Goran Pandev twice cancelled out Ruud van Nistelrooy strikes to ensure S.S. Lazio took a deserved point from their entertaining encounter with Real Madrid CF in UEFA Champions League Group C.
The F.Y.R. Macedonia forward equalised after Van Nistelrooy's eighth-minute opener with an emphatic goal two minutes past the half-hour, only for the Dutch international to restore the visitors' advantage on 61 minutes with a typically assured finish. Lazio would not be denied, however, and Pandev responded for the second time with 15 minutes left to give his side a second successive draw ahead of games against point-less Werder Bremen. Madrid have four points and are level with their next opponents, Olympiacos CFP, at the head of the standings.
Van Nistelrooy opportunism
The nine-time European champions provided the perfect answer to the barrage of noise which had greeted their arrival. With eight minutes gone, Wesley Sneijder bent in a vicious right-footed free-kick that evaded a string of blue-shirted defenders but not Van Nistelrooy, who duly flicked past Marco Ballotta from close range. Undeterred, Lazio rallied and Cristián Ledesma brought Iker Casillas into action for the first time moments before the half-hour with a long-range free-kick. That effort lifted the crowd and sparked a spell of intense home pressure.
Pandev and Tommaso Rocchi, who had passed a late fitness test, were making their usual darting moves and from one such foray, Rocchi slipped his strike partner clear but the Macedonian hurriedly blazed over. Two minutes later, though, Pandev made amends in style after Casillas had made an instinctive stop to keep out Massimo Mutarelli's header. Lazio swarmed forward and, from their next attack, Stefano Mauri chipped forward, Guglielmo Stendardo headed across goal and this time Pandev made no mistake, volleying high into the top corner.
Suddenly there was no respite as the Spanish team tried to react. Sergio Ramos advanced from his right-back berth but the quality of his finish did not match the rest of the move as he curled well wide from the edge of the area. It was an equally frantic beginning to the second half, Ballotta defying his 43 years to acrobatically parry Van Nistelrooy's overhead kick and then block the striker's volley from Arjen Robben's cross. Previously Mauri had sprung the Madrid offside trap only to shoot weakly at Casillas.
With the crowd in full voice, Lazio pushed forward and should have gone ahead when Pandev picked out Rocchi with a splendid pass but the latter, cutting in from the left, rifled into the side-netting. The Rome side were made to pay within four minutes, Van Nistelrooy running on to Raúl González's through pass and dinking over Ballotta. Again, Lazio refused to admit defeat and they got their reward on 75 minutes when a loose ball was collected by Pandev, who turned inside on to his left foot and shot low past Casillas's despairing dive. After substitute Stephen Makinwa fired straight at the Madrid keeper in the final minute, both teams had to be content with a point from a pulsating tie.