ACF Fiorentina eased through to a UEFA Europa League round of 16 meeting with Juventus after completing a 4-2 aggregate victory over Esbjerg fB.
Josip Iličić's free-kick two minutes into the second half all but sealed the Italian side's progress, and while Esbjerg never looked likely to halt a run of five successive away defeats in all competitions, substitute Mikkel Vestergaard's late equaliser meant they bowed out on a high. The Viola will now meet a Juve team that beat them 3-1 on aggregate in the 1989/90 UEFA Cup final.
Leading 3-1 from last week's round of 32 first leg, the Viola waltzed through the first period, barely breaking sweat as they passed the ball around in their opponents' half. Esbjerg were defending so deep, though, that Fiorentina were restricted to crosses and set pieces, creating danger – not least when Marvin Compper headed wide at the far post – if not a constant threat.
The approach was all about doing just enough though, preserving the energy coach Vincenzo Montella said Fiorentina were so lacking in the build-up to the game. And it brought the opening goal moments after the restart as they won a free-kick in a central position and Iličić stepped up to bend it over the wall and beyond Martin Dúbravka's outstretched left arm.
At the other end, Antonio Rosati had yet to make a meaningful contribution in his first outing this season and while Vestergaard did test him as Esbjerg briefly rallied, the match soon resorted to type. Dúbravka denied Manuel Pasqual and Borja Valero, only for Vestergaard to strike in the dying moments, slipping the ball through Compper's legs and curving it around the keeper. Esbjerg's longest-ever European campaign ends on a high but it is Fiorentina who go on.
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