Despite losing the second leg 1-0 in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome tonight, S.S. Lazio moved through to the fourth round of the UEFA Cup with a 3-2 aggregate win over SK Sturm Graz.
In a game of few chances, the only goal arrived three minutes from time, and was no more than Sturm deserved for a battling performance. Günther Neukirchner played the ball forward to substitute Herbert Rauter, who in turn found Imre Szabics inside the Lazio area, and his shot was placed beyond the diving Emanuele Concetti and into the far corner of the net.
Lazio held a 3-1 lead from the first leg, and rarely looked like losing that advantage. However, Sturm refused to give up hope and began the match brightly in treacherous conditions. Heavy rain made the pitch heavy and slippery underfoot, and both sets of players initially found it hard to keep their feet. Passing was difficult in the opening stages, with the ball holding up and the two teams took some time to come to terms with the playing surface.
Chiesa goes close
The first half was a tight affair, with much of the game played in midfield and chances few and far between. However, Enrico Chiesa had the first sight of goal after 15 minutes as he cut in from the left and beat György Korsós, only to drag his shot into the side-netting from the edge of the penalty area. Neither goalkeeper really had a serious save to make and the two sides were reduced to long-range shots. Didier Angan tried a shot from a similar position to Chiesa, but Emanuele Concetti made a comfortable save.
The second period began in brighter fashion, and the away side came close when Concetti was forced to palm away a Korsos header. Szabics came even closer in the 70th minute, but his flicked header drifted agonisingly wide. Simone Inzaghi missed a golden chance to put Lazio in front five minutes from time, as César Rodrigues and Christian Manfredini linked up down the left, but the Lazio striker could only flick the ball wide from in front of goal.
'We did not play well'
Lazio coach Roberto Mancini was disappointed with the result, saying: "
We did not play well tonight. The whole game was conditioned by the first leg, but we should have done better. Our attackers were too isolated and so we created few chances." However, Mancini refused to be too critical of his players, as he went on to say: "I think the heavy pitch and the weather affected the game. Although I am disappointed with the result, I would rather lose tonight than on other, more important occasions."