Hellas Verona fights back to draw Udinese to keep European hopes alive
MAY 10, 2014 3:39p ET
A last-gasp equalizer from substitute Emmanuel Badu saw Udinese cancel out Hellas Verona's two-goal lead and force a 2-2 draw at the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi.
Eighth-placed Hellas retained faint hopes of qualifying for the Europa League and veteran striker Luca Toni put them on the right track with his 20th goal of the season. Emil Halfredsson struck after the break to temporarily lift Verona into sixth place, but a wonderful goal on the volley from Antonio Di Natale - his 190th in Serie A - convinced Udinese to fight back.
As Hellas retreated to survive four minutes of stoppage time, midfielder Badu emerged from the dugout to rattle home a late leveller that called time on Verona's European challenge. After 14 minutes of fruitless tussling, Hellas won a penalty when Alessandro Agostini was upended by Allan after dribbling past two men.
It fell to the 36-year-old Toni, who last reached the 20-goal mark in Italy while at Fiorentina back in 2007, and he rolled back the years to send Simone Scuffet the wrong way and put Hellas ahead. His fellow veteran Di Natale, also 36, then tried to force Udinese back into the tie with a sighter, which Verona goalkeeper Rafael smothered with some difficulty.
The hosts should have made it 2-0 - and Toni should have scored his 21st goal of the season - shortly before the break. Toni looked poised to wheel away in celebration when pinging the ball towards the empty goal at the end of a swift counter-attack, but Danilo somehow got back to clear off the line.
Five minutes after the restart, Thomas Heurtaux missed a gilt-edged chance to level for Udinese as he slammed Di Natale's pass wide from two yards out. And Verona made sure to punish their opponents for their profligacy as soon as they could.
This time Scuffet had no time to think about which way to leap as Halfredsson's improvised swing at a Juanito cross doubled Verona's lead. Perhaps still smarting from his failure to peg the Gialloblu back immediately after Toni's opener, Di Natale dragged Udinese back into the contest with a goal of real quality in the 56th minute.
With his back to goal, the wily Neapolitan hooked the incoming ball with his left boot before spinning and volleying under the crossbar with his right. Then, on the hour mark, substitute Fabrizio Cacciatore saw his bullet header cleared off the line by Allan as Verona pushed to restore their two-goal advantage.
Udinese looked more likely to score next, though, with Heurtaux's swerving attempt deflecting off Rafael Marques before Vangelis Moras dispossessed the lurking Di Natale. The Gialloblu continued to live dangerously through the final exchanges and Di Natale really ought to have done better with his free header at the far post.
However, one minute into stoppage time, Badu arrived from the bench to complete the comeback with a daisy-cutter that left Rafael open-mouthed.