x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Liverpool lose as Jovetic strikes twice

Fiorentina forward Stevan Jovetic scored both goals in a 2-0 win over the Reds to leave the Italians sitting second in Group E behind Lyon, who thrashed Debrecen 4-0.

Fiorentina's Montenegrin forward Stevan Jovetic eyes the ball during their Champions League match against Liverpool at the Artemio Franchi.
Fiorentina's Montenegrin forward Stevan Jovetic eyes the ball during their Champions League match against Liverpool at the Artemio Franchi.

Liverpool lost at Fiorentina in the Champions League on Tuesday, with the teenage Fiorentina forward Stevan Jovetic scoring both goals in a 2-0 win over the Reds to leave the Italians sitting second in Group E behind Lyon, who thrashed Debrecen 4-0. The 19-year-old Jovetic scored twice in the first half. He took a pass from Cristiano Zanetti and slid the ball past goalkeeper Pepe Reina in the 28th, then redirected in a shot from Juan Vargas nine minutes later.

The five-time winners from England failed to create a single chance in the first half, and afterwards Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez said: "We played a bad game and we don't have any excuses." Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli said: "Football is pretty simple if you know how to interpret the game. We coaches always dream of games like this." With Adrian Mutu still pondering the ?17.2 million (Dh92.4) he has been ordered to pay Chelsea, Jovetic has become Fiorentina's most reliable playmaker. He converted a penalty in a 1-0 win over Livorno on Saturday for his third goal in this season's Serie A, and the Montenegro international's score against Sporting Lisbon in August earned Fiorentina a spot in Europe's top club competition. Benitez, who was not interested in debating if Jovetic's first goal was slightly offside, said: "He's got potential and quality. Offside is the best rule in football. If a player is offside but is not involved, it's very difficult for the defender to interpret."

Both Fiorentina and Liverpool lined up with two lines of midfielders and a single centre-forward. Fernando Torres, currently the Premier League's top score, and fresh off a hat trick against Hull on Saturday, spearheaded Liverpool's attack, while Mutu was at the front of Fiorentina's assault with the team's usual centre-forward, Alberto Gilardino, beginning a two-match suspension. Fiorentina dominated nearly the entire first half, with Liverpool producing only a few fruitless counterattacks. Jovetic had a shot deflected wide by a defender in the 16th and Marco Marchionni's bicycle kick skimmed less than a metre over the Liverpool goal a minute later, although he was offside. In the 23rd, Jovetic missed the target from 25 metres. In between Jovetic's two goals, Vargas nearly scored with a powerful shot that Reina did well to deflect wide.

Liverpool's first scoring opportunity did not come until Yossi Benayoun's angled shot was pushed wide by goalkeeper Sebastien Frey two minutes into the second half. On the ensuing corner, Dirk Kuyt's header landed just over the bar. Kuyt had another chance two minutes later, with Frey again saving. Jamie Carragher missed the target in the 59th, and Torres missed a volley in the 76th as Fiorentina sat back and protected their lead. Torres hardly threatened otherwise. Carragher said after the match: "We didn't perform well enough, we know that. We were slightly better second half, but still not good enough, Nothing went to plan. It was a massive game for them and a massive game for us, but they seemed to be more ready for it from the start, for whatever reason. It is something we have got to sort out, but fortunately in the Champions League we have still got four games to put that right."

Benitez said: "Everyone is disappointed, but at this level every team is a good team. We were not the best in any part of the pitch. We knew that they were a good team - very organised, good on the counterattack - and we were giving the ball away all the time and giving them chances." Fiorentina and Liverpool are tied in Group E with three points each, while Lyon lead the group after two wins out of two. Liverpool faces Chelsea in the Premier League on Sunday. "That will be totally different," Benitez said. "Hopefully you will see the Liverpool football club you saw in the second half."

* AP