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Sir Alex Ferguson
"It's frustrating, but we can have no complaints"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 24 November, 1999, 09:24 GMT
Man Utd flounder in Florence
Batistuta celebrates as Cole, Keane and Yorke look on

Fiorentina 2-0 Man Utd

Roy Keane offered no excuses for the defensive blunders that cost Manchester United a 2-0 Champions League defeat at the hands of Italian side Fiorentina.

Keane's weak backpass and Henning Berg's loss of possession handed the Florence club a gift-wrapped victory, as the title-holders got the second phase of their European campaign off to the worst possible start.

"The two goals we gave away, you can't do that at this level," confessed Keane.

"In fact you can't do that at any level and we got punished.

Paul Scholes sees another chance go by
"Besides that I thought we dominated the game, but goals win matches and we didn't score, while they got two and that was it.

"I thought we were the better team, but goals decide matches and we made two bad mistakes and we got punished - that's football."

Argentinian pair Gabriel Batistuta and Abel Balbo did the damage with the goals for the Italians either side of half-time.

But both strikes came courtesy of awful United blunders, with the normally reliable Keane and Henning Berg left red-faced on a night that Sir Alex Ferguson's men will want to forget.

Match facts
24 mins: Gabriel Batistuta scores
52: Abel Balbo doubles the lead
74: Paul Scholes wastes United's best chance
The defeat leaves United facing a tough task to qualify from Group B, which also includes Spanish side Valencia and Bordeaux of France.

Keane said his side could not afford another defeat in their remaining phase two matches.

"We still have five matches in the Champions League," he said.

"We lost one game in the last group to Marseille so really we can afford one defeat, but that's all and now we need to win our remaining matches."

United began brightly enough and Paul Scholes finished an early right-wing move by shooting just wide from the edge of the area.

But the English outfit had Mark Bosnich to thank for remaining on level terms, as the Australian keeper produced a superb save low to his left after 17 minutes to palm away Rui Costa's precise drive.

Aldo Firicano beats Andy Cole to the ball
But Bosnich had no chance seven minutes later as Batistuta fired Fiorentina ahead.

Surprisingly it was Roy Keane, rated as the most dependable player in Ferguson's team, who gifted the Italians the lead with an uncharacteristic blunder.

His terrible back-pass landed right in the path of Gabriel Batistuta, who found himself with no-one to beat but Bosnich and proceeded to curl a glorious shot into the left-hand corner of the United net.

Scholes so nearly levelled matters within seconds, but Francesco Toldo did well to parry his first-time shot.

We made two mistakes which cost us the game. Fiorentina didn't really control the game, they just kept battering away. That's the disappointing thing.
Sir Alex Ferguson
With the game taking on a frenetic pace and United's defence suddenly looking ragged, Bosnich was immediately called back into action to deny Balbo.

Jorg Heinrich blazed over as Fiorentina sought a second - but United had their own chances and a David Beckham free-kick so nearly brought an equaliser as the ball bounced off both Alessandro Pierini and Aldo Firicano and ricocheted against the bar.

Berg blows it

United needed a determined start to the second half to force their way back into the match.

But instead Fiorentina made it 2-0 - and again the visitors gifted them the goal.

Ryan Giggs evades the challenge of Moreno Torricelli
Henning Berg appeared to be under no pressure on the right flank when he scuffed a pass straight to Batistuta, who sent Balbo clear on Bosnich's goal and his fellow Argentinan finished with a flourish.

There was no way back and United must now regroup in time for their next Champions League showdown with Valencia at Old Trafford on December 7.


Fiorentina: Toldo, Repka, Fircano, Pierlini, Heinrich, Cois, Di Livio, Torricelli, Rui Costa, Balbo, Batistuta.
Subs: Taglialatela, Adani, Padalino, Rossitto, Bressan, Amoroso, Tarozzi.

Man Utd: Bosnich, Irwin, Berg, Stam, G. Neville, Giggs, Keane, Scholes, Beckham, Cole, Yorke.
Subs: Van Der Gouw, Butt, Sheringham, P. Neville, Solskjaer, Fortune, Higginbottom.

Referee: Bernd Heynemann (Germany)
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