ACF Fiorentina huffed and puffed but were made to settle for a 0-0 draw with FC Steaua Bucureşti at their Artemio Franchi Stadium in Group F on Tuesday. Neither side were able to produce flowing football in a game which left the hosts with two points on the board after Matchday 2, while Steaua earned their first point following an opening loss.
Fiorentina, who had squandered a two-goal lead in their 2-2 draw at Olympique Lyonnais on Matchday 1, made the early running and carved out a chance for Adrian Mutu after ten minutes. Mario Alberto Santana sent a superb long ball forward that split Steaua's defence but Mutu, who has been struggling with form recently, could only balloon his shot over the bar with goalkeeper Robinson Zapata at his mercy. Strike partner Alberto Gilardino fared no better soon after when his close-range effort was blocked.
Steaua, with captain Mirel Rădoi back from injury and midfielder Bănel Nicoliţă returning from suspension, looked in only slightly better shape than the side who lost 1-0 at home to FC Bayern München two weeks ago. They were continuing to live dangerously at the back, despite Rădoi's return, and their game plan was always going to be to hit Fiorentina on the break. That threat became real when António Semedo somehow got between three Fiorentina defenders to latch on to an upfield pass and drill a low shot just wide. However, the momentum stayed largely with the hosts, despite the lack of space in a congested final third, with Mutu producing a fine swivel and shot in the 33rd minute. Semedo replied with a fierce drive into the side-netting for a Steaua side who grew in confidence as the half progressed but who failed to deliver a killer pass in the penalty area.
Fiorentina kept up the pressure after the break but the Viola's passing was fairly approximate at times and there were no clear-cut chances for either Mutu or Gilardino. Felipe Melo fired a hit-and-hope effort well wide of Zapata's goal on the hour, an effort that seemed to sum up what was turning into a frustrating night for Cesare Prandelli's side. Unable to get into their rhythm, Fiorentina's main attacking threat was coming from dead-ball situations, typified by a wickedly curling free-kick sent in by Mutu in the 67th minute which flashed against the left-hand post.
The visitors posed little threat going forward and in the closing stages were clearly looking to grind out a result, Italian style. Steaua coach Marius Lăcătuş, who played for the Viola during the 1990/91 season, was able to draw on some first-hand experience. A rare foray into the Fiorentina penalty area nearly brought his side a shock winner in the 78th minute when Semedo got in a close-range shot which goalkeeper Sébastien Frey blocked with his left boot. However, the final minutes were mainly for Fiorentina, with the home crowd firmly behind them but unable to lift Prandelli's men to what would have been a precious win before their trip to Bayern on Matchday 3, when Steaua entertain Lyon.