Gomez hits timely leveller to stun Juve
Mario Gomez came off the bench to level late away to Serie A leaders Juventus and secure a 1-1 Europa League last 16 first leg to boost Fiorentina's bid for a shock quarter-final spot on Thursday.
Amid their pursuit of a third consecutive scudetto under Antonio Conte, Juventus have made the Europa League one of their two objectives since crashing out of the Champions League at the group stage.
Five days after beating Fiorentina 1-0 in the league, they looked to have done enough to snatch the win after Arturo Vidal's third-minute opener set up an end-to-end encounter in Turin.
But Gomez, 10 minutes after replacing former Juve striker Alessandro Matri, played the upsetter by pouncing on a mistake by defender Angelo Ogbonna to beat Gianluigi Buffon with a fine angled strike in the 79th minute.
Gomez only recently returned from a long injury lay-off and welcomed his first goal of the season.
"I'm happy, I know how much this means to the city, to the club. Personally, it's also good for me to score and to know my form is slowly returning," the German told Mediaset.
"It's not easy to come here and play Juve, they're a top side. But that's one match down and there's everything to play for in the second."
Ahead of Sunday's trip to Genoa, Conte rested several regulars with Sebastian Giovinco and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo spearheading the attack while Carlos Tevez was excused and Fernando Llorente on the bench.
French midfielder Paul Pogba also started on the bench, however early nerves were settled when Vidal pounced on a loose ball in the Viola area to beat Neto with a crisp strike in the third minute.
Vidal spurned the chance to double Juve's lead with two first-half headers, although not before Alberto Aquilani and Mati Fernandez had tested Buffon with strikes at the other end.
Both sides created chances in a busy second half although Fiorentina came closest late on with Gomez, Borja Valero and Juan Vargas all fraying Buffon's nerves.
Buffon later told Sky Sport: "We wanted to have the same approach as we had on Sunday, but it didn't pan out as expected."
Conte said: "I'm happier with tonight's performance than Sunday's. We perhaps allowed Fiorentina too much space but we also had plenty of chances that we should have put away."