Liverpool humbled by Jovetic in Florence

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles

UEFA Champions League

Fiorentina 2 – 0 Liverpool

Sorrowful renditions of ‘The fields of Anfield Road’ were well and truly drowned out in the hills of Tuscany as the chants of the Fiorentina faithful reverberated around Florence on Tuesday night.

The medieval city which witnessed the birth of the renaissance, boasting the fathers of Italian painting Cimabue and Giotto plus the universal genius of Leonardo Di Vinci and Michelangelo, tonight played host to the two astute architects of Anfield: Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres.

Italian football may be suffering from a period of decline: scandals, failures on the pitch in Europe and ailing finances all woes of Calcio, but one cannot doubt the raw passion of the fans.

A rousing atmosphere at the Stadio Artemi Franchi saw the men donned in viola shirts on the pitch morph into gladiators. Fiorentina exploded into life, pressing from the front, harrying the away side and producing biting tackles from the kick-off.

Liverpool immediately retreated deep into their own half, surrendering territory to the Florence crusade. Only some sparse forays by Steven Gerrard or Fernando Torres provided the rugged away rearguard with some rare respite.

Up front Mutu looked sharp. Any thoughts of the debt hanging over the Romanian’s head were dispersed for 90 minutes. Indeed Chelsea may consider chipping off some of the £14.7 million deficit after the striker ran Liverpool’s centre backs ragged.

Jovetic replaced the missing Gilardinho and soon became the focal point of the Fiorentina attack. On the 15 minute mark, he fired a warning sign to the away side when his vicious shot was admirably blocked by Skrtel.

The Montenegrin was beginning to find his range as another effort was dragged wide.

The experienced Cristiano Zanetti slotted Jovetic through on goal. Despite the desperate protestations of the Liverpool back four the offside flag didn’t come and the player calmly slotted the ball to the left of Reina.

As it hit the back of the net, the atmosphere reached a crescendo. The 33,000 strong crowd erupted with the same ferocity as Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 with the stadium bouncing in euphoria.

Liverpool looked stunned as they finally paid the price for wastefully surrendering possession to the gladiators of Florence.

Varga unleashed a shot full of venom which was punched clear by the grateful Reina.

On the right side of midfield, the marauding runs of Marchionni were providing Argentina’s newest recruit with an abundance of problems. Insua endured a torrid night as he was tormented by the Italian.

In the 37th minute Fiorentina added a second much to the anguish of the away side. Varga’s dangerous cross was steered home by Jovetic beating Reina at his near post.

The Liverpool midfield looked redundant as Fiornetina’s slick and decisive moves bypassed Lucas and Aurelio. It left Liverpool’s defence looking decidedly ragged.

In the city were Pinocchio became a real boy, Lucas is still waiting to become a real man. Patience is required with the 22-year-old but it remains to be seen how long the Liverpool fans will give the Brazilian.

Liverpool hung on until half time affording Rafa Benitez a welcome opportunity to rally his troops.

His words of choice appeared to have the desired effect. Liverpool marched out with a renewed belief and laid siege to the Viola half.

Yossi Benayoun had an early attempt blocked by the inspired Sebastian Frey. A name more familiar to English fans thanks to his glowing reputation in Championship Manager.

The resulting corner saw Lucas’ thumping header fly over the bar. It would ultimately be Liverpool’s best chance of the match.

Liverpool looked increasingly dangerous, enjoying a sustained period of pressure. But despite the best efforts of Dirk Kuyt, Gerrard and Torres, the Stadio Artemi Franchi dam held firm.

Kuyt propelled himself into the box, flicking past one defender and chipping the ball over another, before bizarrely deciding to head on to Benayoun as opposed to hitting a left-footed volley.

A great pass from Fabio Aurelio found Steven Gerrard in space. The Reds’ captain took a superb first touch but his shot was charged down by heroic defending from Danielli.

An excursion into the box by Skrtel saw the Slovakian centre back provide an accurate cross for Torres but the Spaniard blazed the ball high into the stands.

Jovetic endured a quiet second half but highlighted his skill in a sweeping move which saw the Manchester United transfer target nutmeg Skrtel before almost unlocking the Liverpool defence once more.

The away side continued to press but to no avail with Gerrard heading over from a Ryan Babel cross. When Liverpool did finally have the ball in the net, it was ruled out, with Torres adjudged to have committed a foul.

The impetus began to trickle away for Gerrard and company. The skipper had one last attempt in the form of a wayward free kick before the German referee called time on proceedings.

In a night full of disappointment for Liverpool, Benitez will now be faced with the unenviable task of rallying his troops before the crucial clash with Chelsea on Sunday.

Tuesday’s other UEFA Champions League results:
Debreceni VSC 0-4 Lyon
Rubin Kazan 1-1 Inter Milan
Barcelona 2-0 Dynamo Kyiv
FC Unirea Urziceni 1-1 Stuttgart
Rangers 1-4 Seville
Arsenal 2-0 Olympiacos
AZ Alkmaar 1-1 Standard Liege

MORE:

MORE: The latest football transfer news

MORE: Meet the Premier League's most stylish footballers

MORE: Do you know the top Muslim footballers in the Premier League?

MORE: Man United latest news

MORE: Arsenal latest news

MORE: Chelsea latest news

MORE: Liverpool latest news

The Sport Review
Shanghai Masters 2017: Rampant Roger Federer downs Rafael Nadal for 94th career title
The Sport Review
Top 50 most stylish footballers in the world in 2017: Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool stars feature
The Sport Review
Top 40 Muslim footballers: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Man United stars feature
The Sport Review
Top 25 footballers’ cars: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid players feature
The Sport Review
Top 20 Nigerian footballers in Premier League: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool stars feature
The Sport Review
Arsenal player wages 2017: Do you know how much Xhaka, Ozil and Coquelin earn each week?
The Sport Review
Joey Barton predicts where Chelsea will finish this season
The Sport Review
Arsenal make final decision about Mesut Ozil’s future – report
The Sport Review
Length of Chelsea star Victor Moses’ injury lay-off confirmed – report