ACF Fiorentina took a big stride towards the UEFA Cup quarter-finals after two second-half strikes earned a 2-0 victory against Everton FC, despite an excellent performance from Tim Howard.
Everton goalkeeper Howard was in inspired form, frustrating the Viola before Zdravko Kuzmanović finally ended his resistance with 20 minutes remaining, firing in from the edge of the area after being teed up by Tomáš Ujfaluši. It was little more than the Viola had merited after bossing the game at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, and Riccardo Montolivo doubled the advantage eleven minutes later to leave Everton with it all to do at Goodison Park next Wednesday.
The English side had come into the game on the back of five consecutive victories but Fiorentina are hardly struggling for form themselves and quickly took the initiative. Leading the charge were Pablo Daniel Osvaldo and Martin Jørgensen, whose pace troubled the visiting defence, and barely nine minutes had gone when the former fashioned the first opening for Christian Vieri. The veteran scuffed horribly wide, however, and repeated the feat following an intricate free-kick soon after as the hosts failed to capitalise on their dominance.
Everton eventually settled, but were given more cause for alarm just before the interval when the excellent Osvaldo cushioned into the path of Vieri whose low shot was brilliantly kept out by the legs of Howard. The second half began in similar vein as Montolivo had an effort beaten away by the busy keeper, who came to his side's rescue again just before the hour with a fine double-stop from Vieri and then Kuzmanović.
A Fiorentina goal seemed only a matter of time, and even the introduction of Mikel Arteta failed to turn the tide for Everton. Kuzmanović eventually broke through the barricades with a fine finish, perhaps trumped by Montolivo soon after when he volleyed in Jørgensen's clever flick. There was still time for Mario Alberto Santana to put an exquisite effort just past the post with the outside of his boot, yet Everton held on to keep themselves in the tie.