Juan Cuadrado’s sensational strike and Mario Gomez gave Fiorentina an impressive 2-1 win away to Grasshopper.
The Viola went into this Europa League play-off first leg in Zurich without the injured David Pizarro, while Adem Ljajic was on the bench amid a contract dispute. Neto got the nod in goal and Giuseppe Rossi had his first competitive start in two years to partner ex-Bayern Munich star Mario Gomez. Grasshopper won the Swiss Cup and looked to Anatole Ngamukol to lead their attack.
Juan Cuadrado broke the deadlock with a spectacular goal, as he trapped a long Gonzalo Rodriguez ball and sprinted to the by-line. The Colombian feinted a cross, but instead smashed a powerful strike into the roof of the net from the tightest of angles.
Gomez pounced on a defensive error and his shot was deflected to aid a save, then came sliding in and just failed to finish off a fast move.
Grasshopper fought back and Anatole Ngamukol’s rising shot was fingertipped over the bar by Neto.
Roman Burki was also called upon with a desperate one-handed save to claw Alberto Aquilani’s finish off the line.
Within 24 seconds of the restart it was 2-0, as Rossi’s through ball allowed Gomez to spring the offside trap and Stephane Grichting’s attempt to block only ended up prodding it into his own net. UEFA awarded the goal to Gomez, as it was going in regardless of the deflection.
Rossi and Gomez both went for the same Aquilani chipped cross, so the chance was wasted. Cuadrado’s curler was palmed out of the far bottom corner.
Grasshopper got a goal back thanks to a defensive error, as a free kick was taken quickly and Ngakumol allowed a totally free header at the back post.
The Viola’s season has not yet started and it showed, as they began to tire in the final half-hour. Mistakes crept in, though Grasshopper struggled to pose a real threat. In fact, Marcos Alonso nodded wide from Adem Ljajic’s set piece and in the final minute Neto smothered a Milan Vilotic header from close range.
Grasshopper 1-2 Fiorentina
Scorers: Cuadrado 13 (F), Gomez 46 (F), Ngakumol 63 (G)
Grasshopper: Burki; Lang, Vilotic, Grichting, Pavlovic; Salatic, Abrashi (Caio 77); Hajrovic (Feltscher 82), Toko, Gashi (Ben Khalifa 57); Ngamukol
Fiorentina: Neto; Roncaglia, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Savic; Cuadrado, Borja Valero (Mati Fernandez 82), Aquilani, Ambrosini, Pasqual (Alonso 75); Rossi (Ljajic 67), Gomez
Ref: Jug (SVN)