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v Wolfsburg

Thursday 18 September K.O. 20:05



Goodison Park | 12th March 2008 19:45

Everton v Fiorentina

For Evertonians, this night will be remembered as long as there is breath in the body. But, sadly, that memory will be of an evening of glorious failure.

The Blues have been knocked out of the Uefa Cup on penalties - but only after a night in which they showed everything that makes this Club so great. Passion, determination, togetherness and a never-say-die spirit that deserved oh so much more.

Instead, the cruel lottery of penalties proved their undoing, the Serie A side winning 4-2 - with Yakubu and Phil Jagielka the players unfortunate in failing to convert their kicks.

They didn't deserve that - they were outstanding. But then so had been every single one of their teammates.

After trailing 2-0 from the opening leg, this needed to be a special night for the Blues to get anywhere near a place in the last eight.

But David Moyes' men produced in spades as Goodison rolled back the years to the glory days of the all-conquering mid-80s.

There were enough scoring chances created to win the tie three times over - plus two strong penalty claims.

Instead, it was a header in the opening period from Andrew Johnson and a goal of the highest quality from Mikel Arteta that levelled the tie. Suddenly the impossible dream seemed on - and Goodison knew it.

This was everything the display in Florence was not - cohesive, vibrant, pulsating and, crucially, clinical.

But the third goal that Everton craved in normal time wouldn't materialise - so Goodison was subjected to the anxiety of extra time. And again, the goal would not come.

Throughout the 120 minutes one side dominated, one side mounted wave after wave of attack and one side showed the undeniable hunger to secure a place in the last eight.

But despite their efforts - and they were nothing short of immense - from Tim Howard who produced excellent stops on the rare occasions he was called upon right through to the dynamo that is Johnson and the immovable object of Yakubu - the winning goal would not materialise.

Yakubu up against Fiorentina's Alessandro GamberiniYakubu up against Fiorentina's Alessandro Gamberini

And so came penalty kicks. High drama. High anxiety. Agony. Ultimately, the tie was not lost on penalty kicks, but in the rain of Florence when the side was a shadow of its normal self.

The game started as it continued - with the Blues on the offensive. A deflected Leon Osman shot earned an early corner and gave the already magnificent support greater cause to get behind the team.

When the opening goal found the net the roof nearly lifted off the stadium.

With 17 minutes on the clock, Steven Pienaar produced a tantalising cross from the left that Sebastian Frey completely missed, allowing Johnson to head into the empty net from close range.

With Fiorentina rattled, the Blues threatened more in the minutes that followed. Mikel Arteta fired over from the right of the box and then forced the keeper into a parried save from a well hit free-kick.

Then with 20 minutes of the opening period left to play Johnson was upended in the area by Pasqual but the referee waved away the claims. It would have been academic, had Osman's fierce volley as the ball looped loose not been well saved by Frey.

The one-way traffic continued - with a deft header from Phil Jagielka sailing inches over the crossbar.

There was a moment of panic in the 33rd minute, a Pasqual cross finding Jorgensen. But it was saved easily by Tim Howard - and normal service was resumed. Moments later Frey produced a brilliant one-handed save from a cute Yakubu shot and then Johnson headed over from an Arteta corner. The chances were racking up.

Johnson was denied by a brilliant block, and then a Yakubu goal was ruled out for offside on the stroke of half-time.

The second half started inh the same vein - with a clearance off the line denying Everton a second.

Then came a second penalty claim - but the calls for a handball from players and fans alike were ignored.

But who needed a helping hand from the referee when you have Mikel Arteta in your side?

It was a moment of sheer brilliance that finally levelled the scores on aggregate. It came with 23 minutes remaining and was right-footed thunderbolt from the right of midfield 25 yards out. It was inches inside the post and unstoppable.

Phil Neville tries to get the better of Riccardo MontelivioPhil Neville tries to get the better of Riccardo Montelivio

Then came more close calls - Frey saving from Yobo and Yakubu in quick succession as Goodison rocked.

But an away goal would have killed the tie for the Blues - so the sight of Tim Howard producing a stunning fingertip save to deny Pazzini was welcomed with as much glee as a goal itself. The clock was ticking down - and a goal for either side would ensure there would be no extra time.

With full-time all but up Yakubu flashed a header just wide of the target - we were destined for extra time.

The game became more fragmented and scrappy as tired legs began to tell - but there were still opportunities, with first Yakubu and then Johnson unlucky not to get a lucky break on a counterattack four minutes before the extra time interval.

Yakubu then fired over after a great flick-on from Johnson.

In the second period Victor Anichebe was introduced, Steven Pienaar sacrificed and further chances created. The tension was palpable.

Everton were dominant. So justice was done when a break and a Pazzini shot found the side-netting and not the target.

The same could not be said of the penalty shoot-out. Thomas Gravesen converted the first, Pazzini was almost denied by a brilliant attempt by Howard - then Yakubu found the post and the night turned on the Toffees.

The Italians converted each remaining kick with ease. And their place in the last eight was confirmed when Frey saved from Jagielka and Santana fired in. Agony!

But this side marches on. And as they do - there will be many greater nights than this in the months and years ahead.

Andrew Johnson scores Everton's firstAndrew Johnson scores Everton's first



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