Fiorentina earned a hugely impressive 2-1 victory away to Dnipro thanks to Massimo Ambrosini’s header.
As Pacos Ferreira-Pandurii ended in a stalemate, the Serie A team are three points clear at the top of Group E. The Ukrainians had been unbeaten in eight European home games, seven of which were victories.
Both sides won their opening games, so this was a head-to-head for top of the Europa League group on a freezing night in Ukraine under sleet and on a dreadful pitch. Giuseppe Rossi, Mario Gomez, Josip Ilicic and Borja Valero were unavailable, so the Viola returned to a 3-5-2 with Mati Fernandez and youngster Ryder Matos in attack. Juande Ramos also rotated his squad and was without the injured Giuliano, but kept ex-Fiorentina defender Ondrij Mazuch.
The appalling state of the turf almost cost Fiorentina after 13 minutes, as the ball was caught in a puddle and squirmed away from Neto, but Gonzalo Rodriguez bravely flung himself at it for a goalline clearance before Yehven Seleznyov could pounce.
Neto was sharper on Seleznyov’s powerful run through the middle, parrying well when one-on-one. At the other end, Matos got his foot to flick on a Marcos Alonso cross from the left, but it was straight at Denys Boyko at the near post.
Artem Fedetskiy needed treatment for a nosebleed after he accidentally got a football in the face, but the state of the pitch made every challenge a risky business. Cuadrado had penalty appeals for a handling offence, but it was clearly ball-to-hand as he flicked it on to his wrist from point-blank range.
Neto was alert to rush off his line and punch a pass off the head of Roman Zozulya, who had sprung the offside trap.
After the restart, Fiorentina were fortunate not to go down to 10 men, as 19-year-old Marko Bakic risked a second yellow card with a terrible tackle on Ivan Strinic’s ankle.
However, the referee pointed to the spot for a shocking Ruslan Rotan shove on Matos, leading to an inevitable penalty. Gonzalo Rodriguez stepped up and blasted a powerful if central kick to give Fiorentina the lead.
Bakic was substituted to avoid further risks, making way for Borja Valero, but Dnipro were also awarded a penalty for a David Pizarro handling offence. It seemed a tad harsh, as he was covering his face when the ball was fired at him from point-blank range by Rotan. Seleznyov converted by sending Neto the wrong way.
Juan Cuadrado almost scored with a sensational long-range effort, but Boyko flew to fingertip it out from under the bar. On the resulting corner Cuadrado’s angled drive flashed across the face of goal.
Borja Valero cut in from the left to test Boyko low at the near post, but he did better as an assist man, getting to the by-line past two defender and chipping up a pass for Massimo Ambrosini’s glancing header. It was the ex-Milan midfielder’s first goal in a Viola jersey.
Dnipro fought back and Neto palmed a deflected Konoplyanka effort round the base of the upright. Fiorentina played the final four minutes with 10 men, as Pizarro received a second yellow card for a mistimed sliding tackle. It was his second dismissal of the season.
Despite Dnipro pouring forward, the Viola had chances to extend their lead with Borja Valero and Matos.
Dnipro 1-2 Fiorentina
Scorers: Rodriguez pen 53 (F), Seleznyov pen 57 (D), Ambrosini 73 (F)
Dnipro: Boyko; Mandzyuk (Bruno Gama 79), Mazuch, Cheberyachko, Strinic; Fedetskiy (Matheus 58), Rotan, Kankava, Konoplyanka; Seleznyov, Zozulya
Fiorentina: Neto; Roncaglia, Compper, Rodriguez; Pizarro; Cuadrado (Joaquin 77), Ambrosini, Bakic (Borja Valero 54), Alonso; Mati Fernandez (Tomovic 85), Matos
Ref: Marciniak (POL)
Sent off: Pizarro 86 (F)