola. Regardless, I will at the very least have a recap of the Reggina match up on Sunday if nothing else.
A Few Links
Here are the goal.com player ratings for the PSV match, for what its worth.
Also, this was already linked to on the main offside.com page, but it is an interesting article on the away-goal rule, one that is relevant to us for obvious reasons.