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Goals from Bernardo Corradi, Stefano Fiore and Sinisa Mihajlovic took S.S. Lazio a step closer to a place in the UEFA Champions League group stage after a 3-1 victory over SL Benfica at the Stadio Olimpico.
Corradi opens scoring
Striker Corradi opened the scoring in the 15th minute, lifting the ball past goalkeeper José Moreira after taking full advantage of some confusion in the Benfica defence.
Peruzzi kept busy
That goal followed an anxious start by the Roman side, however, on a hot night. Lazio goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi had to stop long-range efforts from Petit and Simão Sabrosa early on and he was called into action again before the break when he kept out a Tomo Sokota shot at his near post.
Benfica handed lifeline
Fiore scored the second on 52 minutes, volleying in after a scramble in the Benfica box. However, the Portuguese, playing their 150th match in European football's leading club competition, were thrown a lifeline when Dutch international Jaap Stam's poor clearance allowed Portuguese international Simão to beat Peruzzi with a shot which deflected in off Massimo Oddo.
Winger Sérgio Conceição, back at Lazio after a two-year spell with Internazionale FC, almost made an instant impact after being introduced by coach Roberto Mancini in the second half when his looping shot was tipped over the bar by Moreira. However, Mihajlovic's superb 30-metre free-kick ten minutes from time restored the hosts' two-goal advantage.
Camacho rues mistakes
Benfica coach José Antonio Camacho said afterwards: "Lazio were supposed to do more tonight to win this game. Benfica helped them by committing some mistakes, mainly due to our lack of experience. We have complicated our lives in view of the second-leg match. Now, everything will be much harder. However, we did manage to cause them some problems."
His counterpart, Mancini, said: "Benfica are ahead of us in their pre-season preparations. We could not do more than that. We reacted well after their goal, and I'm happy for the team. We have not yet reached the Champions League, but we have the aces in our hands."
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