Fiorentina have one foot in the Europa League Round of 16 after a comfortable 3-1 win away to Esbjerg.
The Viola hoped to maintain their unbeaten record in the Europa League this season and travelled to Denmark against a surprise entry into the last 32. Juan Cuadrado, Juan Manuel Vargas, Gonzalo Rodriguez and Giuseppe Rossi were ruled out with Mario Gomez on the bench after his comeback from five months out on Saturday.
Neto made a comfortable early save on Martin Pusic’s header, but it was Fiorentina who opened the scoring. Mati Fernandez sprayed a pass over the top that Alessandro Matri ran on to to trap between centre-backs and finish it off.
However, the lead did not last longer than 60 seconds. Facundo Roncaglia’s poor defensive header fell to Pusic, who drilled home an angled drive from eight yards.
This game was hardly a defensive masterclass, as another error gave Fiorentina the lead once more. A poor header was straight at Josip Ilicic, who had no problems smashing in a left-foot effort.
Knudsen failed to make the most of a Marvin Compper defensive error and another Peter Ankersen attempt was deflected just wide after Neto fumbled a corner.
The referee awarded a penalty when Drobo-Ampem clearly tripped Ryder Matos just inside the box. Alberto Aquilani stepped up and coolly converted to extend the Viola lead.
Neto needed two attempts to take the sting out of a Pusic shot before half-time. Mario Gomez came on in the second half and immediately went close to scoring, his shot beaten away by Dubravka and Ilicic couldn’t make the most of the follow-up.
Neto was again called into action with a splendid fingertip save on Knudsen’s angled drive, turning it past the upright.
Borja Valero finished off a counter-attack by firing just wide. Fiorentina should’ve had a fourth, as Ilicic’s shot was parried by Dubravka and somehow Borja Valero failed to find the target on the follow-up.
In the final minutes Neto was again called into action, his gloves stung by a fierce Rasmussen strike.
Esbjerg 1-3 Fiorentina
Scorers: Matri 9 (F), Pusic 10 (E), Ilicic 15 (F), Aquilani pen 37 (F)
Esbjerg: Dubravka; P Ankersen, Drobo-Ampem, Jakobsen, Knudsen; J Ankersen, Lekven (Rasmussen 72), Andreasen (Bergvold 83), Lyng (J Andersen 46); Fellah, Pusic
Fiorentina: Neto; Roncaglia, Savic, Compper, Pasqual; Aquilani (Pizarro 76), Mati Fernandez (Bakic 65), Borja Valero; Ilicic, Matri (Gomez 56), Matos Ryder
Ref: Karasev (RUS)