A stunning free-kick from Andrea Pirlo sent Juventus through to the last eight of the Europa League after a 1-0 win over Fiorentina in Florence gave them a 2-1 victory on aggregate.
A 1-1 draw in Turin a week ago had given Fiorentina the slight edge heading back to their own Artemio Franchi. And for 70 minutes they were able to see off the threat from the runaway Serie A leaders. But in the 71st minute, Pirlo stepped up and produced another memorable free-kick to add to his collection, this one made extra special as the midfield maestro came up with a fresh technique with which to deceive Fiorentina goalkeeper Neto.
Fiorentina, who had seen center-back Gonzalo Rodriguez sent off after receiving his second yellow card when conceding the free-kick, had no way back. It had been an engaging contest from the Italian rivals, but the Bianconeri advance as they look to redeem some European pride following their disappointing exit from the Champions League.
The tie had been blown wide open by Mario Gomez’s equalizer in the first leg and the German striker was back in the starting lineup for the return. He had the game’s first chance in the opening minutes, too, but he put his shot wide after being set up by Borja Valero.
Fiorentina’s positive high pressing was making life difficult for the home side. Still, Juventus carved out opportunities in the first half, with Fernando Llorente heading wide and Carlos Tevez testing Neto before blasting an ambitious volley over. Fiorentina had another clear opening to get in front but Josip Ilicic fired waywardly off target following an error from Giorgio Chiellini.
Arturo Vidal was unusually profligate with a headed chance in the second half, before Pirlo’s magic swung the tie decisively in favor of Antonio Conte’s side. After Rodriguez had brought down Llorente just outside the box, the 34-year-old stepped up and rather than his familiar curling effort with his instep, he sent the ball arrowing with pace into the far top corner. Although it had been to the goalkeeper’s side, Neto had no chance of clawing it away. While Neto was able to block Llorente’s close-range header late on, it is Juventus who head into Friday’s draw.