05.03.2015 22:57 - in: Coppa Italia S

    All to do in Florence

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    Two Mohamed Salah strikes make it advantage Fiorentina ahead of next month’s decisive Coppa Italia semi-final return leg at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

    Juventus will travel to Florence looking to turn the tables on Fiorentina after the visitors drew first blood in this year’s Coppa Italia semi-final, winning 2-1 through two Mohamed Salah strikes.

    Despite early Bianconeri pressure, it was Vincenzo Montella’s men who took the lead on 11 minutes, Salah showing Simone Padoin a clean pair of heels before slotting a convincing finish into the top corner.

    The scores were soon level, though, with Fernando Llorente heading home Simone Pepe’s cross for his first goal in this season’s Coppa Italia tournament, setting up an intriguing second half for a capacity crowd at Juventus Stadium.

    But the restart saw Fiorentina emerge with greater attacking thrust, and their positivity gained its reward when Salah capitalised on a moment’s hesitation to burst through and reestablish his side’s advantage with 56 minutes played.

    A spell of late pressure from the hosts failed to yield an equaliser, meaning they will have it all to do when hostilities are resumed at the Artemio Franchi on 7 April.

    A frantic start by Juventus, who featured several changes from Monday’s draw in the capital against Roma, saw Arturo Vidal go close to opening the scoring inside the first 120 seconds, but having done all the hard work by opening his body up in a tight space, the Chilean went on to drag his subsequent attempt wide of the target from a promising position in the box.

    But as the Bianconeri committed men forward in their search for an opener, Fiorentina snatched the opportunity to strike on the counter, with in-form Salah’s direct solo run taking him past Padoin and one-on-one with Marco Storari, who was beaten by a clinical finish into the top corner on 11 minutes.

    Slowly but surely the hosts got into their passing stride, probing to reestablish themselves in the game. And they did just that on 24 minutes, when Llorente leapt highest to divert Pepe’s teasing cross beyond Neto and in off the post, raising the roof at Juventus Stadium in the process.

    The expected charge, however, failed to materialise, as Fiorentina went back up the other end and produced another chance of their own on the half-hour mark. This time it was Jose Basanta who provided the threat, hitting the post with a diving header after Matias Fernandez’s central drive had been pushed over for a corner by Storari.

    An injury to Kingsley Coman on 37 minutes forced Massimiliano Allegri to replace the Frenchman with Carlos Tevez, whose guile on the left-hand side of a three-pronged attack immediately came to the fore within seconds of him crossing the white line.

    The second half began with Fiorentina looking the more comfortable of the two sides, and Micah Richards was only prevented from restoring their lead on 49 minutes by a decent stop from Storari at his near post.

    However, their renewed vigor after the interval reaped rewards seven minutes later, with Salah once again profiting after the hosts failed to clear their lines, shrugging off the attentions of Claudio Marchisio to place a crisp finish into the bottom corner.

    Now with the fresh legs of Alvaro Morata accompanying Tevez and Pepe in attack, Juventus had an added spring in their step going forward and almost drew level on 62 minutes, only for Neto to produce a fine one-handed stop after Morata had cut back from the byline for Tevez.

    A third substitute, Roberto Pereyra, had the opportunity to level matters from a similar position, but the Argentine midfielder snatched at his opportunity after being teed up just yards from goal by Martin Caceres.

    Late pressure on the Viola goal during the final 10 minutes of normal time looked like it may have provided Juventus with a lifeline, but the visitors held firm to take a first-leg advantage back to Florence.

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