Libor Kozák has become the first Czech player to top the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League scoring chart, despite his S.S. Lazio team being knocked out in the quarter-finals.
Going into Wednesday's Amsterdam showpiece only Óscar Cardozo and Fernando Torres had a realistic chance of overhauling Kozák. Though both players did find the net in the final, Torres putting Chelsea FC in front before Cardozo equalised from the penalty spot for SL Benfica, they were unable to catch Kozák.
Kozák's eight-goal haul came from ten appearances in the competition proper (he also scored twice in one play-off game), including all three in Lazio's 3-1 home victory over VfB Stuttgart in the last 16. That was one of six hat-tricks registered in the competition, including Edinson Cavani's four-goal salvo in SSC Napoli's 4-2 win against FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. Crucially, the 23-year-old Kozák could not find a way past Fenerbahçe SK in the last eight as Lazio bowed out.
With Chelsea and Benfica both transferring from the UEFA Champions League after the group stage, Cardozo (seven goals) and Torres (six) each brought up their tallies from fewer games – nine. For Cardozo, the switch reunited him with a competition in which he has enjoyed a lot of success: he was joint-top scorer in 2009/10 and his current total of 20 goals in the UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League puts him equal 15th on the all-time list.
Yet it is Kozák who takes this season's prize, becoming the first Czech player to end a UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League campaign as leading marksman. AC Sparta Praha's Petar Novák's four goals in the 1987/88 European Champion Clubs' Cup did earn him a share of the honours in that competition. Kozák's achievement is all the more remarkable considering he has not scored in Serie A this term.
2012/13 UEFA Europa League top scorers
8 Libor Kozák – S.S. Lazio
7 Óscar Cardozo – SL Benfica
7 Edinson Cavani – SSC Napoli
6 Rodrigo Palacio – FC Internazionale Milano
6 Fernando Torres – Chelsea FC
5 Raúl Bobadilla* – BSC Young Boys
5 José Rondón – FC Rubin Kazan
* Joined FC Basel 1893 in January
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