Tue, May 26, 2015 - Page 18 News List

ACF Fiorentina clinch Europa League spot

AP, MILAN, Italy

ACF Fiorentina’s Josip Ilicic, center, scores against US Citta di Palermo in their Serie A match at the Stadio Renzo Barbera in Palermo, Italy, on Sunday.

Photo: EPA

ACF Fiorentina won 3-2 at US Citta di Palermo to ensure qualification for the UEFA Europa League on Sunday after UC Sampdoria were held 1-1 at Empoli earlier in the penultimate round of Serie A matches.

Marcos Alonso netted the winner 11 minutes from time after Fiorentina had twice been pegged back.

Josip Ilicic, who had been roundly jeered by the Palermo fans, scored a stunning opener against his former club — and even the home fans applauded.

“It’s a very difficult match for me, I carry Palermo in my heart, but I play in another team and I have to give my maximum,” Ilicic said.

Fiorentina moved back into fifth spot and cannot be caught by seventh-placed Sampdoria, who could still qualify for Europe if Genoa fails in their appeal against a decision to deny them a UEFA license.

Torino’s hopes of qualifying for Europe are over after they lost 3-0 at AC Milan.

Stephan El Shaarawy scored twice to prove he is getting back to his best following two injury-hit seasons.

Elsewhere on Sunday, veteran forward Luca Toni netted twice in Hellas Verona’s 2-2 draw at already-relegated Parma to boost his challenge for the top-scorer award.

Toni, who turns 38 today, took his tally to 21 Serie A goals this season, putting him one ahead of Carlos Tevez and Mauro Icardi going into the final round of matches — when Verona host Tevez’s Juventus.

“I’m playing for it in a relaxed and calm manner,” Toni said. “I will try and win because it would be a great satisfaction, both for me and for my teammates. It’s also thanks to them that I’ve scored 21 goals.”

Cagliari won 1-0 at AC Cesena in a match between the other two relegated sides, while US Sassuolo beat 10-man Udinese 1-0 and AC Chievo Verona drew 1-1 at home to Atalanta BC.

Ilicic spent three years at Palermo before moving to Fiorentina in July 2013 and he came back to haunt his former team with a screamer of a long-range strike which flew into the top-left corner.

The Slovenia midfielder did not celebrate, waving an apology to the Palermo supporters, who applauded the quality of the goal. Ilicic was clearly emotional and even appeared to be crying.

Gilardino had scored Fiorentina’s other goal, either side of equalizers from Mato Jajalo and Luca Rigoni.

The only downside for Fiorentina was the dismissal of Jasmin Kurtic in stoppage-time after the former Palermo midfielder earned two yellow cards in as many minutes.

Sampdoria had been challenging for the top three a few months ago, but a run of one win in their previous eight matches had left them outside the Europa League spots.

Samuel Eto’o canceled out Matias Vecino’s opener with a last-gasp equalizer for only his second goal since he joined Sampdoria from Everton in January.

El Shaarawy, rated as one of Italy’s most promising players two years ago, was given his first start since January and the 22-year-old gave Milan the lead in the 18th minute, controlling a Cristian Zaccardo cross on the edge of the penalty area, before firing into the bottom-left corner for his first goal at San Siro since December 2012.

Milan appeared to have thrown the match away at the end of the first half when Zaccardo was sent off for bringing down Cristian Molinaro when the Torino defender was clear on goal. It was Milan’s 13th red card of the season.

Milan coach Filippo Inzaghi was also dismissed during the interval as he complained that play should have been stopped in the build up to Zaccardo’s dismissal as Amauri was offside.

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