UEFA Cup – Spot-kick heartbreak for Everton
Everton crashed out of the UEFA Cup on penalties to Fiorentina after a superb 2-0 victory at Goodison Park had levelled their last-16 tie 2-2 on aggregate.
Yakubu and Phil Jagielka were the men who failed from 12 yards for the Toffees, but it was unfair to assign blame after a tremendous team performance from David Moyes’s men.
Andy Johnson gave them the lead from close range after 15 minutes when Sebastien Frey was deceived by Steven Pienaar‘s inswinging cross and they came close to extending their lead on multiple occasions before half-time.
The onslaught continued after the break, and Mikel Arteta fired Everton level on aggregate with a superb long-range strike that took the game into extra time.
A goalless extra period took the game to penalties, and when Yakubu and Phil Jagielka missed, Fiorentina substitute Carlos Alberto Santana calmly slotted his side into the last eight.
The home side went into the game with their 2-0 humbling at Florence’s Stadio Artemio Franchi in the first leg still painfully fresh in the memory, and Moyes made his intentions clear with an attacking 4-4-2 formation that partnered Johnson with Yakubu up front.
Driven forward by a raucous home crowd Everton attacked from the off, and inside two minutes Leon Osman‘s half-volley from distance was deflected wide after he was teed up by Johnson.
Pienaar was doing his best to exploit what little space there was in front of the visitors’ back four, and after a quarter of an hour he curled in a cross from the left that Frey could only parry, allowing Johnson to bundle the ball home with his chest from close range.
Needing at least another goal the Toffees continued to press forward, and Arteta sent a back post half-volley over the bar before drawing a save from Frey with a well-struck 25-yard free-kick.
The typically industrious Johnson then went down inside the visitors’ penalty area under a challenge from Manuel Pasqual, but referee Eric Braamhaar rightly played on before Yakubu turned Alessandro Gamberini on the edge of the Fiorentina box and sent in a low shot that Frey had to push away.
Everton had the ball in the net again moments before half-time when Yakubu tucked home Arteta’s pass after Johnson’s shot had been well saved by Frey, but the Spaniard had been offside when the initial shot left Johnson’s foot.
Moyes’s side began the second period in similarly adventurous fashion, and after Martin Jorgensen blocked Jagielka’s flicked header on the goal-line, Everton saw a second penalty appeal turned down when Arteta’s corner skipped up off the turf and caught Tomas Ujfalusi on the arm.
Fiorentina were beginning to look distinctly uncomfortable in the face of Everton’s unrelenting attacks, and in the 66th minute Arteta levelled the tie when he drove in an unstoppable drive from 25 yards that zipped past Frey and nestled in the bottom left-corner.
As the volume inside the stadium increased so Everton continued to attack, and Frey produced two superb reflex saves to repel Yakubu in the space of a minute, before the Viola proved they were not out of the game when substitute Giampaolo Pazzini forced Tim Howard to tip his header over the bar.
The visitors were forced to defend staunchly as the game neared the 90-minute mark, and in injury time Yakubu sent a header fractionally wide of the left-hand post from Arteta’s right-wing free-kick.
Neither side was able to find a break-through in extra time, taking an enthralling game to the cruellest of conclusions.
And it was Everton who faltered under the pressure, with Yakubu’s penalty striking the left-hand post and Jagielka’s being superbly turned away by Frey, allowing Santana to step up and seal an enthralling tie.