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Kozák double keeps Lazio flying high

S.S. Lazio 3-0 Panathinaikos FC
Vladimir Petković's men maintained top spot in Group J as two Libor Kozák goals earned a commanding victory against their Greek visitors.

Libor Kozák takes the plaudits after opening the scoring for Lazio
Libor Kozák takes the plaudits after opening the scoring for Lazio ©Getty Images

Two first-half goals from Libor Kozák helped S.S. Lazio see off Panathinaikos FC and cement top spot in UEFA Europa League Group J.

With Vladimir Petković resting several players ahead of the derby against AS Roma at the weekend, Kozák repaid his coach's faith by notching in the 23rd and 40th minutes. Sergio Floccari made it three with a header in the second half to leave the Italian hosts on eight points, a win away from securing qualification.

After a balanced start, it took a piece of individual brilliance to open the scoring. Kozák provided it, the 23-year-old Czech forward controlling a ball in the box with his back to goal, before turning on the spot and chipping into the top corner of Orestis Karnezis's net.

Moments later, Kozák received a blow to the head but soldiered on. The home fans were glad he did as five minutes before the interval he pounced on Loukas Vyntra's weak pass across the Panathinaikos area to find the bottom corner with a precise side-footed effort.

Just before the hour the game was up for the Greek club as Floccari nodded in Mauro Zárate's free-kick from the left. Panathinaikos failed to organise a threatening response and only troubled Federico Marchetti with a powerful free-kick from Giourkas Seitaridis.

With two points from their opening four matches, Jesualdo Ferreira's side must win both remaining fixtures to keep qualification hopes alive, beginning against NK Maribor on 22 November. Lazio sit two points above Tottenham Hotspur FC, who travel to Rome on matchday five.