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Vargas penalty prompts Viola joy

ACF Fiorentina 1-0 Olympique Lyonnais
A first-half penalty from Juan Vargas, and Sébastien Frey's crucial save, took the Viola into the last 16 for the first time in a decade.

Vargas penalty prompts Viola joy
Vargas penalty prompts Viola joy ©UEFA.com

ACF Fiorentina reached the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League for the first time in a decade after overcoming Olympique Lyonnais in Florence, a first-half penalty by Juan Vargas ensuring the Serie A side qualified from Group E with a match to spare.

Contrasting halves
Cesare Prandelli had urged his team to take the initiative by sealing the victory that would spare them a nervous night on Matchday 6 at Liverpool FC, who won 1-0 at Debreceni VSC, and Fiorentina responded with a spirited first-half display, hitting the woodwork twice before scoring on 28 minutes. The second period was less straightforward, however, and Sébastien Frey was called into action to make a crucial late stop from Lisandro before the home crowd could finally celebrate progressing from the group stage for the first time since 1999/2000.

Lloris reflexes
With the visitors from Ligue 1 depleted in defence, the Viola attacked from the start and with Vargas in particular causing problems down the left, Fiorentina took to their task with determination. News that Liverpool had gained an early lead may have strengthened home resolve further, and the Italian club would have been ahead on ten minutes but for the woodwork and the reflexes of Hugo Lloris.

Viola chances
Mario Santana showed exceptional control and athleticism to chest Vargas's cross in mid-air before volleying first time from the edge of the area. When the ball came back off the upright, Alberto Gilardino was on hand to meet the rebound, but France No1 Lloris tipped his instant effort wide. From the ensuing corner Gilardino was there again, but now his glancing header rebounded off the far post.

Marchionni reward
Save for Bafétimbi Gomis and Cris narrowly failing to connect with crosses from the impressive Miralem Pjanić, Claude Puel's men barely threatened. The penalty that ultimately separated the sides was reward for the hosts' greater purpose and the endeavour of Marco Marchionni, who chased down a seemingly lost cause, stole in front of Aly Cissokho and was brought to ground by the full-back. Vargas sent Lloris the wrong way from the spot.

Prodigious Pjanić
The prodigious talent of Pjanić looked Lyon's most likely route back into the contest, and the 19-year-old twice tried his luck from distance early in the second period. The greater momentum was with the Gigliati, however, and they almost doubled their advantage when Gilardino dragged his attempt wide after being picked out by Marchionni, who was then denied by a last-ditch tackle from Cissokho when released by Santana.

Frey heroics
An even better chance fell to Gilardino after a sweeping move involving Riccardo Montolivo and Lorenzo De Silvestri, but the unmarked Italy striker steered the defender's cross wide from 12 metres. Tension now began to creep into the home team's display as they ceded ground to OL and gave away a series of free-kicks. Viola hearts were in mouths when Frey elected to punch another long-range set-piece by Pjanić and, after Jean II Makoun's effort through a crowded box was scrambled away, Lisandro raced through at the death and unleashed a venomous strike. Frey and Fiorentina held firm, and the final whistle prompted lengthy celebrations.