Lazio are through to the Europa League knockouts after a 2-0 victory over Sporting Lisbon and Vaslui’s defeat to Zurich.
Edy Reja’s men had to get a better result than Vaslui in order to qualify for the next round, so were boosted by the 2-0 Swiss win. Despite the crucial nature of this game, they still fielded a below-strength side led by young striker Libor Kozak, though Djibril Cisse and Hernanes provided experience. Sporting Lisbon were already through to the knockouts.
Kozak just failed to get on the end of a Hernanes through ball and Cisse misplaced his cross for a totally unmarked Giuseppe Sculli. When they did get a shot on target, Hernanes fired straight at the goalkeeper.
On 25 minutes Sculli went clear and managed to dribble round Marcelo as well, but the angle was too narrow and the Sporting defence were able to intercept his pull-back for Kozak in front of an open goal.
Lazio’s pressure finally paid off just before half-time, as Kozak rose above the crowd to nod in a Senad Lulic cross from the left.
Straight after the restart, Albano Bizzarri needed a crucial save to deny Diego Rubio’s right-foot strike at the near post, then Andre Santos fired just over the bar.
Lazio doubled their advantage, though, as Sculli kept his cool to tap in Mobido Diakite’s assist as the goalkeeper rushed off the line.
Moments later Hernanes also went close to a third and Marcelo palmed Sculli’s splendid volley over the bar.
Ex-Fiorentina and Juventus striker Valeri Bojinov had a good opportunity to drag one back for Sporting, but Bizzarri was equal to his free kick.
Lazio 2-0 Sporting Lisbon
Scorers: Kozak 42 (L), Sculli 55 (L)
Lazio: Bizzarri; Cavanda, Diakite, Biava, Lulic; Ledesma, Cana (Gonzalez 53); Cisse, Hernanes (Zampa 73), Sculli; Kozak (Klose 85)
Sporting Lisbon: Marcelo; Pereirinha,Tiago Ilori, Onyewu (Costa 75), Evaldo; Andre Martins, Andre Santos, Schaars (Daniel Carrico 70), Carrillo; Diego Rubio (Insua 64), Bojinov
Ref: Dean (Eng)
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's World Cup tipster competition - £10,000 to be won!