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 RomanianÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s head were dispersed for 90 minutes. Indeed Chelsea may consider chipping off some of the Ã‚Â£14.7 million deficit after the striker ran LiverpoolÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 ArgentinaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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. VargaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dangerous cross was steered home by Jovetic beating Reina at his near post.
The Liverpool midfield looked redundant as FiornetinaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s slick and decisive moves bypassed Lucas and Aurelio. It left LiverpoolÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 LucasÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ thumping header fly over the bar. It would ultimately be LiverpoolÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 theÃ‚Â 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
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