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Page last updated at 21:39 GMT, Thursday, 6 March 2008

Fiorentina 2-0 Everton

By Jonathan Stevenson

Fiorentina celebrate Zdravko Kuzmanovic's opener
Fiorentina's players congratulate goalscorer Zdravko Kuzmanovic

Fiorentina produced a stunning display to earn an advantage against Everton in their Uefa Cup last 16 first leg tie.

The Italians dominated for long spells and went in front late on when Zdravko Kuzmanovic slotted home from 20 yards.

They should have already been ahead, Christian Vieri twice denied superbly by Tim Howard, who also parried away another long-range Kuzmanovic effort.

They doubled their lead when Riccardo Montolivo volleyed home after a slick passing move with nine minutes to go.

Their flourishing finish in Florence ensures Everton have a mountain to climb at Goodison Park in the return leg in six days.

Fiorentina, who lie fourth in Serie A, made their intentions clear from the start as they took control of proceedings in the Stadio Artemio Franchi.


Argentine striker Pablo Osvaldo, fresh from a 90th-minute winner at Juventus on Sunday, lashed in an early shot that Joseph Yobo did well to block.

Left-back Manuel Pasqual was causing the visitors problems with his surges forward and twice his crosses found Fiorentina players, first Osvaldo heading at Howard, before Martin Jorgensen flicked a shot straight at the keeper.

Everton were struggling to string a handful of passes together and Yakubu - with eight goals in his last six games - was badly isolated up front.

They were becoming frustrated too, with Lee Carsley and Tim Cahill both fortunate not to be cautioned for poorly-timed challenges.

Just before the break Howard kept them level, his right leg somehow deflecting Vieri's fierce left-foot close-range shot wide when he seemed certain to score.

Riccardo Montolivo (left) and Lee Carsley
Montolivo (left) struck a late goal to hurt Everton's Uefa Cup hopes

If Everton boss David Moyes impressed on his side during the interval the need to improve their ball retention, his plea fell on deaf ears.

Even the introduction of Mikel Arteta for Leon Osman after 55 minutes failed to stop Fiorentina's momentum and twice in quick succession they nearly went ahead.

Vieri twisted and turned past Phil Jagielka and forced Howard to parry his thumping shot, before Yobo gave the ball away and Kuzmanovic hammered it in from 20 yards, the Everton keeper flying away to his left to make an athletic save.

Halfway through the second half Vieri was withdrawn for Giampaolo Pazzini, and soon after the home side got a goal their dominance deserved.

Montolivo's shot was blocked, the ball fell to Tomas Ujfalusi just inside the box and he teed it up for Kuzmanovic, who exquisitely side-footed into the corner from 20 yards.

Pazzini should have made it 2-0 when he badly miscued a volley from eight yards after a fabulous cross from substitute Massimo Gobbi picked him out.

But soon after Mario Alberto Santana sent in a ball from the right, Jorgensen deliciously flicked it up into Montolivo's path and the 23-year-old rifled in a sweet volley from 15 yards.

It was the least Cesare Prandelli's side deserved for a performance of genuine quality.

Fiorentina: Frey, Ujfalusi, Gamberini, Dainelli, Pasqual, Kuzmanovic (Gobbi 76), Donadel, Montolivo, Jorgensen, Vieri (Pazzini 67), Osvaldo (Santana 74).
Subs Not Used: Avramov, Kroldrup, Potenza, Cacia.

Booked: Ujfalusi, Gobbi.

Goals: Kuzmanovic 70, Montolivo 81.

Everton: Howard, Hibbert (Johnson 73), Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott, Osman (Arteta 56), Neville, Carsley, Pienaar, Cahill, Yakubu.
Subs Not Used: Wessels, Baines, Gravesen, Anichebe, Gosling.

Booked: Yakubu, Pienaar, Howard.

Att: 32,934

Ref: Paul Allaerts (Belgium).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Everton's Tim Howard 8.08 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

see also
Uefa Cup as it happened
06 Mar 08 |  Europe
Thursday's Uefa Cup photos
06 Mar 08 |  Europe

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