Danny Koevermans' 63rd-minute strike earned PSV Eindhoven a 1-1 draw at ACF Fiorentina in the first leg of their UEFA Cup quarter-final at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. After falling behind to Adrian Mutu's fourth goal of the competition on 56 minutes, PSV responded through Koevermans' emphatic effort and will now go into next week's return as marginal favourites despite the fact forward Jefferson Farfán will be absent after collecting a late yellow card.
Cesare Prandelli, who had asked his players to repeat the high-tempo performance they produced against Everton FC here in the last round, showed his positive intentions by fielding winger Martin Jørgensen at right-back, with Tomáš Ujfaluši moving infield to partner Alessandro Gamberini in central defence. Yet it was PSV who provided the first notable attempt on goal on three minutes, Sébastien Frey beating out a strong header from Koevermans.
Ujfaluši goes close
Mutu was struggling to live up to his pre-game billing as the Viola talisman in the early stages but he was not alone, with the Serie A side wasting several dead-ball and crossing opportunities to the obvious frustration of Prandelli. Zdravko Kuzmanović did his best to enliven proceedings with a volley from distance that he caught sweetly but sent straight at Heurelho Gomes. The Franchi had attracted a season-best crowd for a UEFA Cup match of 34,317 and the noise levels rose shortly after the half-hour when Kuzmanović crossed and Ujfaluši met the ball with a right-footed shot that forced Gomes into a diving save.
After plenty of first-half possession, Sef Vergoossen's visitors almost fashioned a goal in the 39th minute when Farfán crossed from the right to Koevermans who laid the ball back with a cushioned touch to Jason Culina, but the Australian's strike flew over. There was more from PSV after the restart. Edison Méndez released Ibrahim Afellay down the left and he fired in a near-post shot that Frey palmed behind. Koevermans then went even closer, flicking a Farfán centre just past the far post with Frey beaten.
Slice of fortune
Instead the opening goal came at the other end. It came with a thick slice of good fortune too. Frey's long kick forward came down near the edge of the penalty box where Salcido failed to clear and Mutu stole in to get a touch to the ball ahead of the out-rushing Gomes. The goalkeeper stopped the shot but the ball ricocheted against Mutu and back into the empty net. Things went from bad to worse for Gomes just minutes later when he sustained a suspected hamstring injury when taking a goal-kick and was replaced by Bas Roorda.
The Dutch league leaders reacted admirably to these setbacks, though, drawing level when Afellay slipped the ball through to Koevermans and he finished high past Frey from 15 metres. With hopes of a fifth straight UEFA Cup home win fading, Prandelli threw on Christian Vieri and the Viola mounted a late assault on the PSV goal. Riccardo Montolivo tested Roorda with a fierce strike and the substitute keeper did well to tip behind Mutu's effort as the evening ended in frustration for Fiorentina.