Fiorentina down stubborn Plzen in extra time to reach Conference League semi-finals


Fiorentina down stubborn Plzen in extra time to reach Conference League semi-finals

Nicolas Gonzalez celebrates after scoring in extra time
Nicolas Gonzalez celebrates after scoring in extra timeAFP
Fiorentina will play Club Brugge or PAOK in the semi-finals of the 2023/24 UEFA Europa Conference League following a 2-0 victory second-leg over 10-man Viktoria Plzen at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. The result extends La Viola's unbeaten record in the competition to 11 matches.

With all to play for following a goalless draw in last week’s first leg, Fiorentina were somehow denied the game’s opening goal after only six minutes as visiting goalkeeper Martin Jedlicka magnificently denied Andrea Belotti from close range.

Clearly in the mood to take the game to Plzen in the opening exchanges, Christian Kouame saw two quickfire opportunities to get his name onto the scoresheet go amiss. First, the Ivorian international’s goalbound header was redirected to safety at the last minute by Plzen's defence before Jedlicka was called into action again as he raced off his line to prevent Fiorentina from taking the lead.

Fiorentina were utterly dominant during the match
Fiorentina were utterly dominant during the matchProfimedia

Fiorentina’s one-way traffic showed no sign of letting up as the game passed the quarter-hour mark with Lucas Beltran’s menacing run towards the edge of the area disappointingly ending with a tame strike straight into Jedlicka’s arms.

Vincenzo Italiano’s side's dominance continued as Plzen’s goalkeeper again denied Kouame before Belotti planted his header against the post and Kouamé struck the crossbar.

Having found the back of the net in seven successive Conference League matches, Fiorentina resumed play on top with Rolando Mandragora’s audacious attempt at a bicycle kick sailing only inches above the crossbar.

Already under the cosh, Plzen’s hopes of progressing to a first-ever semi-final appearance in UEFA competition were dealt a blow shortly after the hour mark.

Key match stats at the end of extra time
Key match stats at the end of extra timeOpta by StatsPerform

After originally awarding Cadu a yellow card for a clumsy foul on Dodo, referee Jesús Gil Manzano decided to upgrade his initial decision to a straight red.

Luca Ranieri then became the latest player to be denied by Jedlicka as the defender’s effort was well-saved at his near post by Plzen’s last line of defence.

Despite playing with a numerical advantage for over 20 second-half minutes, Fiorentina were frustratingly unable to capitalise as Plzeň bravely held on to force extra time.

However, Fiorentina’s unrelenting pressure paid dividends in just the second minute of the additional 30, as Jedlicka was finally beaten by Nicolas Gonzalez’s brilliant finish from inside the area.

The hosts eventually confirmed their progression into the final four in the 108th minute when captain Cristiano Biraghi led by example, capping off a clinical counter-attacking move by fiercely firing past Jedlicka.

The victory marks only Fiorentina's second in eight matches, as the Viola turn their attention back to domestic matters before the semi-finals begin in May. Meanwhile, the defeat sees Plzen suffer their first loss in 15 Conference League matches.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina)

See all the match stats here.


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