Tuesday Jun 02, 2020  
  14/12/2011: Europa League: Lazio - Sporting Clube de Portugal 2-0 (1-0)
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Lazio: Bizzarri, Cavanda, Diakite, Biava, Lulic, Cana (53’ Gonzalez), Ledesma, Hernanes (73’ Zampa), Cisse, Sculli, Kozak (85’ Klose).

Sporting Clube de Portugal: Marcelo, Peirerinha, Ilori, Onyewu (76’ Mario), Evaldo, Andre Santos, Martins, Schaars (69’ Carrico), Carrillo, Bojinov, Rubio (65’ Insua).

Lazio had the toughest of paths if the team wanted to advance from the group stage of Europa League and avoid another humiliating early exit. Not only was a win needed against the strongest side of the group, but also an already eliminated FC Zurich had to get a result against Romanians Vaslui, the team that would kick Lazio out of the tournament with a win in Switzerland. Added to the difficulties presented above, the list of important injured players had kept growing over the week and the latest absence was Rocchi who caught the flu in recent days. The task looked more or less impossible for Lazio, but just as on so many occasions before Lazio showed that counting them out is the wrong thing to do.

Coach Reja was forced to insert Bizzarri in goal, play Cavanda in Konko’s place and Lulic on the left of the defense. The midfield and attack saw Cana, Ledesma, Sculli, Hernanes, Cisse and Kozak fielded and again the injuries had forced Reja and the team to test new things out. It has to be said that Sporting Lisbon did field the majority of their regular starters but that they also looked a little less interested in the game than Lazio all through, an outcome of the fact that the Portuguese had the top spot of the group secured before this game.

The game was Lazio’s from the first minute to the last. Before Kozak headed in his first goal of the season in the 42nd minute Sculli, Hernanes, Cisse and Kozak had all looked dangerous behind a sleeping Sporting defense. When Lulic sent the beautiful cross leading to the 1-0 goal it was now up to Zurich in Switzerland to not let Vaslui get the win that would make the result in Rome irrelevant for the future of the biancocelesti. Despite playing more reserves than regular starters Lazio looked sharper than before in the tournament, and the new players definitely made the team look more interested than earlier. As the first half came to an end Lazio were through to the next round as Zurich managed to hold on against an attacking Vaslui, and many started sensing this could be the night that many laziali had been waiting for. After the failure during the last spell in Europe many have been hoping for Lazio to get some success outside Italy that will attract players to the team – after all it was the chance of playing regular football in a good league and in Europe that brought Klose and Cisse, amongst others, to Lazio during the summer. With 45 minutes left the desire to get through to the next round, something many had dreamed for but avoided to hope too much about, felt closer than ever. But would Zurich manage to continue to hold on?

If there were any doubts about Lazio doing their job this evening they came to an end when Diakite, after a brilliant run, served Sculli who secured the Lazio win with the second goal after ten minutes of the half. The rest of the game felt as a formality as Sporting looked less than interested to do anything to turn the game around and Reja was even given the chance to test another Primavera player as Zampa was brought on for Hernanes. The result in Zurich would now be deciding the outcome of the group, and just as the Olimpico crowd knew the game in Switzerland was still 0-0, the Vaslui players knew the pressure of them scoring a winner was growing. The Romanians turned more and more attacking as time was running out and Zurich looked less and less likely to hold on to the draw that would send Lazio through to the next round.

In the 69th minute the liberating announcement reached Rome; Zurich and Margairaz had grabbed a goal and now Vaslui had a mountain to climb in order to continue the celebrations that were started two weeks ago and after the final whistle of the game between Vaslui and Lazio in Romania. The game in Rome looked less and less of interest, and despite a brilliant Bizzarri save on a Bojinov shot not much of quality happened during the last parts of that game. As the final whistle sounded in Rome FC Zurich managed to double their lead – sending Lazio through to the knock out stages, and Vaslui back to Romania with a cancelled party waiting for what was supposed to be returning heroes for Romanian football.

On Friday the draw for the first play-off stage will take place and since a long time Lazio faithful will be watching with interest. There are some major European sides present in this year’s edition, with both Manchester teams having the most well known players at their disposal, and the tournament look more interesting than ever. The fact that Lazio made it through to the next round is a miracle on its own and Reja’s goal of Lazio playing in the finals of the Europa League in 2012 can still turn into reality. We were all reminded, once again, to never stop believing in Lazio and that in this illogical game called football anything can happen.
(Khashayar Kashefi)

Picture Gallery : http://lazioland.com/GallerySub.htm?AlbumId=485 

Player Ratings:

Bizzarri: 6.2
Cavanda: 6.1
Biava: 6
Diakite: 7.1
Lulic: 6.2
Cana: 5.9
Ledesma: 5.9
Cissé: 6
Hernanes: 5.8
Sculli: 6.3
Kozak: 6.6

Gonzalez: 5.8
Zampa: 5.8
Klose: N/A

Reja: 6.5

Man of the Match: Mobido Diakite

After his shaky performance against Lecce the defender was back at his best tonight. Solid in defence and made several of his trade-mark attacking runs with the last one resulting in a goal.

Flop of the Match: Alvaro Gonzalez

It was difficult to understand why Gonzalez replaced Cana in the 54th minute. El Tata struggled to get in the game and especially his passing were below par.

Honourable Mention: Enrico Zampa

The 19-year old has been a starter for the high flying Primavera this season. Today he was rewarded with his first senior match for Lazio, home at Olimpico. This should motivate him and other young players in the future.

Todays ratings are brought to you by: Eivind Ytreland, Wahyu Eka Pradana, Nicklas Karlsson, Mark van der Enden & Ed.
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