Europa League – Round of 32 Roundup: Lacklustre Fiorentina and Napoli unable to join Lazio
Thursday night proved a disastrous evening for Italians in Europe, as both Fiorentina and Napoli dropped out of the Europa League, leaving Stefano Pioli’s Lazio the sole team remaining to fly the flag in the competition.
Signs looked promising for the Serie A sides after Lazio demonstrated their power in style at the Stadio Olimpico with a 3-1 win against Galatasaray, though in an unexpected turn of events the Aquile were the only Italian team to progress.
With Antonio Candreva left out of the starting lineup for reported attitude issues, Lazio’s chances of winning were on a knife’s edge, despite their away goal advantage from the first leg. Pioli opted for an attacking lineup with Alessandro Matri leading the line and a somewhat inconsistent Felipe Anderson in Candreva’s place.
The gamble eventually paid off, as a quiet first half was blown out of the water by two quick-fire goals, first from Marco Parolo in the 59th minute and then Anderson in the 61st. The Turkish visitors were given a spark of hope as Yasin Oztekin slotted in just seconds after Anderson’s goal, before super-sub Miroslav Klose capped off the scoreline with a clean finish 20 minutes from time.
Pioli described the match as ‘season defining’ prior to kick-off, and he’ll certainly hope that his team can play like that throughout the rest of the competition.
Fiorentina and Napoli were next up to show their worth on the big stage, however, neither side really looked up to it.
The Viola arrived at White Hart Lane with the need to score after their 1-1 draw at home last week, yet never really posed a threat to Hugo Lloris in goal. Instead, English youngster Dele Alli was allowed to run riot, which eventually led to Ryan Mason’s opening goal after some sloppy defending.
Chants from the visiting crowd were ignored and Fiornetina continued to fall flat, with Erik Lamela left free in the box to double Spurs’ advantage before Gonzalo Rodriguez struck the ball into his own net to top off a disappointing performance and condemn his side to a 4-1 defeat on aggregate.
Napoli looked as if they could atone for Fiorentina’s failings as they took the lead in their fixture through a fantastic long ranged strike from captain Marek Hamsik, however, it was not to be.
Unable to find the crucial second goal that would see them go through, the Partenopei fell once more to a moment of magic from the Yellow Submarine. A lobbed shot from midfielder Tomas Pina caught goalkeeper Pepe Reina off gaurd, levelling up the scoreline and stealing the win for the Spanish side.
The disappointing results leave Lazio with the increased pressure of having to repeat the same performance in the next round, in order to keep Italy’s hopes of staying in the tournament alive. They will now face off against AC Sparta Praha on March 10.