S.S. Lazio head to Belgrade for the second leg of their UEFA Cup tie against FK Crvena Zvezda with a 1-0 lead, but they were given a stern examination by the Yugoslavian side and their passage to the third round is far from assured.
Stefano Fiore scored the only goal of the game in the eleventh minute, tucking the ball beyond the left hand of Ivan Randjelovic after he arrived unmarked at the near post to meet Fabio Liverani's right-wing free-kick.
Soak up the pressure
Having scored, the home side were happy to sit back and soak up whatever Crvena Zvezda threw at them in the first half. Initially, that was not much, but as the visitors grew in confidence, with Nemanja Vidic commanding at the back and Mihajlo Pjanovic becoming increasingly involved in midfield, they began to threaten.
They did not create a chance of note, though, until first-half added time, when some tentative defending from Lazio allowed Pjanovic a shot on the turn from eight metres that he fired over the bar. Moments earlier only a great challenge from Vidic had denied Massimo Oddo as he attempted to square the ball for Simone Inzaghi.
The second half could hardly have begun more differently, as both sides had their chances in a frantic opening ten minutes. The lively Branko Boskovic fired an effort just wide after Pjanovic's knockdown, then Inzaghi shot straight at Randjelovic after a slip from Milan Dudic.
Boskovic headed just wide, and Fernando Couto sent an overhead kick a fraction past the post, before the game gradually slowed as Lazio sat back on their lead. They almost paid for it as Ivan Gvozdenovic drilled a speculative effort just wide on 78 minutes.
Gzvozdenovic was at the centre of things again in added time, chipping a delicate ball into the box for Pjanovic, whose clever looping header was well held by Angelo Peruzzi. Right at the death Lazio could have doubled their lead, but Inzaghi headed well over after being picked out by a Claudio López cross.
'Go for a win'
Lazio coach Roberto Mancini admitted there was still much to do. "We could have scored one more goal," he said, and added of the second leg: "We will have to play with 100 per cent effort and will have to go for a win."
'A very good chance'
Crvena Zvezda coach Zoran Filipovic is determined to stop them, and warned: "We will have a very good chance playing in front of a full house - and Lazio are going to have a lot more problems than tonight."