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By Tom Kington at the Stadio Olimpico
S.S. Lazio saved themselves from defeat with a dramatic 56th-minute bicycle kick from Roberto Muzzi, but their 1-1 draw with Besiktas JK left them close to exiting the UEFA Champions League and leaves the Turkish side looking a safer bet for qualification to the last 16.
Lazio looked assured at the start of the first half, patiently probing the Besiktas defence without leaving the back line unprotected, just as coach Roberto Mancini - absent through illness - had called for. With veteran Demetrio Albertini initiating some flowing moves from midfield and the excellent Dejan Stankovic proving a constant source of crosses from the left, the home side found regular openings, only to see Bernardo Corradi and Simone Inzaghi lacking the killer instinct in front of goal.
Inzaghi skied a shot over from Sérgio Conceição's teasing cross in the ninth minute, the first of a series of misses which culminated in a one-on-one with Colombian goalkeeper Óscar Córdoba in the 35th minute where the Lazio striker let the ball run away from him.
As the Roman side upped the pace to find the advantage they craved, Besiktas sensed an opportunity. Ibrahim Üzülmez forced Massimo Oddo to track back as he pushed down the left before shooting from distance in the 28th minute, and three minutes later Sergen Yalçin and Ilhan Mansiz both saw shots saved by Angelo Peruzzi.
At the other end, Stankovic continued to create problems, taking a stream of passes up the left flank from Giuseppe Favalli, his perfect footwork holding off two defenders in the 39th minute and drawing applause from the home crowd. And with Besiktas playing on the counterattack, what threats they posed were comfortably handled by Jaap Stam.
However, the visitors' patience was finally rewarded as Lazio saw the half-time whistle approaching and let down their guard. A lightning series of passes from Italian Federico Giunti and Ilhan found Sergen on the edge of the area, where the hitherto unflappable Stam brought him down for a penalty which Pancu slotted in.
With a one-goal cushion, Besiktas dropped all defensive caution from the restart, Ilhan missing a close-range chance in the 50th minute before Tayfur shot from range three minutes later as the Turkish side stepped up the assault. Lazio's fightback started from an unlikely source, a text-book bicycle kick from veteran substitute Muzzi - a first goal since arriving this season which made up for Inzaghi's profligacy.
With the final cross for Muzzi coming from fellow substitute Stefano Fiore, the new-look second-half Lazio appeared full of promise, with Muzzi sending in a long, low cross in the 58th minute that was touched narrowly wide by a lunging Inzaghi.
As the game opened up into an attacking contest, Ibrahim again made life difficult for Oddo on the left with surging runs before Corradi hit the post with a header. Lazio continued to push for the vital winner, Muzzi putting a side-footed shot wide at the end of a sweeping move, an unflagging Stankovic continuing to threaten on the left and Albertini seeing a fierce shot parried in the 80th minute. But as Lazio tempers began to fray Besiktas kept their nerve as the clock wound down to earn a valuable draw.
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