S.S. Lazio hat-trick hero Libor Kozák believes his side can go all the way to the final after seeing off VfB Stuttgart, who, Cristian Molinaro was forced to admit, were second best.
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S.S. Lazio striker Libor Kozák was delighted to take home his first match ball, and duly become the UEFA Europa League's leading scorer, after downing VfB Stuttgart with a hat-trick at the Stadio Olimpico. After seeing off their second Bundesliga opponents in the competition, and extending their European unbeaten run to 12 matches, Kozák said the Serie A side can go "all the way" to the Amsterdam final. A favourable quarter-final draw is all midfielder Ederson wants, while Stuttgart defenders Serdar Tasci and Cristian Molinaro humbly admitted they were simply no match for the Biancocelesti.
Libor Kozák, Lazio forward
This is my first hat-trick for Lazio and of course I am really happy. I am going to enjoy tonight, I am delighted for myself and my team that we have gone through. It is not like I give less in the league, I always try to give my best, even if something seems to be lacking in Serie A. Every minute I play, I try to do the same thing.
We are now into the quarter-finals and all the teams are strong, so it is going to be a great challenge for Lazio, for us and for the fans, and we will give it our best no matter who we face. I think everybody has seen how good we are and that we can make it all the way. If we have the mentality we showed today in the other games, then I think we will reach the final.
Ederson, Lazio midfielder
We controlled the game well, found a quick goal and that gave us a lot more confidence to dominate. We did not just want to sit back and see what happened, we tried to attack, to score and to cause them problems, which we did, and now tomorrow we hope to get a favourable draw to see if we can go even further.
This was a first for me, playing behind closed doors. It was difficult because we are used to having the fans pushing us, and that motivates you. It was really strange but we put that to one side and concentrated on the game and that was more important. We played two good games and took them seriously. They are a good team and they caused us problems.
Serdar Tasci, Stuttgart defender
You could say it was their effectiveness which made the difference. We played a decent first leg, but we conceded cheap goals and did not take our chances so it is obviously hard then to get anything from the second leg. We have come a long way in the Europa League and I do not think many people really expected us to get this far. We started very early in the play-offs against Dinamo Moskva, then we came through the group and then beat Genk.
It was a great experience for us and it will help us, because we have been able to measure ourselves against good teams and now we have to ensure we give it our best in the Bundesliga. If we want to get back into the Europa League, then our best chance will be via the cup. We play SC Freiburg at home [in the semi-finals] and they are having a strong season, but we will see – that would be the ideal way back.
Cristian Molinaro, Stuttgart defender
We came into the game after a 2-0 first-leg defeat, where we played badly, and we came here intent on putting Lazio under pressure immediately. But after going 1-0 down – when we were caught napping – the game went downhill from there. They are excellent in possession and it was easy for them to make it 2-0 on the counter. Lazio were far better, there is no doubt about that. Kozák scored three goals like a pure striker should – all three were beautiful goals, and credit to his team-mates who set him up – and he was ready.
Maybe we could have done better with our early chances in Stuttgart, where we also made a mistake for the opening goal, and when you miss chances like that it becomes really difficult. They can then close things up and you struggle to break them down. It has hardly been a good period for us of late and this does not help. We were not on a par with Lazio, but now we have to roll up our sleeves in the Bundesliga, where we have dropped into the bottom half, and climb back up again.