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Brilliant Pirlo takes Juve past ten-man Fiorentina

Published: Thursday 20 March 2014, 21.01CET
ACF Fiorentina 0-1 Juventus (agg: 1-2)
The tie came down to a moment of brilliance from Andrea Pirlo midway through the second half, moments after Gonzalo Rodríguez's dismissal.
by Paolo Menicucci
from Stadio Artemio Franchi

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Published: Thursday 20 March 2014, 21.01CET

Brilliant Pirlo takes Juve past ten-man Fiorentina

ACF Fiorentina 0-1 Juventus (agg: 1-2)
The tie came down to a moment of brilliance from Andrea Pirlo midway through the second half, moments after Gonzalo Rodríguez's dismissal.

Juventus's dream of playing the UEFA Europa League final in their own stadium is still alive after an Andrea Pirlo free-kick earned the Bianconeri a 1-0 victory at ACF Fiorentina as they reached the quarter-finals.

Antonio Conte's men needed to score after last week's 1-1 round of 16 first-leg draw but it was Fiorentina who had the better of the first half with Mario Gomez and Josip Iličić both threatening. Juventus shifted through the gears after the break and found the winner with a sublime Pirlo free-kick 19 minutes from time. Fiorentina, who lost centre-back Gonzalo Rodríguez to a red card leading up to the set piece, had no answer.

Viola striker Gomez, back in the starting XI after notching the equaliser as a substitute in Turin, could have found the net inside three minutes but fired wide with his left foot after Borja Valero's wonderful defence-splitting pass.

Fiorentina pressed high up the pitch, reducing the Bianconeri to playing a long-ball game for forward Fernando Llorente. Consequently Juventus had to wait 23 minutes for their first opportunity, as Paul Pogba chested down a long pass from Leonardo Bonucci but, with the defence covering, missed the target.

Five minutes later Fiorentina went close again when David Pizarro's shot from distance passed through a crowded box but whistled past Gianluigi Buffon's right post. At the other end, Carlos Tévez and Pogba tested Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto, while Iličić wasted a great chance for the hosts six minutes before the interval. He blasted high and wide with his right foot – not his favourite – after Giorgio Chiellini misjudged a long ball and headed into his path.

Vincenzo Montella was forced to replace the injured Pizarro with Massimo Ambrosini shortly after the restart yet the real turning point came midway through the second period when Rodríguez fouled Llorente on the edge of the area, earning his second yellow card and leaving his team with ten men. Pirlo did the rest, finding the top right corner with a stunning free-kick.

Neto kept Fiorentina in it, parrying Llorente's diving header and a close-range effort from substitute Stephan Lichtsteiner, but his side never looked like conjuring an equaliser. Juve, through to Friday's draw in Nyon, are four games away from a home final.

Last updated: 22/03/14 0.01CET

http://www.uefa.com/uefaeuropaleague/season=2014/matches/round=2000471/match=2012667/postmatch/report/index.html#pirlo+takes+juve+through

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