Fiorentina capitalise on Spurs mistakes to make Europa League last 16
By Richard Morgan
Last Updated: 27/02/15 12:07pm
Fiorentina beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League round-of-32 tie at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on Thursday night to progress to the next round 3-1 on aggregate.
However, Mauricio Pochettino’s side were let down by two terrible individual defensive errors in the second period at a time when they appeared to be in control of the contest, as well as a poor first-half miss by Roberto Soldado.
The first mistake occurred nine minutes after half-time when Spurs centre-back Federico Fazio gifted the home team possession of the ball on the halfway line, and seconds later experienced striker Mario Gomez raced through to fire Fiorentina ahead.
Then with 19 minutes left to play Jan Vertonghen’s hesitation in the penalty area allowed Mohamed Salah a simple chance that the winger gratefully accepted to end the match as a contest.
Despite knowing they had to score on the night to remain in Europe, Tottenham left 24-goal top-scorer Harry Kane on the substitutes’ bench with Sunday’s Capital One Cup final against Chelsea in mind.
However, the striker’s absence from the starting lineup did not appear to affect the visitors’ performance in the opening 45 minutes as Spurs produced a control display of possession football.
And that should have been rewarded with a crucial away goal just before the half-hour mark when from a Fiorentina corner, Tottenham broke on the counter-attack with striker Roberto Soldado who was played clean through on goal after the Fiorentina offside trap had malfunctioned.
But with an unmarked Nacer Chadli alongside him, the Spain international somehow managed to underhit his pass to his team-mate, allowing Fiorentina goalkeeper Murara Neto to intercept when a goal seemed certain.
And the visitors were made to heavily pay for that miss after the interval when first Fazio passed the ball straight to Milan Badelj, before the midfielder then played Gomez clean through on goal, with the striker making no mistake with a fierce shot past Hugo Lloris.
Vertonghen’s error on 71 minutes then ended any hope the Premier League side may have had of getting back into the game, with the central defender dithering in the box instead of clearing his lines, allowing Salah a simple opportunity from close range for his third goal in four matches.
Pochettino threw on both Kane and Andros Townsend in search of the two away goals the north Londoners needed to remain in the competition, but apart from the former having a goal correctly ruled out for offside 12 minutes from time, Spurs exited Europe with a limp.