LISBON (AFP) - Fiorentina earned a vital 2-2 draw away from home at 10-man Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League play-off round here on Tuesday.
The Italians will now be favourites to progress to the competition group stage following next week's second leg in Florence.
The visitors took an early lead when Juan Vargas lashed home a low shot from outside the area.
Alberto Gilardino had crossed from the right and the Peruvian took the ball on his chest, bundled through a weak tackle and sent home a strike on six minutes that Rui Patricio got a hand to but couldn't keep out.
Fiorentina were lucky not to have a man sent off, though, when Alessandro Gamberini tangled with Sporting's Brazilian forward Liedson.
Gamberini appeared to lash out with his hand in Liedson's neck but was only shown a yellow card, as was Sporting's Montenegro striker Simon Vukcevic, who shoved the Italian in the chest following the original fracas.
That was followed by a spell of home dominance with Everton target Joao Moutinho forcing French goalkeeper Sebastien Frey into a sprawling low save.
Former Tottenham forward Helder Postiga went close again in first half stoppage time but curled his effort just past the upright.
The Portuguese predictably came out firing at the start of the second period and deservedly drew level on 58 minutes when Vukcevic pounced on a kind deflection in the box to slide home past Frey.
However, the Montenegran then stupidly removed his shirt in celebration and was promptly shown a second yellow card and sent to the stands.
Even so, the hosts extended their lead on 66 minutes as Miguel Veloso thrashed home an unstoppable shot into the top corner from outside the box.
That opened up the game with Fiorentina pushing forward for an equaliser and Sporting looking to hit them on the counter.
Riccardo Montolivo came close to restoring parity as he ran through two tackles but then shot too close to Patricio.
However he then fashioned La Viola's stunning leveller as Gilardino took his chip into the box on his chest before prodding home a volley with the outside of his right boot.
Substitute Stevan Jovetic almost snatched a winner for the visitors three minutes from time but after leaving two men on the seat of their pants in the box, he shot straight at Patricio.
|S. Vukčević||12' 58' 59'|
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for Pedro Silva 57'
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for Hélder Postiga 81'
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