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Kozák shines as Lazio cruise past Stuttgart

Published: Thursday 14 March 2013, 23.23CET
S.S. Lazio 3-1 VfB Stuttgart (agg: 5-1)
Libor Kozák became the competition's top marksman, striking a superb hat-trick to help Vladimir Petković's men see off their German visitors.
by Ben Gladwell
from Stadio Olimpico

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Published: Thursday 14 March 2013, 23.23CET

Kozák shines as Lazio cruise past Stuttgart

S.S. Lazio 3-1 VfB Stuttgart (agg: 5-1)
Libor Kozák became the competition's top marksman, striking a superb hat-trick to help Vladimir Petković's men see off their German visitors.

S.S. Lazio forward Libor Kozák underlined his UEFA Europa League pedigree by becoming the tournament's leading scorer with a hat-trick that ended VfB Stuttgart's slender hopes of overturning a two-goal deficit from the round of 16 first leg.

Kozák took his tally to eight goals in eight outings as Lazio finished off their second Bundesliga opponents in a row, after disposing of VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach in the last 32, with his first two effectively sealing victory within eight minutes at the Stadio Olimpico. Tamás Hajnal grabbed a consolation for Stuttgart before Kozák struck again late on as the Biancocelesti became the first Serie A side to reach the last eight of this competition since it assumed its current format in 2009.

The real difference between the teams was highlighted when an efficient Lazio converted their first chance, as they had done a week ago. Ştefan Radu's low cross from the left was an open invitation for Czech international Kozák, who made no mistake from close range. Moments later, Hernanes arrowed a ball through the Stuttgart defence and into the path of the 23-year-old, whose venomous shot grazed the underside of the crossbar on its way past Sven Ulreich, all but ending the contest.

Vedad Ibišević was presented with the opportunity to reduce the arrears midway through the first half, but it was perhaps indicative of his side's lack of incision over 180 minutes that he was unable to control the ball with only Federico Marchetti to beat. Gotoku Sakai and Raphael Holzhauser both stung the palms of Albano Bizzarri, on for the injured Marchetti, as a spirited Stuttgart sought a more respectable end to their European campaign, which they found when Hajnal fired through a pack of players for a long overdue consolation.

A ruthless Kozák was not sated, though, and moments after being denied at point-blank range by Ulreich, he clinched a 3-1 victory, heading in Antonio Candreva's cross to take the match ball home.

Last updated: 16/03/13 0.10CET

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