Milan: A stroke of free-kick brilliance from Andrea Pirlo secured Juventus's ticket to the Europa League quarter-finals after a 1-0 win over 10-man Fiorentina on Thursday as Napoli were sent crashing out by FC Porto. Fiorentina had high hopes of making the last eight of Europe's second tier club competition after a 1-1 draw in Turin last week when Mario Gomez levelled late for La Viola following Arturo Vidal's third-minute strike.
The Florence-based side are also the only team to have beaten Juventus in Serie A this season (4-2) and last season held the Old Lady to a draw at the Artemio Franchi. However in a hard-fought match Vincenzo Montella's hosts failed to capitalise on what was a poor performance from Juve before the interval.
Fiorentina suffered a huge blow on 68 minutes when defender Gonzalo Rodriguez saw red for a second bookable offence after hauling down Fernando Llorente on the edge of the area. It gave Juve a free kick in Pirlo's preferred territory, and after the intervention of English referee Howard Webb, who told the Fiorentina defensive wall to step back a few paces, Pirlo smashed the ball past Brazilian 'keeper Neto and into the top right-hand corner.
It was the second time in five days Pirlo has struck a late winner for Juve, having curled an 89th-minute free kick past Mattia Perin to secure a 1-0 away win against Genoa on Sunday.
Napoli's hopes of joining the Italian champions in the last eight were given a boost by Goran Pandev's 21st-minute opener but tempered when Nabil Ghilas came off the bench to level in the 69th minute for Porto.
Ricardo Quaresma virtually ended Napoli's hopes when he dribbled round Valon Behrami and Gokhan Inler to lodge his drive into the roof of the net in the 76th minute. Duvan Zapata came off the bench to level for Napoli at the death but Porto, 1-0 winners in Portugal last week, went through 3-2 on aggregate. The draw for the quarter-finals, played on April 3 and 10, is held in Switzerland on Friday.