S.S. Lazio leapfrogged Werder Bremen in Group C and gave themselves a fighting chance of making the knockout stages after two second-half Tommaso Rocchi goals proved good enough for three points in Rome.
The Italian slid in to score after his own penalty had been saved three minutes before the hour before applying a cool finish after 68 minutes for what proved to be the decisive goal. Emílson Sánchez Cribari was sent off for Lazio in the 86th minute, and Diego converted a penalty for the visitors two minutes later before seeing red himself as Bremen dropped to the bottom of the section. Lazio, meanwhile, join Olympiacos CFP on five points following the Greek club's goalless draw with leaders Real Madrid CF.
With both sides knowing defeat would seriously complicate progression from the group stage, the match began in attacking fashion. Lazio, who had lost their previous four matches at the Stadio Olimpico, immediately found Bremen's high back line to their liking. On six minutes, Mourad Meghni sent Rocchi running past static defenders but the Lazio forward shot wildly wide instead of squaring to the unmarked Stephen Makinwa.
Two minutes later the in-form German side signalled their own threat as Clemens Fritz hared down the wing. The returning right-back's deep cross was just too high though and Hugo Almeida headed over. It was a frantic opening and back at the other end, centre-back Guglielmo Stendardo, up for a corner, met a swirling Cristián Ledesma centre but his close-range header landed at goalkeeper Tim Wiese's feet.
High and wide
The home side poured forward and the Bremen defence was again stretched on 13 minutes. Rocchi fed the overlapping Luciano Zauri but the left-back's right-foot shot from the edge of the box was brilliantly turned around the post by Wiese. Makinwa, in for the injured Goran Pandev, should have given the home side the lead midway through the first half. Superbly found by Ledesma, the Nigerian expertly broke the offside trap but after delaying his first shooting opportunity rushed his effort and Wiese parried.
Skippers Zauri and Frank Baumann were both casualties of the early first-half pace but it was Bremen who almost broke the deadlock on 50 minutes when Diego flashed wide after a flowing move. A minute after almost winning a penalty themselves, Bremen conceded one when Meghni was bundled over by Naldo. Rocchi's first effort was saved but he bravely followed up and managed to score with the ball trickling in off the post and ending up behind the sliding Italian and Wiese.
Naldo, rapidly becoming a pivotal figure in the match, almost made amends on 66 minutes but the Brazilian's venomous 20-metre free-kick was brilliantly stopped by the flying 43-year-old Marco Ballotta. Two minutes later and the centre-back was caught napping by Meghni's speculative pass. Rocchi latched on to the ball and expertly clipped it over the advancing Wiese for his and Lazio's second. There was late drama as Cribari and Diego were sent off either side of the Bremen spot-kick, although Lazio's work was done.