Thursday February 23 2012
Udinese stroll past PAOK

Francesco Guidolin’s Udinese comfortably dispatched PAOK to book a place in the next stage of the Europa League knockout stages.

Although still without Antonio Di Natale and Mauricio Isla - the latter out for the season - the Zebrette kicked off the Round of 32 second leg clash away in Greece with almost the strongest XI possible.

Antonio Floro Flores lead the attack, assisted by Diego Fabbrini, whilst Kwadwo Asamoah returned to midfield, having missed the first leg. Pablo Armero had returned to full training in time to feature, but only started from the bench.

The first leg finished 0-0 in Udine last week, whilst the winners of this tie knew that they would be facing the victors from the meeting between AZ Alkmaar and Anderlecht in the next round.

Guidolin’s side had not won any of their last eight away games in European competition going into this fixture.

Udinese got off to the perfect start, taking the lead through defender Danilo’s header from a Giovanni Pasquale corner. Moments before, Samir Handanovic had produced an excellent save at the other end to thwart PAOK’s Stefanos Athanasiadis. Danilo’s effort from a few yards out was his first goal for Udinese.

Soon after, Floro Flores almost capitalised on a defensive mix-up to add a second, when PAOK goalkeeper Dario Kresic’s clearance struck his own defender. The loose ball went out for a corner before Floro Flores to reach it.

However, the Italian did find the net within a couple of minutes to double the Zebrette’s lead. After Fabbrini was brought down for a free-kick, Maurizio Domizzi tapped the stationary ball sideways for Floro Flores to score a thunderous strike from 25 yards out into the top left corner.

PAOK, now needing three goals to progress, instantly responded with a series of corner, but former Inter and Lecce defender Bruno Cirillo was unfortunate from the first of these to see his front-post flicked header come off the Udinese post. Stelios Malezas then also went close with a header from a corner, but his effort went over the bar.

At the other end, PAOK continued their careless defending, gifting first Floro Flores and then Fabbrini with opportunities to score, only to see both miss the target.

The home side gradually came back into the encounter towards the final minutes of the first half, but were not testing Handanovic. Indeed, Apostolos Giannou had the team’s best chance so far in this period, but despite doing well to work the space, his effort from outside the area curled just wide of the right-hand post.

The tie was effectively ended as a contest within five minutes of the restart, after Miroslaw Sznaucner was penalised for a foul in the area on Floro Flores. Domizzi stepped up to convert the resultant penalty-kick to make it 3-0 to the Italian side.

Fabbrini almost made it four, but Kresic dived across to save his long-range effort.

PAOK’s response saw a couple of crosses and similarly long-range efforts at the Udinese goal, but very little put the Zebrette under pressure.

For the last 20 minutes of play, Udinese sat back and allowed PAOK to attack, but they still had the better chances on the counter-attack through substitutes Armero and Christian Battocchio.

The 3-0 result is Udinese's biggest ever away win in the UEFA Cup/Europa League competition.

PAOK 0-3 Udinese (0-3 on aggregate)

Scorers: Danilo 6 (U), Floro Flores 15 (U), Domizzi pen 51 (U)

PAOK: Kresic;  Sznaucner (Apostolopoulos 54), Cirllo, Malez, Stafylidis (Georgiadis 31); Lazar, Pablo Garcia; Giannou (Nimani 64), Athanasiadis, Lino; Salpingidis

Udinese: Handanovic; Benatia (Feronetti 86), Danilo, Domizzi; Basta, Asamoah, Abdi (Battocchio 46), Pazienza, Pasquale; Fabbrini (Armero 69); Floro Flores

Referee: Tom Harald HAGE (NOR)