Lazio 0-3 Sparta Praha (agg: 1-4)
Zdeněk Ščasný's irrepressible side powered on to the last eight with three excellent first-half finishes in Rome.
Article top media content
- Bořek Dočkal hits terrific opener in Rome; Ladislav Krejčí delivers stylish second
- Lukáš Juliš finish on 44 minutes completes nightmare first half for Lazio
- Keeper David Bičík excellent as Sparta go a 12th game unbeaten in competition
- Lazio go out, defeat matching their worst previous home result in competition
- Quarter-final draw streamed live on UEFA.com from 13.00CET on Friday
Sparta Praha stormed through to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, shredding Lazio in the first half to destroy their hosts' away-goals advantage from the round of 16 first leg.
Having struggled to contain Lazio in Prague, Sparta were under pressure within seconds, David Bičík saving from Antonio Candreva, but Zdeněk Ščasný's men's energy soon told. Ladislav Krejčí pulled the ball back for Bořek Dočkal to beat Federico Marchetti with a fizzing low drive from outside the box on ten minutes, and Lazio were 2-0 down two minutes later, Krejčí sending a carefully-measured angled finish inside the goalkeeper's right-hand post.
The Biancocelesti should have hit back; Bičík got down well to keep out Stefano Mauri, and was on his guard again to field a long-range Candreva shot. However, Sparta were not content to defend their lead. Dočkal had Marchetti on edge with another effort from range, and it was 3-0 by half-time, Lukáš Juliš gracefully hooking in following Martin Frýdek's delivery from the left.
No side since Barcelona back in 1975 had beaten Lazio 3-0 at home in this competition, and the Roman team did their best to make it look a bit more respectable after the break, but Bičík confounded them repeatedly. He got behind Mauri's close-range strike, repelled an Alessandro Matri attempt, while Miroslav Klose flashed another shot wide.
Key man: Ladislav Krejčí
At 23, the Czech international winger has spent his entire career at Sparta – something of a shock given how consistently he has delivered in Europe. His cutback for Dočkal's opener was canny; his finish for Sparta's second wonderfully composed; and his energy throughout emblematic of a team that plays with real selflessness, joy and no small amount of elegance.
Sparta's shock and awe
Coach Ščasný said ahead of the rematch that his side could not sit back and defend, and they did not. Even before that early one-two of goals, they had shown an irrepressible desire to push forward, and that continued even after common sense dictated they might be wiser to hold back. In defence, they appeared haphazard at times, but they look like a team who can outscore anyone.
No consolation for Lazio
Both clubs came into the game unbeaten in this season's UEFA Europa League, and having watched their side bring down bigger prey in the form of Galatasaray in the last round (having also drawn that first leg 1-1 away), Lazio fans cannot have expected Stefano Pioli's men to buckle against Sparta. With the team going nowhere in Serie A, exiting the UEFA Europa League will ratchet up the pressure on the Biancocelesti.