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Pirlo praised after set-piece masterclass

Andrea Pirlo was lavished with praise after his tie-winning free kick which saw Juventus reach the quarterfinals of the Europa League at the expense of Serie A rivals Fiorentina.

Andrea Pirlo scores Juventus' winner with a sublime free kick.
Andrea Pirlo scores Juventus' winner with a sublime free kick.

Rzouki: Eternal class

Pirlo, 34, struck a stunning set piece 19 minutes from time to secure a 1-0 victory in the second leg of the all-Italian last-16 tie at the Stadio Artemio Franchi to see the Turin giants progress 2-1 on aggregate. That winner came just four days after another of his trademark dead-ball strikes sealed a 1-0 win over Genoa to preserve Juve's 14-point lead at the top of Serie A.

Both the veteran's teammates and opponents were eager to hail the former AC Milan midfielder.

"I don't know how he does it," Arturo Vidal told reporters after the match. "I don't even try to imitate him, I just settle for being able to play with one of the best players in the world."

Another of Juve's clutch of midfield stars, Paul Pogba, added: "Pirlo's got feet of gold.

"To strike the ball the way he does, I'm going to need many years of practice yet. If only I could kick the ball like him."

Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella said his side had not lost to Juve, but had been beaten by Pirlo.

"He's a winner, and he was decisive," Montella said. "Juve are one of the most competitive sides in Europe and I'm sorry we had to face them."

Pirlo humbly claimed there was no secret to his set-piece wizardry.

"It's something I always decide at the last minute," he said. "It depends how I feel, how the wall is lined up and on the position. I'm delighted to have scored two fundamental goals in the league and the Europa League in the space of four days.

"Sadly, I can't change my age, but I'm still enjoying myself. I've not signed a new contract yet and I don't know if it will happen this month because the schedule's pretty full, but there's no problem with Juventus."

Pirlo's current deal expires in the summer, but Juve director general Giuseppe Marotta said in January that the club hope to get a new contract signed soon.

Juve fans will be hoping Pirlo's new contract is indeed a formality as they look forward to seeing more goals like the 11 the Italy international has scored from free kicks since joining on a free transfer from AC Milan in 2011.


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