Fiorentina bid farewell to this year’s
Champions League campaign after an entertaining 2-1 defeat at the hands of
French champion Lyon. The Viola now have to secure at least a draw in their
final group match against Steaua Bucharest for a spot in this year’s UEFA Cup.
Fiorentina started fast and didn’t lack
energy, dominating ball possession in the opening minutes. The need to win,
however, left the Viola somewhat disorganized in defense, and Lyon capitalized
on this by converting the game’s first chance to score. Karim Benzema, Lyon’s
superstar striker, provided a fine assist to an inexplicably unmarked Jean II
Makoun, giving Lyon the early lead. Fiorentina continued to press forward in
search of a goal but managed little considering their edge in possession.
Lyon doubled the lead midway through the
second half, Benzema again exploiting the holes in the Viola’s defense. This
time, the Lyon forward finished off the move himself with a splendidly struck
shot from outside the area. To their credit, the Fiorentina never gave in, even
when they were down two goals, and they managed to justly find a goal right
before half time, thanks to a well-placed Gilardino header.
The pace was just as relentless in the second
half, with the Fiorentina continuing to go all out in search of an equalizer
and Lyon quick to create chances on the counter. There were opportunities on
both ends, with Mutu firing wide from the top of the area and Kuzmanovic
hitting the post with a deflected shot, while Lyon’s Juninho claimed his second
cross-bar of the night with a magnificent free kick from nearly 40 yards. This,
along with Benzema’s individual skill, was enough to cause the entire Viola
backline plenty of fits.
In the end, Fiorentina were ap-plauded for
their efforts as they exited both the field and the Champions League, beaten by
a more experienced and decisive Lyon. Although the Viola proved that they have
what it takes to play on the European stage, they lack experience and a real
winning edge. Benzema proved again how just one player can change a game and
carry a team. It is no wonder that he is considered one of Europe’s finest
Fiorentina must now turn their attention to
their next away game, against Steaua Bucharest, on December 10 to continue
their European season.