Ladies & gentlemen, Serie A has four out of four this year!!!! After Juventus on Tuesday, Fiorentina cleared the UEFA Champions League Preliminary Round as well, joining Inter Milan and AS Roma in the “Fantastic 4 Quartet” -something which Italian clubs had not achieved since the 2005-06 season (Chievo and Lazio failing to clear the preliminaries).
As far as Wednesday night’s match vs. Slavia Prague was concerned, La Viola had one good foot into the group stage after their 2-0 home win at Artemio Franchi. However playing away games is never an easy thing, especially against experienced European competitors like the Czech, who were forced to push forward in order to score goals. Unfortunately for neutral spectators, goals didn’t come and this despite the many many (many!) chances obtained. Cesare Prandelli was undoubtedly satisfied with the final outcome however, because tonight was simply the culmination of all of last year’s efforts: as they would say in the Old Boot, La Fiorentina è nell’Europa che conta.
(From Gazzetta): PRAGUE (Czech Republic), 27 August 2008 – Mission accomplished for Fiorentina? Yes, at 99%. Cesare Prandelli wanted to qualify for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, and that duly happened with the 0-0 draw to Slavia Praha in the second leg of the third qualifying round. However, La Viola’s coach also wanted the icing on the cake: a goal and a victory. Fiorentina fans will have to wait till the group stage for that, a bit of a shame given the plethora of missed chances Wednesday night…
BUSINESS CARD – As in any good business venture, La Viola (the visiting team today) presented their credentials to their opponents: “we play football, we move the ball around nicely, and we like hanging out around your penalty box”. And never mind if, afer a few minutes, the Czechs also started to come out of their shells… the message to Slavia was clear: “showing yourselves is dangerous“. An explicit message indeed because when the Czechs forgot about it, scoring chances immediately popped up for Fiorentina who, unfortunately, were unable to take advantage of them.
The first came just before the 20th minute mark, when Alberto Gilardino made a good run calling for the through ball, but took his shot a fraction too late (giving the defender the chance to deflect it wide). On the subsequent play, Fiorentina’s corner-kick set up Mario Santana with golden opportunity in front of goal, but once again the shot was a little too slow in coming, giving goalkeeper Martin Vaniak time to position himself for the save. Finally after half an hour, it was Felipe Melo‘s turn to test the reflexes of the veteran goalkeeper: shot tipped onto the crossbar, and rebound blasted onto the defensive wall. Fiorentina were kicking themselves: qualification to the next round was virtually inches away from being locked in the freezer.
SECOND HALF – Slavia began the second half with two substitutions, changes which had the biggest repercussions on the left side especially: every time substitute Dusan Svento had the ball he created problems for the Viola defense (otherwise well-guarded by Zauri and Dainelli). On the other hand, it seemed as if every Viola counterattack could produce the liberating goal they so desperately needed, but which was still eluding them perhaps due to lack of concentration. Above all, it was a period highlighting the aerial skills of Felipe Melo, and during which there were also a few lapses too many to the Czechs’ benefit.
So eventually, Prandelli added some fuel to the fire by inserting Marco Donadel, inevitably another brick in the always effective Viola defensive wall. But the Fiorentina manager was not satisfied, he wanted more and he asked the classy Stevan Jovetic to provide it (note: expect great things from this guy in the near future). The lad did not shy away from responsibilities and as soon as he could, he created the first chance from a lovely solo effort, then produced an assist for Vargas that almost resulted in a goal.
By the last quarter of the game, Slavia (who overall struggled to read the game well) had understood that their fate was sealed: the match dragged on until the final whistle, but effectively despite the 0-0 draw this was a one-team triumph. 8 years after their last appearance, put your hands together for UCL-Fiorentina!
|SLAVIA PRAGUE (4-1-3-2): Vaniak – Krajcik, Brabec, Suchy, Siklic, Tavares – Cerny (71’ M.Jarolim), Belaid, Janda (46’ Svento) – Tolesky (46’ Senkerik), Necid. (bench: Divis, Hubacek, Am.Cissé, Litteri). Coach: K.Jarolim.|
|FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey – Zauri, Gamberini, Dainelli, Vargas – Kuzmanovic (63’ Donadel), Felipe, Gobbi – Santana, Gilardino (89’ Pazzini), Osvaldo (74’ Jovetic). (bench: Storari, Kroldrup, Almirón, Semioli). Coach: Prandelli.|