S.S. Lazio reached the third round of the UEFA Cup as Enrico Chiesa's free-kick earned them a 1-1 draw against FK Crvena Zvezda in Belgrade, to put them through 2-1 on aggregate.
The home side attacked from the off and saw a hatful of chances go begging before they finally took the lead after 70 minutes. Ivan Gvozdenovic's right wing free-kick found Branko Boskovic unmarked at the far post, and he powered his header into the back of the net.
Boskovic almost made it 2-0 two minutes later, as he nipped in at the near post, but his flicked header was well saved by substitute keeper Emanuele Concetti.
Five minutes later, Lazio levelled, again from a free-kick just to the right side of the box. Chiesa's first effort was pushed wide by Ivan Randjelovic, but the referee ordered a retake because of some pushing in the box just before the kick was taken.
Chiesa's second effort was lower, and far less powerful, but it crept under the wall, through a crowded box and beneath the unsighted Randjelovic's despairing dive.
With the away goal, Lazio were happy to sit on their lead, but Crvena Zvezda will rue a host of wasted first-half efforts. As in Rome a fortnight ago, much of their best attacking enterprise came through Boskovic.
Off the post
It was he who went closest to opening the scoring before the break, drifting through two challenges before unleashing a 20-metre shot that came back off the upright on 12 minutes.
To give Lazio credit, they did restrict Crvena Zvezda to mainly long-range efforts, the marauding right-back Marjan Markovic twice drawing low saves out of Luca Marchegiani.
The keeper, who was replaced at half-time, apparently because of a hand injury, had to be at his best on 36 minutes, first denying a typical Boskovic run and shot, and then recovering to block Dragan Mrda's follow-up from a narrow angle. Two minutes later Ivan Gvozdenovic forced another useful save from Marchegiani with an effort from distance.
Lazio looked fleetingly dangerous on the break, with Lucas Castromán their greatest threat. He went closest for the Italians in the first half, when his overhit cross forced a fine back-tracking save from Randjelovic, but with Nemanja Vidic again in commanding form, chances were few and far between for the Italians.
They got the goal when they needed it in the second half, though, to clinch their place in Friday's third-round draw and end Crvena Zvezda's brave effort.
Despite the defeat, Crvena Zvezda coach Zoran Filipovic was delighted with the way his youthful side had performed. "We deserved to win tonight," he insisted. "I'm convinced that only luck denied us.
"My team gave everything they had, and we weren't scared of Lazio. We were determined, and it looked like we would get the second goal, but we were punished in the cruellest possible way."
His Lazio counterpart Roberto Mancini admitted that his side had been forced on to the back foot. "They were the better side tonight but we are a more experienced side, and that was what decided the match," he said. "We have played many games like this before, and in football you have to be wise."
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