So, four days after the Serie A meeting at the Juventus Stadium, the Bianconeri once again welcomed rivals Fiorentina to Turin. The game had a frantic start, and after two minutes, a great long ball from Angelo Ogbonna found Mauricio Isla, who crossed for his international teammate, Arturo Vidal. Fiorentina keeper Neto saved easily.
This was not the case a minute later as Claudio Marchisio crossed from the left and the ball came off Sebastian Giovinco and fell to Vidal, who duly converted his 18th goal of the season. At this rate, El Rey could hit the 30-goal mark this season.
Juve continued to dominate the early period of the game with half chances created for Marchisio and Vidal. Some impressive possession play then led to an Kwadwo Asamoah cross which the Fiorentina defence did well to clear.
Fiorentina’s first real effort of note in the 14th minute as former Juventus player Alberto Aquilani had his shot deflected a yard or so wide. Three minutes later a bad touch from Martin Caceres led to a Fiorentina attack that ended up with Gigi Buffon making a save from Matias Fernandez and Asamoah clearing his lines well.
Giovinco then had two opportunities that could given Juve a vital 2-0 lead. The first came from a great touch from Osvaldo which looked like it had put the diminutive striker through but the Fiorentina keeper Neto came out of nowhere sweep the ball clear. A few minutes later Giovinco had an effort from a good position but made it easy for Neto by hitting it straight at him. Juve were upping the ante again at this stage and in the 25th minute Neto made another save from Vidal’s header after a neat cross from Marchisio.
Vidal came close again in the 37th minute with a towering header that hit the crossbar after some nice work by Pirlo down the left hand side. At this stage one started to get the feeling that this was going to be one of those games that Juve were going to rue not scoring that vital second goal. This feeling intensified even more after Giovinco shot wide after a nice one two with Pirlo. Giovinco can’t be faulted for lack of effort but really needed to be more clinical in front of goal.
The last chance of the first half fell to Borja Valero whose shot was deflected wide off Ogbonna.
The second half became a much more tactical affair with the Bianconeri sitting back a lot more. Juve struggled to create any real chances and in the 63rd minute Antonio Conte made his first substition of the game, replacing Giovinco with Fernando Llorente. Shortly afterwards, Fiorentina manager Vincenzo Montella decided to substitute his striker, Ale Matri, for George McFly doppelganger Mario Gomez. This would prove to be a very astute move as in the 78th minute the German striker scored the equalizer for Fiorentina. Marchiso gave away the ball in midfield and an excellent over the top ball from Ilicic caught out Caceres and Ogbonna as the defence had pushed up. The former Bayern Munich man still had plenty to do but a great touch and finish past Buffon proved he hasn’t lost his clinical ability despite a long term injury.
The passage of play that led to the Gomez goal happened so fast and it was perfect example of how a small mistake against good opposition can be punished in seconds. All of a sudden a sense of urgency appeared in Juve’s game. This in turn led to more counter attacking opportunity to Fiorentina and Gomez shot wide after 81 minutes. Almost immediately Juve responded and some brilliant play between Pogba and Llorente led to the young French midfielder shooting just wide with his left foot.
That proved to be the last chance of the game for Juve but in hindsight it was the opportunities of the first half that should have sealed the first leg. In the end Fiorentina could have gone on to win the game but Buffon denied Borja Valero and Vargas’ long range efforts late in the game.
The advantage definitely lies with Fiorentina for various reasons — the away goal, home advantage and a recent poor performance by Juve at the Franchi. With qualification for the quarter finals now seriously at risk it will be vital to get a 90 minute performance next week that matches the first 45 minutes tonight. Following the dissapointment of the Champions League and Coppa Italia exits that is the least one can expect next week from Conte’s men.
Buffon: 6.5 – Can’t really be considered at fault for the goal as the entire defence was caught out. Made some very good saves at the end of the game which could prove vital in the tie.
Caceres: 6 – Looked under pressure on a few occasions and allowed Gomez to break free for the equalizer.
Ogbonna: 6.5 - An impressive performance at the centre of the back three. Kept former Juventino Matri very quiet. Was caught off guard for the Gomez goal but so was everyone else.
Chiellini: 6.5 – Played well defensively and even had a few marauding runs forward.
Isla: 6 – Started the game well and it looked like we were on for a repeat performance of the Trabzonspor tie. Faded badly in the second half.
Vidal: 7.5 – Again in the right place at the right time for the opening goal. Could easily have scored a hat trick. Another all action performance from the Chilean.
Pirlo: 6.5 – Not the maestro’s greatest performance in a Juve shirt. Got himself out of trouble impressively on a couple of occasions but wasn’t completely on his game.
Marchisio: 6.5 – Provided some dangerous crosses from the left (one of which lead to the goal). Gave away the ball for the equalizer. I guess they evened themselves out.
Asamoah: 7.0 – Had some impressive dribbles during the game but unfortunately couldn’t repeat the magic of last Sunday’s game.
Giovinco: 6.5 – Didn’t get the same space he had against Trabzonspor. Could have been more clinical in front of goal
Osvaldo: 5.5 – Probably the Oriundo’s worst performance in a Juve shirt. It just didn’t happen for him tonight
Pogba: 6 – Didn’t really have much of an impact apart from good effort on goal after one two with Llorente.
Llorente: 6 – Wasn’t able to dominate the Fiorentina back line. Combined well with Pogba for his effort
Conte: 6.5 – If it were judged on the first half this would be higher. I’m not sure what happened at half time in the locker room but a different Juve side came out in the second half.
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