Posts Tagged ‘Penalty Shootout’

Fiorentina 0-0 Rangers: Heartbreak for La Viola, Rangers Advance to the Final on Penalties (UEFA Cup Semi-Finals, Leg 2)

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

What a shame. They played better, they had more scoring chances, and they deserved a win, yet Fiorentina‘s 2008 UEFA Cup adventure ends in the Semi-Finals. The cruel fate of penalty kicks, which has plagued Italians so many times in the past (but which after the 2006 World Cup seemed to be a forgiven affair), condemned the more talented and technical side.

La Viola’s last penalty kick by Bobo Vieri, sent miles over Neil Alexander’s crossbar, is unfortunately the lasting image of a Fiorentina-dominated match, 120 minutes where Rangers did the best with they had. Walter Smith’s all-out defense tactic, hoping the match would come down to a shootout, eventually rewarded the visitors, who will now be contending the UEFA Cup trophy to other surprise finalists, FC Zenit.

Before the match started, the entire Artemio Franchi stadium (joined by La Viola’s youngsters and “old glories”) joined together to sing Fiorentina’s anthem, sort of a “thank you” ritual for the excellent season the team has been having this year. The 40,000 Viola spectators then turned their singing into chanting, supporting their team as the return leg of the UEFA Cup Semi-Finals began. And support they would need, because right from the start Rangers’ tactics were to disrupt their opponents’ passing game in the center, and rely on fast counter-attacks to obtain a valuable away goal. The scoring chances therefore, took quite a while to arrive.

To find the first shot on goal, we had to wait till minute 20, a Riccardo Montolivo mid-range effort which Neil Alexander had no trouble neutralizing. A few minutes later, another shot by the Viola midfielder grazed the crossbar and it seemed as if in this portion of the game, long-range efforts would be the only way Fiorentina could produce anything tangible. Eventually however, the forward runs by Mario Santana and dangerous ball controlling abilities of Adrian Mutu seemed to stir up the Scottish defense, and it looked that if they tried long enough, a goal would arrive for Fiorentina before the half.

Unfortunately, the injury of Marco Donadel (replaced by Zdravko Kuzmanovic) came in the way of these plans, and the match rapidly reverted to its previous stale-mate, with David Weir attentively man-marking Gianpaolo Pazzini and preventing him from doing anything but pass the ball backwards, and Barry Ferguson asphyxiating the playmaking abilities of Fabio Liverani. Not even the generous runs forward of Martin Jorgensen (once again playing in the right-back position) could muster anything for the home team, and the first half thus ended scoreless. 0-0 at the break.

In the second period, the movie script did not change much for Rangers. Containment was their main motivation, even though La Viola’s initiatives were progressively getting more dangerous. Mutu and Pazzini in particular, combined skilfully in the 51st minute when the Romanian striker got down on the left and delivered a perfect cross, but the U21 Azzurrino’s deflection was narrowly wide of the mark. Minutes later, a great rebound shot by Tomas Ujfalusi grazed the crossbar, as the Rangers’ defense progressively started to get more shaky and permit additional space to their opponents.

Shortly after a good free-kick combination between Liverani and Mutu (slammed hard onto the Rangers keeper, who narrowly controlled the ball before Pazzini’s winning tap-in), Cesare Prandelli decided to play the ‘Bobo’ card. Vieri’s 34 years of age don’t permit him to hold more than 60 minutes, but seeing a possible overtime on the horizon, the Fiorentina coach thought it was time to bring in the ex-Italian international, possibly in order to find a winning header on a corner-kick. Bobo actually came quite close on a number of occasions, but either ended up making a mess of the ball or shot it miles over the crossbar. On their part, Rangers reacted with their dangerous counter-attacks (through Daniel Cousin and Steven Whittaker notably), but Sebastien Frey was ready. After 90 minutes still no score… time for extra time.

Continuing onto his work from the second period, Vieri immediately came close with a very good chance from the left, but narrowly missed his aim wide of the post. Prandelli inserted Franco Semioli for Santana in order to give more energy to his attacking trio, but at this point Rangers had decided it was time to hold down the fort. Barely even coming out of their own half, the Scottish visitors found a way to patch up their leaks and kept the net of Alexander safe until the final minute.

Before the ill-fated penalty shootout sequence, there was time for Fiorentina to come close to scoring once again, notably through Adrian Mutu (great volleyed effort deflected by a defender) and Christian Vieri (shots narrowly wide, or over the crossbar). It just seemed it wasn’t going to happen for Fiorentina today because even when it came down to the spot-kicks, Frey gave La Viola’s supporters the illusion of qualification by parrying Ferguson’s first shot, only to take it away moments later with the mistakes of Liverani and Vieri.

With 3 matches left in the Serie A, Cesare Prandelli’s consolation should be aplenty however, if Fiorentina manage to hold their 4th Champions League-qualifying spot at the expense of AC Milan. This time, there won’t be any penalty shootouts involved.


0-0 (4-2 p.s.o.)
[Match Highlights]
 Rangers F.C.
PENALTY SHOOTOUT: Ferguson (R) saved, Kuzmanovic (F) goal, Whittaker (R) goal, Montolivo (F) goal, Papac (R) goal, Liverani (F) saved, Hemdani (R) goal, Vieri (F) wide, Novo (R) goal.
FIORENTINA (4-3-3): Frey – Jorgensen, Ujfalusi, Gamberini, Gobbi – Donadel (42’ Kuzmanovic), Liverani, Montolivo – Santana (95’ Semioli), Pazzini (78’ Vieri), Mutu. (bench: Avramov, Dainelli, Osvaldo, Pasqual). Coach: Prandelli.
RANGERS (4-4-1-1): Alexander – Broadfoot, Carlos Cuellar, Weir, Papac – Davis (80’ Novo), Hemdani, Thomson, Whittaker – B.Ferguson – Darcheville (64’ Cousin). (bench: G.Smith, Buffel, Boyd, Dailly, Faye). Coach: W.Smith