Seems like catenaccio tactics are in-vogue in European competitions lately. After Barcelona vs. Manchester another UEFA match ended with the boring scoreline of 0-0, only this time you can’t really fault the user. With over 9 players missing due to suspension or injury, defense was really the only option left for Rangers against Fiorentina, in spite of the fact they were playing the first leg at home. Manager Walter Smith had declared that above all, avoiding to concede an away goal was the most important objective of the night, and not even the warm and festive Ibrox Park atmosphere could convince him otherwise.
Gazzetta dello Sport tells us about Thursday night’s match highlights:
GLASGOW (Scotland), 24 April 2008 – With Rangers missing so many key men, a greedier side would have come away from Ibrox Park with a much better result. Fiorentina instead had to make do with a 0-0 draw that leaves the Scottish side the luxury of going through to the final not only with a victory, but also with a goal draw, exactly what Rangers manager Walter Smith had been hoping.
The initial exchanges of the match resembled more a game of chess, as both sides played a waiting game, hoping that the other would be the first to leave space at the back to exploit. Fiorentina were not the only ones showing a certain degree of caution, as Rangers manager Walter Smith had ordered his side to avoid conceding an away goal, and then try and bag one in the return fixture in Florence.
As a result, the first 10 minutes saw only a couple of decent breaks for Fiorentina, essentially helped by the mistakes committed by the Rangers side (backup players brought in to cover for the numerous Scottish absentees). In minute 12, Adrian Mutu had Fiorentina’s first shot on goal, but it was an easy take for Rangers’ nº1 Neil Alexander. Moments later, the Scottish goalkeeper had to be on his toes once again, racing off his line to stop Gianpaolo Pazzini (who had just marginally eluded the offside trap).
The Gers then had a chance of their own at the 15 minute mark, when Jean-Claude Darcheville made an individual run from left midfield that took him just a couple of metres away from Frey’s goal. With no one from Fiorentina able to stop the French forward, Darcheville got in a good position to finish but his subsequent shot was weak and easily collected by the Viola keeper. 3 minutes later, Zdravko Kuzmanovic unintentionally provided an assist for Steven Whittaker, but luckily for Fiorentina the Scotsman’s shot was off target. Martin Jorgensen‘s effort on 24 minutes was however much more accurate, with the player doing well to home in on goal from the right, but his shot was far too central and proved no problem for Alexander.
As the half went on, the game started to pick up pace a little, and there were some tactical changes by both sides. The Viola doubled up on Darcheville (a danger every time he got the ball close to the box) and Smith moved Nacho Novo to the middle to impede Fabio Liverani, who was dictating the tempo for Fiorentina. Fiorentina looked nevertheless in control of the game, with the Viola carving chances from shots from distance, dangerous crosses in the area (by Jorgensen, Kuzmanovic and Montolivo) and also from close exchanges between Pazzini, Mutu and Santana. The latter in particular, enjoyed the best of these chances when a great ball by Mutu set him one on one with Alexander, but the Rangers keeper produced a good save to deny the Argentine.
From then onwards the pace of the game slowed once again and Fiorentina were able to go into the break with a comfortable 0-0, with La Viola most probably thinking at this point that the game was very much there for the taking.
THE SECOND HALF – The game restarted with the visitors trying to maintain possession and Rangers attempting to find the right rhythm. It seemed as if they almost did, when two back-to-back chances by Nacho Novo set up the Spanish striker for the finish (first one-on-one, then from long-range) but without any luck. The Scottish side had yet another good chance and it took a timely intervention from Tomas Ujfalusi (last-minute presence in today’s match, recuperating from injury) to rescue Fiorentina. The Viola defence now looked to be under pressure, especially because the noise from the Ibrox crowd had noticeably increased.
Smith however was not satisfied with the draw, and sacrificed his two most dangerous players (Darcheville and Novo) to put on some fresh legs in the shape of Daniel Cousin and Thomas Buffel. The change did not produce the desired results however, with Rangers actually playing worse and making some careless errors: Fiorentina were once again led to believe that the game was there for the taking, if they just committed themselves a little more forward. However, Rangers captain David Weir was constantly there to deny Pazzini the finish, while Mutu and Santana became increasingly isolated as the game progressed.
Speakin of Mutu, the Romanian striker had the opportunity to test Alexander from long-range as La Viola obtained a free kick from 35 yards, but his effort was nowhere near the quality exhibited in the return leg vs. PSV. Eventually, Cesare Prandelli then tried using the Bobo Vieri card but it was already too late: La Viola ended the game with an away clean sheet, but with the distinct impression of having wasted a golden opportunity. For Rangers next Thursday, a draw with goals in Florence will be sufficient to qualify to the next round.
|RANGERS (4-5-1): Alexander – Broadfoot, Weir, Carlos Cuellar, Papac – Whittaker, Hemdani, Davis, Dailly, Novo (59’ Buffel) – Darcheville (59’ Cousin). (bench: G.Smith, Boyd, Gow, Webster, Faye). Coach: W.Smith|
|FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey – Jorgensen, Gamberini, Ujfalusi, Gobbi – Kuzmanovic, Liverani, Montolivo – Santana, Pazzini (80’ Vieri), Mutu. (bench: Lupatelli, Kroldrup, Dainelli, Pasqual, Potenza, Osvaldo). Coach: Prandelli|