Fiorentina 2-0 Slavia Prague: La Viola Return to the Champions League in Style (UCL Preliminary Round)

The paintbrush of Adrian Mutu and the violin solo of Alberto Gilardino. Tuscany is well-known as the homeland of many Italian artists, and Fiorentina are certainly no exception to that trend. The two Viola strikers were main protagonists Tuesday night, as their team obtained a key 2-0 home win against Slavia Prague and slammed the door wide open towards their UEFA Champions League qualification.

Cesare Prandelli’s return to Europe (after last year’s very good run in the UEFA Cup, stopped only by a penalty shootout in the semi-final round) can certainly be deemed succesful, as Fiorentina demonstrated good tactical cohesion, determination, and containment, and this despite the limited time available for pre-season prep. With the good value-for-money transfers operated by the Della Valle bros. this Summer (Gilardino, Jovetic, Vargas, Zauri) and the confirmation of Adrian Mutu, things are definitely looking brightly for La Viola’s future. Just remember that not so very long ago, Fiorentina was sitting down in Serie C2… How 6 years can pass by quickly, huh?

(From Gazzetta): PRANDELLI-STYLE. A beautiful Fiorentina, well-organized on the pitch and quite obviously having their coach to thank for it. Heart and rationality were Prandelli’s key words tonight, as he christened the classic 4-3-3 formation (without Gianluca Comotto and Alessandro Gamberini, out injured) that gave Serie A teams so many problems last year: Frey in goal, Dainelli and Kroldrup keepin guard in the center and supported by Zauri and Vargas on the wings, Felipe Melo in-between Kuzmanovic and Gobbi (playing a sort of vice-Montolivo role, since the latter is away to Beijing), all behind the attacking trio of Santana, Gilardino, and Mutu.

MAGIC-MUTU. Ready, set, go. Goal. Litterally! Just 3 minutes into the game, the Divine Romanian took matters into his own hands and brought the 32,560 Artemio Franchi supporters to their feet. Mutu’s specialty on the menu obviously being his lethal skills on set pieces, Mr. nº10 proceeded to strike a curling shot straight into the top-left corner, following a free-kick just outside box obtained for a foul on Gilardino. Really nothing to do for the opposing goalkeeper, and 1-0 Fiorentina. With goal-of-the-month style!!

Mutu’s game opener was just more fuel to the fire for an already highly-motivated team, because for the ensuing 20 minutes La Viola litterally pressed Slavia under their heel, as if they were nothing more than a cigarette butt. King of plays during this fraction: Felipe Melo, who with smart ball control and great dribbling skills also showcased a surprisingly strong physique (not exactly common for technical players), and thus actively participated in ball-stealing as well.

Closing down their defence, Slavia slowly got out of their slumber and attempted timid counter-attacks, inspired by the through passes of Jarolim. However, the Czechs could not muster a single shot on target before the half (also thanks to the attentive Viola defense), while in turn their opponents were keeping quite busy. Gilardino, despite never quite stepping into the spotlight, was making himself useful by drawing man-marking attention, and thus allowing Mutu and Santana (well emulated by Vargas and Kuzmanovic) dangerous runs forward. The Romanian striker got his share of chances to increase Fiorentina’s lead, but failed to hit the target perhaps due to a lack of concentration. The half thus came to a close with Fiorentina in the lead by one.

GILARDINO-MUSIC. In the second period, the home team stepped back onto the field with the same fighting spirit, a sign that they were not content with a single goal. Just 3 minutes after the restart (yes, 3 minutes again!) the Czech keeper almost lost a finger, as he parried away a cannonball free-kick by Vargas, which prompted Slavia to further entrench themselves into their own box. Set pieces seemed to be the only way to break down the Czech defensive wall, and indeed so it happened in minute 58, as Alberto Gilardino put his full goal-poaching skills into action and he headed the ball past vaniek, following a rather confusing aerial deflection in the box. 2-0 Fiorentina, and violin-time for Gila.

With 30 minutes left, Prandelli decided to play the ball possession card and substituted Vargas with Sergio Almiron (on loan from Juve), followed shortly after by Osvaldo and Pazzini (on for Mutu and Gilardino). Fiorentina then coolly controlled the game until Mr. Webb’s final whistle, aided in their efforts by a rather bleak and uninspired Slavia side, obviously still under shock from the early goal. It will undoubtedly be another game on August 27 in Prague, but there is no doubt that Fiorentina made an important step towards UCL qualification tonight.


 ACF Fiorentina
[Match Highlights]
Slavia Praha
GOALSCORERS: 3’ Mutu (F), 58’ Gilardino (F)
FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey – Zauri, Dainelli, Kroldrup, Vargas (64’ Almirón) – Kuzmanovic, Felipe Melo, Gobbi – Santana, Gilardino (76’ Pazzini), Mutu (76’ Osvaldo) (bench: Storari, Donadel, Jovetic, Pasqual). Coach: Prandelli.
SLAVIA PRAGUE (4-5-1): Vaniak – Suchy, Latka, Brabec, Hubacek – Janda (74’ Krajcic), Taveres, Gebre Selassie (53’Belaid), M.Jarolim (61’ Necid), Svento – Senkerik. (bench: Divis, Toleski, Jablonsky, Cerny). Coach: K.Jarolim.


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Posted in Fiorentina, UEFA Champions League |

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