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Honours even after 'exceptional battle'

Besiktas JK coach Mircea Lucescu said the draw with S.S. Lazio summed up the tight nature of Group G.

By Tom Kington in Rome

A tight draw in Rome between S.S. Lazio and Besiktas JK, punctuated by a first-half added-time penalty and a world-class overhead goal, left both sides well aware that they can still make the UEFA Champions League knockout stages.

Victory needed
Lazio, who trailed at half-time, must hope already-qualified Chelsea FC avoid losing to Besiktas on 9 December, thus leaving a second-place berth open. They have to win at AC Sparta Praha, however, which is no mean feat against a side that drew 0-0 at Chelsea tonight. If Lazio do pick up three points, their head-to-head record with Besiktas would mean the Turkish champions could not afford to draw with the Londoners.

Assistant bullish
"We are no longer masters of our own destiny, but even if we need favourable results in the group I am still confident we can go through to the knockout stage," said Lazio assistant coach Fernando Orsi, standing in for the ill Roberto Mancini.

Game moved
Besiktas must face Chelsea without the boisterous home support they were expecting, after UEFA announced yesterday that the game was to be moved in view of the current security situation in Turkey. "Playing right to the last game, with all teams capable of qualifying, shows this group has been among the most even," said Besiktas coach Mircea Lucescu. As for neutral venues, the Romanian suggested Bucharest as a "potential option".

Complicated equation
The equation would be further complicated if Sparta beat Lazio and Besiktas can only draw, leaving Sparta and Besiktas on eight points. Besiktas would go through on away goals having lost 2-1 in Prague and won 1-0 at home to Sparta. Even better for Besiktas, though, would be victory against Chelsea, which would leave them as group winners.

'No emotion'
Tonight's match in Rome was a good illustration of the parity in Group G, as Lazio pushed and probed in the first half before being hit by a last-gasp Besiktas counterattack which saw Sergen Yalçin brought down just inside the penalty area by Jaap Stam and Daniel Pancu converting the spot-kick. "Tümer [Metin], who was not on the pitch at the time, is the regular penalty taker, but as I stepped up I felt no emotion," said Pancu.

Varied views
Orsi acknowledged that it was a blow. "Needing to win at all costs, and then conceding a penalty really affected us," he said. "Until that point Besiktas had managed only a handful of counterattacks." Lucescu disagreed: "We played better in the first half, closing the game down and counterattacking, but after [Ilhan] Mansiz nearly scored at the start of the second half, Lazio really waged an exceptional battle."

Lazio push
The comeback was spurred by substitutes Roberto Muzzi and Stefano Fiore, the latter crossing in the 56th minute for Muzzi to send in a powerful overhead shot. "In the second half our aggression and will to win raised our game and we scored," said Fiore. "We kept on until the end and could have won - what a pity."

'No mistakes'
Lazio right-back Massimo Oddo added: "We made no mistakes and played a perfect game but unfortunately results are not going our way at the moment. We attacked from the first to the last minute. We now need to win in Prague but there is more than a little hope because Chelsea will come second in Group G if they lose."