The Gila Monster decided matters yesterday in dramatic style, finishing off a wonderful cross from Vargas in injury time to give Fiorentina a deserved 2-1 victory at Liverpool. To make it even sweeter, Gila scored the goal right in front of the traveling Viola tifosi who celebrated this tremendous achievement in the driving rain. The win gives Fiorentina 5 in a row in the Champions League and the top spot in Group E, finishing 2 points ahead of Lyon.
The first 45 minutes were very cagey, but Fiorentina created several scoring chances and LDS forced a very good save with a header off of a corner kick. In the 43rd minute, the Viola defense, which had been water tight up to that point, failed to track a Benayoun run and he was able to send a glancing header off of Gerrard's free kick off the back post and past Bassy for the 1-0 lead. This is the type of goal that will often break a team's resolve so I was a bit nervous that Fiorentina would be in trouble after that one mistake.
Prandelli did a good job at the half to help the boys regain their focus. Fiorentina stayed compact and careful in the second half and came out fighting. A quick counter-attack resulted in Jorensen's first goal of the season after Gila unselfishly set him up. As an aside, I think Joregnsen still has the skills and the mental capacity to be of use to the team, but I don't want to see him playing outside midfield any more in Prandelli's 4-2-3-1 formation. I think he should stay in the center, either in the attacking role or in one of the holding roles as needed. He simply doesn't have the legs to cover the ground that Prandelli needs those guys to cover. Those guys have to run their socks off, and Jorgy can't do that any more.
After Torres came on, there were a couple of scary moments, but Natali and Kroldrup did a great job, denying Liverpool any clear scoring opportunities. The Viola kept pushing when the opportunities presented themselves, and capitalized in injury time. Vargas absolutely schooled Liverpool's 18 year old RB, taking the ball off of him and heading down the wing to cross for Gila who made no mistake. Once again, Gila worked his butt off, combined well, and despite a lack of touches, was ready at the end of the game when his opportunity came. He's no Torres, in that he's not going to scare the hell of anyone when he's got the ball at his feet facing goal, but he's been very good for Fiorentina and he's finishing chances well when he gets them. I'm happy for him that he got the goal.
Here's the deal. The following teams finished second: Lyon, Olympiacos, Bayern Munich, Stuttgart, AC David Beckham, Inter, Porto and CSKA Moscow. Fiorentina cannot play Lyon because they were both in group E. Also, Fiorentina cannot draw either of the Italian teams for the round of 16 (that is lifted after the bracket is constructed for this round). So, I think Olympiacos would probably be the "easiest" team to draw (though playing in Athens is no picnic) and Bayern is certainly the team I'd least like to see Fiorentina get. Other than that, I think I'd like the Viola's chances against any of the other opponents. I think Fiorentina lucked out that the most dangerous teams in the second-place pool aside from Bayern are both Italian.
More tomorrow about Sunday's matchup against the Flying Donkeys, which will hopefully see the return of Jo-Jo.