Fiorentina 2 Everton 0: Montolivo leaves off-colour Blues facing uphill task

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The Independent Online

An anaemic Everton, displaying none of the verve of their sterling display against Portsmouth at Goodison Park last Sunday, saw their Uefa Cup hopes deteriorate at the Artemio Franchi Stadium last night. Goals from Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Riccardo Montolivo punctuated a painful last 20 minutes, leaving the blue half of Merseyside a mountain to climb on Wednesday.

"We didn't play at all tonight," lamented the Everton full-back Phil Neville. "The manager set us out to attack, but we were probably a little bit too cautious and didn't get men forward. But we are still in it going back to Goodison."

It was the Fiorentina left-back Manuel Pasqual's ball which gave Christian Vieri the first significant shot, flashing just wide of Tim Howard's post. Everton looked second best and in a rare foray forward Yakubu received a yellow card for fouling the goalkeeper Sébastien Frey.

Tempers began to fray on and off the pitch as half-time approached, with Steven Pienaar and Ujfalusi booked, and David Moyes voicing his general displeasure from the Everton dugout. It was three minutes before half-time, though, that Howard had to produce a fine reaction save to keep his team level when a flick-on by Pablo Daniel Osvaldo gave Vieri the chance to shoot from the edge of the six-yard box.

After Everton had started the second half with a little more purpose, there was a rude awakening when Riccardo Montolivo's right-foot shot from 30 yards needed Howard to be alert again low down at his near post. The American was working overtime, denying Vieri from the edge of the area and then Kuzmanovic.

It was the same player who broke the deadlock for the hosts. Everton again failed to clear properly, and Kuzmanovic's right-foot shot from 20 yards was struck and placed well enough to beat Howard.

Harshly for the goalkeeper, the hosts doubled their lead with a wonderfully constructed goal in the 82nd minute. Mario Santana worked room on the right to push the ball in to the area, Martin Jorgensen's deft flick gave Montolivo room for a first-time volley and he hammered it home.

Fiorentina (4-4-2): Frey; Ujfalusi, Gamberini, Dainelli, Pasqual; Kuzmanovic (Gobbi, 75), Donadel, Montolivo, Jorgensen; Vieri (Pazzini, 67), Osvaldo (Santana, 74). Substitutes not used: Avramov (gk), Kroldrup, Potenza, Cacia.

Everton (4-4-1-1): Howard; Hibbert (Johnson, 73), Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Osman (Arteta, 56), Neville, Carsley, Pienaar; Cahill; Yakubu. Substitutes not used: Wessels (gk), Baines, Gravesen, Anichebe, Gosling.

Referee: P Allaerts (Belgium).

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