Fiorentina send Liverpool packing
Fiorentina beat Lyon 1-0 to book their place in the UEFA Champions League knock-out stages with a game to spare and send 2005 winners Liverpool crashing out on Wednesday.
Peru winger Juan Vargas scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot as the Italians moved to the head of the table. They now lead Group E with 12 points. Lyon are on 10 and Liverpool on seven, but the English team cannot overtake their French rivals due to an inferior head-to-head record.
With Adrian Mutu and Stevan Jovetic both unfit, Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli played Mario Santana behind his lone striker, a move that paid dividends early on.
Lyon's goal miraculously stayed intact despite a stunning triple chance for Fiorentina in the 11th minute that saw them twice hit the post. Vargas sent a cross over from the left that Santana took on his chest on the edge of the box with the French team's centre-backs ball-watching. He spun and hit a volley that came back off the post with Hugo Lloris well beaten but the France goalkeeper then reacted admirably to make a sprawling save to his right from Alberto Gilardino's follow-up.
Vargas then took the resulting corner and Gilardino rose above former Juventus defender Jean-Alain Boumsong but his header hit the far post with Lloris again spectating. It was a rare moment of action in the first period with the next significant passage of play resulting in the goal.
Marco Marchionni skipped behind full-back Aly Cissokho with the former Porto player clumsily bringing him down from behind in the box. Vargas smashed the penalty high into the net with Lloris diving the wrong way.
Lyon spring to life
Lyon came out with more purpose after the break and Miralem Pjanic had two chances, shooting wide from Bafetimbi Gomis's lay-off and then firing over from a free-kick. Around the hour mark, Fiorentina had two good chances of their own as Gilardino shot wide on the turn after he was played into the box and then Santana played Marchionni in only for Cissokho to come to the rescue with a perfectly-timed last ditch challenge.
And on 68 minutes Gilardino had a chance to wrap up victory as Lorenzo De Silvestri's right-wing cross found him in the middle but his first time shot on the half-volley was off target. Teenager Pjanic was proving Lyon's best attacking option and a swerving, dipping free-kick almost flummoxed La Viola goalkeeper Sebastien Frey, who somehow scooped the ball away volleyball style.
By now it was clear that the hosts simply wanted to hold on to what they had and they almost paid for it three minutes from time as Frey had to get down low to beat out Jean II Makoun's low shot. Lyon kept pushing and Frey again saved from a fierce Lisandro Lopez strike from 12 yards in stoppage time - the Argentine failing to repeat his last gasp antics against Liverpool three weeks ago.