Pirlo puts Juventus into last eight

Juventus beat rivals Fiorentina and Benfica survive a scare against Tottenham to reach the Europa quarter-finals.

    Pirlo's free kick handed Juve a 1-0 win in Florence and a 2-1 aggregate success over Fiorentina [Reuters]
    Pirlo's free kick handed Juve a 1-0 win in Florence and a 2-1 aggregate success over Fiorentina [Reuters]

    Andrea Pirlo kept Juventus on course for a home Europa League final after his superb free kick settled their battle with Italian rivals Fiorentina to send the Serie A leaders into the quarter-finals.

    This season's final will be held at the Juventus stadium in Turin on May 14, which was a huge incentive for the Italian league title holders, but Antonio Conte's side needed something special from his talisman midfielder to stay in the competition.

    Needing to score after Fiore grabbed an away goal in a 1-1 first-leg draw, Juve were struggling for inspiration at the Stadio Artemio Franchi until Gonzalo Rodriguez was sent off for tripping Fernando Llorente to leave Pirlo with a sight of goal. 

    Pirlo's free kick, which saw him caress the ball high into the far right corner of the net, handed Juve a 1-0 win in Florence and a 2-1 aggregate success over Fiore.

    "We knew that we were going to have to fight for it, and Andrea's goal was the crowning glory of a great performance," said Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci.

    Benfica survive scare

    Elsewhere, Benfica survived a spirited fightback by Tottenham Hotspur to earn a 2-2 second-leg draw in Lisbon and go through 5-3 on aggregate.

    The Portugese side, who were 3-1 up from an impressive first-leg win in London, appeared to be cruising through after Ezequiel Garay's first-half header but injury-hit Spurs rallied.

    Belgium winger Nacer Chadli's quickfire double left Tottenham a goal away from forcing extra time with 11 minutes left.

    The Portuguese then won a penalty in the final seconds, which Lima converted to secure a 2-2 draw and extend Benfica's unbeaten run at home in European competition to 11 games.

    Juve are joined in the last eight by last season's beaten finalists Benfica, Porto, Valencia, Sevilla, Olympique Lyon, FC Basel and AZ Alkmaar.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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