Beltran fires Viola into second-straight Conference League final after seeing off Brugge

Lucas Beltran celebrates after the scoring the tie's winner
Lucas Beltran celebrates after the scoring the tie's winnerAFP
Lucas Beltran’s late penalty ensured that Fiorentina progressed to the UEFA Conference League final for the second year in a row as they secured a 1-1 draw away at Club Brugge on the night, winning the semi-final tie 4-3 on aggregate.

The early exchanges indicated that the frantic nature of the first leg would be replicated, with Blauw-Zwart pushing forward as any moment of remote promise was met by an anticipatory roar from the home crowd at the Jan Breydel Stadion.

While patience was also required, they scored with their first shot in the 20th minute when Maxim De Cuyper - who had replaced the injured Bjorn Meiher in the starting lineup - drifted into the box and got the faintest of touches on Hans Vanaken’s cross to score the second goal in his last three starts, levelling the tie up in the process..

Fiorentina almost conjured an immediate response, but Simon Mignolet smothered Nicolas Gonzalez and Andrea Belotti sent his follow-up attempt trickling wide.

With La Viola going for the goal that would restore their aggregate lead, Igor Thiago did well to get behind Nikola Milenkovic and selflessly squared the ball for Michal Skoras, but the full-back was too flat-footed, allowing Dodo to recover and clear.

Christian Kouamé then hit a sweet strike that cannoned off the crossbar and onto the line, leaving the winger frozen in disbelief as Kyriani Sabbe headed the ball away.

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Visibility issues due to flares delayed the restart after H, but Brugge wasted no time in asserting themselves once more, although Denis Odoi wasted a fantastic opportunity by mistiming his header.

There was a relentless intensity to the match with so much at stake and while signs started to emerge that the hosts were struggling to keep up, Joel Ordonez remained focused and intervened brilliantly to stop Cristiano Biraghi’s cross from reaching Belotti. They survived further scares, with Biraghi’s free-kick and M’Bala Nzola’s header both hitting the woodwork.

Having scored the late winner in the first leg, Nzola influenced the result again as he was caught by Brandon Mechele to win the spot-kick that Beltran snuck past Mignolet’s outstretched hand in the 85th minute.

After Odoi encapsulated the hosts’ frustrations by earning a second yellow from the bench, Vanaken’s deflected strike meant a smart save from Pietro Terracciano was required to ensure that Fiorentina extended their club-record unbeaten run in Europe to 13 matches and earned their place in Athens’ showpiece.

They also broke Brugge hearts in their first European semi-final in 32 years, with the first leg loss - the Belgian outfit’s only defeat in their last 11 across all competitions - ultimately proving costly.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Dodo (Fiorentina)

Club Brugge - Fiorentina player ratings
Club Brugge - Fiorentina player ratingsFlashscore

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