Viola claim Uefa Cup spot
An Alberto Gilardino header was enough to claim all three points for Fiorentina away at Steaua Bucharest.
By Richard Bailey
Last Updated: 10/12/08 10:16pm
A 66th minute header from Alberto Gilardino was enough to claim all three points for Fiorentina in their UEFA Champions League Group F match away at Steaua Bucharest.
Both sides went into the game without a win in this season's competition with Fiorentina claiming three draws from their five games while Steaua had lost four of their five group games.
Steaua knew that they needed to beat Fiorentina to qualify for the Uefa Cup while the Italians needed just a point to finish the group in third place.
On a cold and frosty night in Bucharest the first half offered little in goalmouth action.
Steaua goalkeeper Robinson Zapata and Fiorentina shot-stopper Sebastien Frey both wore black tights in a bid to battle the cold but with so little action to keep them warm they would have made little difference.
Referee Muniz Fernandez stamped his authority on the match as early as the first minute when he booked Steaua midfielder Banel Nicolita for diving in the penalty area.
The home side began the brighter and forced Frey into action after 10 minutes when Dayro Moreno's hard and low free-kick was saved well by the Frenchman.
Fiorentina appeared happy to settle for the point that would secure them a Uefa Cup place as they showed little going forward early on.
Sensing the visitors' reluctance to attack, the Romanians continued to press but could not find the final pass to break the deadlock.
It took until the 30th minute for Fiorentina to record their first shot on goal and it nearly brought about the game's first goal.
Adrian Mutu, roundly booed by the home supporters for his connections with Steaua's city rivals Dinamo Bucharest, nearly responded by curling a free-kick from 25 yards into the top corner only to see Zapata punch the ball to safety.
Mutu then had the best chance of the half when he was put through on goal. The angle was against the former Chelsea man but instead of going across goal he fired wide of Zapata's near post.
The second half began in similar fashion as both sides looked to gain a foothold on the game.
You sensed that if a goal was to come Mutu would be involved as he again forced Zapata into a save.
The 29-year-old burst down the left 10 minutes into the second half and his cross shot was unconvincingly punched away by the Steaua No.1.
After looking the more likely to break the deadlock in the early exchanges of the second half the Italians finally took the lead.
Left-back Juan Margas Vargas whipped in a 66th minute corner from the left and the otherwise quiet Gilardino headed home off the right-hand post.
The goal sparked Steaua into life as they attacked down the left-hand side and Juan Carlos Toja's low cross was parried by Frey but no one was following up for the home side.
Any chance the Romanians had of getting back into the game waas dealt a huge blow after Pawel Golanski was sent off for picking up two yellow cards in quick succession after 72 minutes.
The remainder of the match was played out like a training session as Steaua looked to get all their players behind the ball with Fiorentina happy just to keep possession.
The referee finally put Steaua out of their misery by blowing the final whistle as Fiorentina claimed the Uefa Cup spot with a comfortable 1-0 win.
|Steaua Bucharest||Team Statistics||Fiorentina|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|1||Shots on Target||3|
|1||Shots off Target||4|