Fiorentina win spot in Europa League last-16

Goals from Mario Gomez and Mohamed Salah sent Fiorentina into the last-16 of the Europa League on Thursday as they beat Tottenham 2-0 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate.

Fiorentina win spot in Europa League last-16
Fiorentina's forward from Germany Mario Gomez (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring against Tottenham. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

Gomez scored the opener on 54 minutes when he pounced upon a lost ball from the defender Fazio on the half-way line. Gifted possession, he burst toward the Tottenham goal at full pelt, outsprinting the desperately back-tracking Fazio and Jan Vertonghen.

As goalkeeper Hugo Lloris came off his line to meet him, the German chose his moment with perfect calm and his powerful shot left the Frenchman no chance.

Tottenham handler Mauricio Pochettino made a double substitution at 1-0 down with striker Harry Kane and speed king Andros Townsend on for winger Nacer Chadli and Nabil Bentaleb. But Fiorentina were to then strike a second time with questions left to be asked about Spurs' defence.

Recently signed from Chelsea, Salah exposed first Fazio and then Vertonghen with his pace when a sudden burst of speed saw him run into the box in the 70th minute and firing a shot into the top corner.

With a League Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley on Sunday, Pochettino had made seven changes to the team that started against West Ham last Sunday.

Tottenham's substitute striker Roberto Soldado, who started instead of the on form Kane – with 13 goals from his last 17 games – blew the chance of the match after half an hour when he horribly under-hit a simple pass to Chadli when two-on-one against goalkeeper Neto with the scores still at 0-0.

With Soldado running free onto a lovely through ball from Erik Lamela, a goal looked a certainty until the Spaniard fluffed his pass to the onrushing winger. Neto could hardly believe his luck as he bent to scoop up the ball, Chadli slapping the post in frustration and Soldado hanging his head in shame.

Unbeaten in ten games, Vincenzo Montella's Fiorentina, who are fifth in Italy, always looked at ease in their Stadio Artemio Franchi. They survived a couple of early scares as Christian Eriksen appealed for a penalty that was ignored and Lamela forced a fine save from Neto.

Kane side-footed the ball past Neto on 76 minutes but even he knew he was off-side as he did so.

Tottenham then go to Wembley wondering what might have been while Fiorentina go into the hat for the last-16 of the Europa League, the winner of which gets access to a place in the Champions League next season.

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PICTURES: Thousands in Florence for Davide Astori’s funeral

Thousands of mourners and the cream of Italian football gave an emotional sendoff on Thursday to Fiorentina player Davide Astori, whose sudden death at the age of 31 has shocked the country.

PICTURES: Thousands in Florence for Davide Astori's funeral
Mourners in Florence for Davide Astori's funeral. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and his Juventus teammate Giorgio Chiellini were among those who paid their respects in Florence to the defender who captained his club and played 14 times for his country.

One banner in the crowd read “Ciao captain”, another “Our captain forever”, and purple smoke from flares to match the colour of Fiorentina's shirts filled the sky.

Applause rang out as Astori's coffin was carried into the Santa Croce basilica as children wearing Fiorentina tracksuits formed a guard of honour.

Milan Badelj, Astori's deputy captain at the club, paid tribute to the player in a homily.

“You were the son and the brother that everyone would like to have,” the Croatian said. “Your parents didn't put a foot wrong with you, Davide.”

He said everyone who remembered Astori would tell his two-year daughter Vittoria that he had been a man with a capital 'M'.

Buffon and Chiellini dashed back from London where the Turin team dedicated their Champions League victory over Tottenham on Wednesday to Astori.

Chiellini said after the match: “He is on our minds on this day. I cried many times. He was a fantastic player.”

Daniele De Rossi, Mario Balotelli and Francesco Totti were among Italy players past and present who came to pay their respects and the entire Fiorentina team, dressed in sober dark suits and ties, attended.

Astori was found dead in a hotel room in Udine on Sunday ahead of Fiorentina's Serie A match against Udinese. All matches were postponed in the wake of the discovery.

A post-mortem examination has found he most likely died from a cardiac arrest linked to the slowing of his heart rate.

He will be buried near his home city of Bergamo in northern Italy.

Fiorentina and Astori's former club Cagliari have said they will retire his number 13 shirt in his honour.

There are likely to be more emotional scenes when Fiorentina play their first game since the tragedy when they face Benevento at home on Sunday.

All photos by Filippo Monteforte for AFP.