A Stevan Jovetic brace lifted Fiorentina to victory today, but Bayern advance on away goals thanks to classy goals from Mark van Bommel and Arjen Robben.
Cesare Prandelli's Fiorentina had a familiar look about them as they took to the pitch for round two of their encounter with Bayern Munich. The Tuscan side lined up in the same 4-2-3-1 formation that featured in a now infamous 2-1 loss in Munich, with two personnel changes: Cristiano Zanetti replaced Mario Bolatti in central midfield, and Felipe started at left back in place of suspended defender Massimo Gobbi.
Louis van Gaal's Bayern Munich was also quite similar to the side that played in Munich, with only one change to the previous squad. Following an injury to Martin Demichelis, left back Holger Badstuber moved into a central defensive role, and 17-year old midfielder David Alaba was chosen to start at left back.
Although the grounds crew was able to ready the pitch on an inhospitable evening, there remained a slick surface and a strong wind blowing towards the Bayern goal. Any ball played in the air was difficult to judge, which made for a nervy beginning to the game for the visitors.
The wind at his back, Juan Vargas missed an audacious free kick from 40 yards early on, and Bayern goalkeeper Hans-Joerg Butt was forced to drive low free kicks rather than lofting them upfield.
The opening minutes of tonight's match had a feel markedly similar to that from the previous leg, with Bayern controlling the majority of possession and Fiorentina denying their guests any space on the ball with use of close marking and good organization. What was markedly different was that in this leg, Fiorentina were not forced to repeatedly commit fouls. Bayern's control of the ball remained commanding, but magicians Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery were unable to use their jinking runs on such a slippery pitch, and caused few problems for their hosts.
For the majority of the first half, the ball remained in midfield, and there was a veritable dearth of scoring opportunities. The only way through was bound to be a defensive error, and surely enough, it was a goalkeeping howler that allowed Fiorentina to take the lead on 27 minutes. After Marco Marchionni sent a speculative shot from long distance towards the lower-right corner, Hans-Joerg Butt spilled the ball directly into the path of Vargas. The Peruvian beat Daniel van Buyten to the ball and struck in the opener with a fine finish.
The situation worsened for Bayern three minutes later, when Mario Gomez was forced to withdraw after taking a knock. Miroslav Klose replaced his German international colleague, who up to that point had been anonymous in attack.
The same fortune that favored Fiorentina in minutes prior would prove to be indiscriminate, when on 34 minutes Bayern had a bit of luck swing their way. After Bastian Schweinsteiger headed a pass towards the top of the penalty area, confusion erupted, and the ball slipped into the penalty area. Robben pounced and struck a hard volley towards Sebastian Frey, but the French goalkeeper made an excellent reflex save to tip the Dutchman's effort over the bar.
Having scored the necessary goal to progress, Fiorentina's tactics remained the same: the hosts played conservatively going forward, but played a pressing game that forced Bayern to make quick decisions coming out of their own half, and never conceded an inch of space.
After the break, Fiorentina continued to play at high intensity, and took advantage of the visitors' lethargic start to the half. After a few warning shots, a cross came in that two Bayern defenders failed to clear, and slipped to the feet of Alberto Gilardino. The Italian striker was taken by surprise, and his shot from close range was saved by Butt.
On the other hand, Thomas Mueller played a lovely 1-2 with Robben and looked like scoring, but Per Kroldrup set the young German off his stride, and Cesare Natali made a superb challenge.
Just as it looked as though Bayern might be ready to hit their stride, the hosts struck again, in a situation that can only be described as karma coming back to haunt Bayern. Following another low cross from the right side, Gilardino (who appeared to be a stride offside), played a gorgeous backheel to Stevan Jovetic, who was unmarked in the center of the box. The young Montenegrin striker made no mistake and slotted into the net.
Having fallen two goals behind but needing just one to force extra time, Bayern reacted with their best play of the game. Alaba's ball to Klose forced an excellent, goal-saving tackle, but Bayern would not be denied. On the hour mark, a triple-teamed Ribery slipped a ball towards the center. With the Fiorentina defense concentrated on the right flank, Mark van Bommel was wide open at the top of the penalty area, and blasted a low drive just inside the left post.
Fiorentina reacted with similarly crucial timing, and next scored just four minutes later. Jovetic caught the Bayern defense off guard, and took on Van Buyten in a one-on-one. Gilardino nodded on the Montenegrin's deflected ball, and Jovetic fired in from close range.
It was at that point that Robben decided to take matters into his own hands. Seconds after the restart, the Dutchman was granted space for the first time, and cut inward from the right side. With impressive power and accuracy, the former Chelsea and Real Madrid star curled his shot into the upper-left corner of the net, putting Bayern a shoe into the quarterfinals.
Once again, Fiorentina reacted well, and began their best attacking stint of the two-legged affair. Gilardino put the ball in the net on 76 minutes, but was called offside. Amid a long spell of high pressure, only last-ditch defending denied the hosts a vital goal.
As full time approached, space opened up for the likes of Robben and Ribery to use on the break, and Fiorentina were forced not to over-commit on the offensive end. With seven minutes left, Manuel Pasqual played a dangerous ball across the penalty area, but no violet shirt was available, and Schweinsteiger cleared.
Prandelli rolled the dice late as he brought on Keirrison for Vargas, but the Brazilian striker was unable to make an impact against a Bayern side that played uncharacteristically deep in the closing minutes. After three minutes of injury time, the hosts were still unable to net the goal necessary to advance, and Bayern advanced to the quarterfinals, albeit by the most narrow of margins.
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