FC Nantes Atlantique advanced from UEFA Champions League Group D into the second group stage after beating S.S. Lazio 1-0 in a closely fought game in the Beaujoire stadium.
The decisive goal came in the 72nd minute when Pierre-Yves André's near-post flicked header - from Nicolas Laspalles cross - looped over Angelo Peruzzi into the net. The defeat means that Nantes top the group while Lazio finish bottom and miss out on a UEFA Cup place.
The goal came at just the right time for Nantes as Lazio, who had played cautiously on the counterattack in the first half, had begun to suggest that they might just take control of the game. Both Hernán Crespo and Darko Kovacevic had missed good chances for the Italian club just before André's headed goal.
In the build-up to the match, Lazio coach Alberto Zaccheroni had conceded that his main worry was that his strikers had struggled to find their form this season. The Roman club have now managed just seven goals in 13 matches and in the Champions League group stage only one of their strikers - Claudio López - had found the net and that was from the penalty spot.
Zaccheroni's fears proved prophetic as that lack of striking intent was once again evident in the Beaujoire. López and Crespo failed to gel as a partnership in the first half, so much so that at the interval Zaccheroni replaced López with Simone Inzaghi. The switch produced a more productive approach in the final third, although it was not enough.
If Lazio's strikers had a disappointing night, so did the likes of Stefano Fiore and Gaizka Mendieta, who never provided sufficient quality of service to their strikers. Indeed for most of the match the Lazio midfield was out-thought by Nantes' middle trio of Eric Djemba-Djemba, Salomon Olembe and Sylvain Armand. Mendieta, in particular, had another quiet game and was substituted midway through the second half.
Close first half
The opening half of the game testified to the tense nature of the occasion. The initial exchanges were like a game of chess as each side probed one another as they sought to discover the others weakness. Nantes had the better of that period of the game and the invention and movement of the two Cameroonians, Djemba-Djemba and Olembe, and Armand was always to the fore.
Stéphane Ziani also had another impressive night as he dropped back to receive the ball from his midfield as well as to create space for the Nantes forwards Hassan Ahamada and André. So tight was the game during those opening 45 minutes that there was only one real chance created by either team. That fell to Nantes when Nicolas Laspalles' free-kick from the right found Armand whose glancing header shaved a post.
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