Mario Gomez’s first goal of 2014 gave Fiorentina a precious 1-1 Europa League draw at the Juventus Stadium.
These two arch rivals had already faced off in Turin on Sunday in Serie A, the hosts securing a 1-0 win with Kwadwo Asamoah’s strike. Antonio Conte made five changes from that line-up, introducing Martin Caceres, Angelo Ogbonna, Mauricio Isla, Sebastian Giovinco, Daniel Osvaldo and Andrea Pirlo, the latter sitting out a ban at the weekend. Borja Valero and Nenad Tomovic also returned for the Viola after suspension, while Alessandro Matri and Alberto Aquilani faced their former club.
It took all under minutes for Juventus to break the deadlock. Asamoah’s run started the move, then Claudio Marchisio knocked it in for Giovinco to chest down and Arturo Vidal hit it on the half-volley from 10 yards.
The Bianconeri were extraordinarily aggressive from the start, as Gonzalo Rodriguez rushed to close down Marchisio and Vidal flashed another shot off target.
Stefan Savic, who was in doubt until the last minute due to illness, desperately intercepted Asamoah’s ball across the face of goal for Osvaldo, almost scoring an own goal in the process.
Fiorentina finally had a chance on 15 minutes, as Aquilani’s volley was redirected just wide of the back post by Matri.
Mati Fernandez shot with an angled drive off the outside of the boot, forcing Gigi Buffon to parry at the near post and Asamoah scrambled to get it clear.
Giovinco was sent through by Osvaldo, but Neto rushed out of his penalty area to hoof clear, then the goalkeeper smothered the Atomic Ant’s scuffed volley from another Osvaldo assist.
A corner was not dealt with by Juve, but both Rodriguez and Matri just failed to get the decisive touch. At the other end Marchisio fought hard to win back possession and set up a Vidal header, which Neto beat off the line.
The rivalry between these clubs is fierce and there was a brief row between fellow Chileans Vidal and David Pizarro. Vidal almost doubled his tally and Juve’s lead on 38 minutes when his towering header thumped the crossbar with Neto beaten on a Pirlo assist.
Just before the break Borja Valero’s angled drive took a deflection to bobble inches past the far post.
Mati Fernandez was forced off by a sprained ankle and Mario Gomez replaced Matri. Mauricio Isla wasted a good chance by firing straight at Neto when he should’ve set up Vidal.
Martin Caceres bravely chested down a ball to Buffon under pressure from Borja Valero, while Rodriguez stood his ground to charge down a Fernando Llorente run through the middle.
Surprisingly, Vincenzo Montella opted not to use Juan Guillermo Cuadrado or Manuel Pasqual, who remained on the bench after the three substitutions.
Fiorentina drew level with a precious away goal from Gomez, his first since being ruled out for five months by a knee ligament injury in September. The German ran on to a Josip Ilicic ball over the top and sprung the offside trap, drawing out Buffon to slide the finish under his body. Gomez hadn’t found the net for the Viola since a brace in the 5-2 victory away to Genoa on September 1.
The Bianconeri fought back immediately, Neto smothering a deflected Llorente effort, but Gomez also hit the side-netting and Paul Pogba’s angled drive skimmed the far post.
Gomez had rediscovered his confidence after that goal and his long-range dipping strike was palmed out from under the bar by Buffon. The goalkeeper also got down quickly to turn a Juan Manuel Vargas snapshot round the post, as it bounced right in front of him.
The second leg will be at the Stadio Artemio Franchi next Thursday, March 20.
Juventus 1-1 Fiorentina
Scorers: Vidal 3 (J), Gomez 79 (F)
Juventus: Buffon; Caceres, Ogbonna, Chiellini; Isla (Padoin 82), Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Giovinco (Llorente 63), Osvaldo (Pogba 75)
Fiorentina: Neto; Roncaglia, Rodriguez, Savic, Tomovic; Aquilani (Vargas 77), Pizarro, Borja Valero, Mati Fernandez (Ambrosini 51); Ilicic, Matri (Gomez 68)
Ref: Kuipers (HOL)