A superb long-range strike by Luis Muriel eight minutes from time gave Udinese a 2-1 win over ACF Fiorentina in the rain-soaked first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final on Tuesday.
The Colombian’s fourth goal of a mediocre season handed Francesco Guidolin’s side a slender lead to take into next Tuesday’s second leg in Florence, with Juan Vargas grabbing a precious away goal with an amazing long-range shot of his own after Antonio di Natale had opened the scoring.
The win means Udinese are still on track for their first major trophy, which would make up for a poor league campaign that sees them struggling in 15th spot in Serie A with 23 points from 22 games, six points above the relegation zone.
Di Natale gave the hosts the lead against the run of play nine minutes before halftime, the former Italy international striker tapping in his second goal in a week from Silvan Widmer’s cross at the end of a fast counterattack.
Fiorentina players were screaming for a penalty a minute later when Alessandro Matri’s flick in the area appeared to touch Maurizio Domizzi on the elbow, but referee Carmine Russo waved away the visitors’ appeals.
Vargas shot them level with a pile-driver a minute before halftime after Di Natale was dispossessed on halfway and they looked more likely to grab a winner in the second half.
However, Muriel thumped a beautiful finish in off the post to delight the majority of the hardy crowd, who braved the torrid conditions to see the home side keep their season alive.
AS Roma were due to host stuttering SSC Napoli yesterday in the second semi-final, with Rudi Garcia’s side from the capital hunting a 10th Coppa Italia triumph.