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Fiorentina hold off Club Brugge to reach Conference League final again

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Fiorentina reached a second consecutive Europa Conference League final on Wednesday thanks to a late penalty which earned the Italians a draw at Club Brugge and sent them through 4-3 on aggregate.

Lucas Beltran forced a penalty past Simon Mignolet's fingertips in the 85th minute as Fiorentina came back from Maxim de Cuyper's opener to restore their one-goal lead from the first leg of the semi-final and book their place in the final on May 29 in Athens.

Fiorentina now have the opportunity to avenge last year's 2-1 defeat to West Ham when they face either England's Aston Villa or Greek side Olympiakos in the final.

"It's a great journey, I am very happy... we go to the final again," said Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Italiano.

After edging the first leg 3-2 at home thanks to M'Bala Nzola's 91st-minute winner, Fiorentina left it late again in Bruges as they squeezed past the hosts in a seesaw encounter.

With 20 minutes on the clock, De Cuyper ghosted in as Hans Vanaken whipped the ball into the danger zone and appeared to get the merest of glances off his thigh as the ball drifted into the far corner to give the home side the lead.

Fiorentina nearly struck back immediately to restore their aggregate lead. Nicolas Gonzalez missed a one-on-one with Mignolet before Beltran dragged his follow-up effort agonisingly wide of the target.

The hosts had a good opportunity to take the lead on aggregate just before the half-hour but fine recovery defending by Dodo cut out Thiago's dangerous cross.

As an open game continued, Fiorentina came within inches of equalising three times when Cristiano Biraghi and Christian Kouame twice hit the woodwork either side of half-time with Mignolet beaten on each occasion.

The breakthrough for Fiorentina came with eight minutes remaining.

A spot-kick was given when substitute Nzola stooped for a header and the referee adjudged Brandon Mechele's foot to be high.

Beltran stepped up and duly slotted home the penalty, although Mignolet sprawled to his right and got fingertips to the ball as it crept over the line.

Tensions frayed and Brugge's Denis Odoi picked up a second booking, after having been subbed off, to pick up a red card.

One last gilt-edged chance did come Brugge's way, but Pietro Terracciano was equal to it as he made a smart save to deny Vanaken four minutes into injury time and send Fiorentina through to another Europa Conference League final.

On Thursday, Olympiakos take a 4-2 lead over Aston Villa into the second leg of their semi-final on home soil.

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