Ajax 1-1 Fiorentina: A Dutch Kick in the Teeth for La Viola (UEFA Cup Round of 32, 2nd Leg)

Ajax player Leonardo, right, scores 1-1 as Fiorentina goalkeeper Sebastien Frey, center, dives to stop the ball during their UEFA Cup round of 32 second leg soccer match at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday Feb. 26, 2009. Ajax continues to the next round. (AP Photo)

When a team competes in both its domestic league and European cups, there are bound to be subtle differences in the way they play in each competition. Sometimes, the difference isn’t even so subtle. You wanna know in the last month what that difference is for Fiorentina? Domestically, La Viola play average and get full points from their matches; in Europe, they dominate for 90 minutes and are left with nothing.

Marco Van Basten & his Ajax boys can celebrate on the latter.

UEFA Cup 2008-09 - Ajax vs. Fiorentina

UEFA Cup 2008-09 - Round of 32, Second Leg - Ajax 1-1 Fiorentina

Tactically, Prandelli had to overturn the 1-0 first leg deficit, and thus launched his trusted 4-3-3 with full steam ahead: Gilardino central striker, Mutu/Semioli on the outs, mdifield line gravitating around Felipe Melo. On the opposite end Van Basten started his team with a little more cautious attitude: no Kennedy (the scorer from the first leg), no 4-3-3 either, but a lot of ball possession and as many passes back to the keeper as necessary. Fiorentina weren’t going to play that game willingly however.

Indeed, in true pirate-boarding-the-merchant-ship style (i.e. with a knife between their teeth), the Viola players immediately set the mood for the 90 minute to come: we’re not here to make friends. The first half could have ended 3-0 for the Tuscan side, Van Basten being lucky to have his goalkeeper (Vermeer, not Stekelenburg) in fine form tonight (alongside a seemingly huge supply of good luck charms).

Fiorentina's Alberto Gilardino (L) fights for the ball with Jan Vertonghen of Ajax Amsterdam during their UEFA Cup soccer match at the Arena Stadium in Amsterdam February 26, 2009. (REUTERS)

Just in the first 20 minutes Semioli, Mutu, Gilardino, and Mutu once again had pelted the Dutch keeper with projectiles, a trend rapidly followed in final parts of the first half and the early beginning of the second. It seemed however as if the ball refused to go in tonight, making Viola fans wonder whether their team was under some sort of European curse or something. Why, when even Gamberini‘s (header on the post) and Mutu‘s (point-blank finish deflected by a defender) efforts were denied, Prandelli seriously started to wonder what he had to do to get a goal in this match, especially because the only reaction Ajax could muster were lone penetrating runs by their main striker Luis Suárez (Frey was attentive).

Eventually however, the deliverance: just as Almirón was ready to come on as a substitute, Alberto Gilardino set up the move for the first goal, inspired by a blind Mutu assist (with his back to the net) and finished in style by the Italian striker under the crossbar. A fantastic goal and a great sigh of relief for Prandelli, with less than one half hour of play left. 1-0 Fiorentina.

Fiorentina player Alberto Gilardino reacts after scoring the first goal during their UEFA Cup round of 32 second leg soccer match at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday Feb. 26, 2009. (AP Photo)

After the substitution carrousel (Jorgensen on for Semioli, Leonardo on for Lindgren) both teams re-arranged their positions, Ajax gaining a third piston in attack and Fiorentina drawing back, catching their breath. As a result, La Viola lost their focus and suffered: Sulejmani and Suarez started to get awfully close to their box with an increasing degree of efficiency, even combining to send the former one-on-one with Frey but getting stopped by the linesman’s flag.

Felipe Melo took it upon himself to lead his team but the problem was that Ajax, more than ground, were gaining confidence. The move that would culminate in Leonardo’s equaliser poured salt on the wound, because it resulted from a fortuitous rebound, five Viola defenders static and unable to stop the Ajax left winger in the 88th. 1-1.

The last five minutes were, as can easily be predicted, a literal Fiorentina assault on the Dutch goal: a long ball forward could have turned into a golden chance for Kroldrup/Felipe Melo (one of the two went for the off-balance shot instead of controlling it), pleas for a penalty were denied after an Ajax sandwich move on Melo, and soon thereafter the latter sent a good header high over the crossbar. The damage had already been done and it was an enormous disappointment for Fiorentina: they had obviously been the superior side in both games, but were going home empty-handed.

Fiorentina player Martin Jorgensen, center, reacts as Ajax players celebrate at the end of UEFA Cup round of 32 second leg soccer match at ArenA stadium in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Thursday Feb. 26, 2009. Ajax continues to the next round. (AP Photo)


1-1 (2-1 agg.)
[Match Highlights]
 ACF Fiorentina
GOALSCORERS: 61’ Gilardino (F), 88’ Leonardo (A).
AJAX (4-3-2-1): Vermeer – Van der Wield, Oleguer, Vertonghen, Vermaelen – Gabri (69’ Anita), Lindgren (70’ Leonardo), Ehno – Sulejmani (91’ Alderweireld), Emanuelson – Suarez. (bench: Gentenaar, Bakircioglu, Aissati, Schilder). Coach: Van Basten.
FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey – Zauri (89’ Jovetic), Gamberini, Kroldrup, Pasqual – Donadel (72’ Almirón), Felipe Melo, Montolivo – Semioli (68’ Jorgensen), Mutu, Gilardino. (bench: Storari, Dainelli, Vargas, Gobbi). Coach: Prandelli.


Tags: , , , ,


Posted in Fiorentina, UEFA Cup |

Related Posts:

  • Fiorentina 0-1 Ajax: Van Basten Conquers Firenze (UEFA Cup Round of 32, 1st Leg)
  • PSV Eindhoven 0-2 Fiorentina: La Viola Turns On the Style in Holland and Qualifies for the Semi-Finals (UEFA Cup Quarter-Finals, Leg 2)
  • UEFA Cup Group Stage, Day 2 – Fiorentina Hurricane: the Viola put 6 goals past Elfsborg
  • Fiorentina 2-1 Rosenborg: La Viola Job Well Done, Through to the Last 16 (UEFA Cup Round of 32, Leg 2)
  • Rosenborg 0-1 Fiorentina – La Viola Obtain a Good Away Win in Norway (UEFA Cup Round of 32, First Leg)
  • Comments are closed.