FLORENCE, Italy (AFP) - Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli defended his players after they were jeered off the pitch following a dull 0-0 home draw against Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League here on Tuesday.
La Viola lacked spark and immagination as they failed to break down a tight and disciplined Steaua outfit but Prandelli insisted people shouldn't expect too much, too soon from his team.
"We're back in the Champions League after many years away, I think we deserve congratulations not whistles," he told Sky Sport.
"You can't forget that we haven't played in the Champions League for many years. There needs to be a calmer reaction."
Even so, the Italians will feel like it was two points lost against a side considered to be the weakest in the group despite lifting the old European Cup back in 1986.
But Prandelli felt the Romanians had the edge physically.
"We had some diffculties tonight, especially because the Romanians were physically in better shape than us," he added.
"Steaua seemed fresher to me but I was really happy with our determination and character."
Steaua's coach Marius Lacatus, a former Fiorentina player, was pleased with his team although he was hoping for more.
"We played very well, we had chances to score but unfortunately we didn't manage to," he said.
"I am sorry we didn't get the three points but it's still a good result.
"We need to keep playing well and getting good results if we are to progress in the Champions League.
"There's some very good teams in this group, like Fiorentina, but it's a very balanced group."
Fiorentina have two points from two games, one more than Steaua who are propping up Group F.
A draw was a fair result in a match where neither side created anything more than half chances.
Fiorentina's Romanian forward Adrian Mutu, a former player with Steaua's bitter city rivals Dinamo Bucharest, was jeered heartily by the visiting fans but almost punished them after nine minutes, latching onto a long ball over the top from Mario Santana but blazing his volley over the bar.
Two minutes later and Steaua's Colombian goalkeeper Robinson Zapata rushed out to block a shot from Alberto Gilardino, who also had a strike blocked by Dorin Goian moments later.
Goian then freed Antonio Semedo with a long ball over the top but the Portuguese forward slotted his shot wide on 16 minutes.
Both sides were lacking quality in the final third and after a Martin Jorgensen slip let in Semedo again, he crossed poorly and Banel Nicolita's shot from the edge of the box was blocked.
Semedo was enjoying much success down the Steaua left and he beat Jorgensen again before hitting his shot into the side netting.
Jorgensen had had such a torrid time that Prandelli replaced him at the break with Luciano Zauri.
But two minutes later Steaua came close as Colombian forward Dayro Moreno burst through only to have his shot blocked by two defenders.
Halfway through the second period Mutu clipped the outside of the post with a brilliant curling free-kick, which he himself had won with a terrible dive.
Mutu came close again 10 minutes later as he peeled off to the back post and headed a cross from substitute Zdravko Kuzmanovic into the side netting.
But the visitors were gifted a chance on 78 minutes as a terrible back header from La Viola captain Dario Dainelli released Nicolita who crossed for Semedo but goalkeeper Sebastien Frey brilliantly kept out his shot with his legs.
The last chance, in injury time, went to Steaua's Greek substitute Pantelis Kapetanos who was through on the right but he took a heavy touch allowing Italy defender Alessandro Gamberini to charge across and block.
|Coach: C. Prandelli|
for M. Jørgensen 46'
for S. Almirón 74'
for R. Montolivo 81'
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