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  04/10/2012: Europa League: Lazio - Maribor 1-0
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Lazio: Bizzarri, Konko, Dias, Ciani, Cavanda, Cana, Cabdreva, Hernanes, Gonzalez (83' Zarate), Ederson (69' Onazi), Floccari (90' Kozak).

Maribor: Handanovic; Milec, Rajcevic, Vidovic, Mejac; Filipovic; Ibraimi, Mertelj, Cvijanovic (87' Komazec); Tavares (61' Mezca), Beric.

Lazio welcomed Maribor, leaders of the Slovenian league to Stadio Olimpico and the first game at home in the Europa League. In a close to empty stadium the home team saw themselves dominated at the start of the game, but slowly making their way into the match as it developed.

Petkovic made a few changes to what has already become the established starting eleven, giving Cana and Floccari their first games from start and Ederson featuring from the first minute again.

It could have been 1-0 for Lazio withing the first minute as Hernanes stole the ball just after Maribor had kicked off, but Handanovic had no problems in holding a weak shot by the midfielder. After this it was the visitors who pushed Lazio back and came close to opening the scoring as Milec headed a well taken corner at the crossbar after Bizarri managed to get his hands on the ball.

The game became more and more lively through the second 15 minutes of the first half and Lazio started taking over the proceedings. Between minutes 16 and 30 Maribor tested Bizzarri again as Cana wasted a ball that the Slovenians were close to converting, followed by two balls hitting the post for Lazio and Candreva. Both attempts were flukes though and neither should be seen as any serious finish built on good play by Lazio.

At 26' Ederson thought he had opened the scoring despite clearly being offside, celebrating in front of the Curva Nord before realising the referee had blown his whistle. The Brazilian was looking more and more lively though and was the main man in creating danger for the Romans this evening.

The final ten minutes of the first half were slow and boring, with neither of the two teams doing much to attack. As the half time arrived Petkovic looked determined when walking down the tunnel, knowing what needed to be changed in the second half to get the result needed.

During the early minutes of the second half Maribor again looked the most dangerous side, creating issues for the Lazio defence on more than one occasion. After going close at 53' a corner three minutes after that could have given the visitors the lead. Tavares manages to avoid tapping the ball in for his team though, letting Bizzarri hang on to his clean sheet.

At 63' Lazio finally opened the scoring and just as against Siena on Sunday it was Ederson who got the first goal. Floccari showed he should be the first choice after Klose rather than Kozak, as he fought his defender and fired a shot that Handanovic could parry, but not hold. The rebound was then smashed in by Ederson, allowing him to celebrate with his eagle-like gesture. Shortly after the scorer leaves the pitch though, as a groin injury seems to be troubling the Lazio danger man.

15 minutes from time the game should have been over as Vidovic brings down Floccari inside the penalty area and is shown the red card. Hernanes steps up to take the penalty, but his weak shot allows Handanovic to keep his team in the game with a nice save.

With ten men Maribor never looked like being able to fight back the 1-0 lead Lazio had managed, while the home team themselves had a seriously hard time creating any pressure on the Maribor goal. Three minutes from time Ibraimi is close to upsetting the home crowd with a nice drive though, missing the goal by inches only.

In the 90th minute the same Ibraimi went close to equalising again, but failed to finish the last chance of the game off despite being inside the penalty box and having plenty of time to find a way through with his shot.

In the end Lazio got away with a 1-0 win and will top the group as Tottenham and Panathnaikos drew in Athens. Far from a convincing display by the Italians though, and Petkovic as well as the players should be wondering where the positive form shown during the first couple of weeks has gone. Maribor might not be the same team that Lazio beat 4-0 back in 1999, for sure Lazio is not the same team as back then, but tonight's display leaves many question marks despite the win.


Picture gallery : http://lazioland.com/GallerySub.htm?AlbumId=540

Author: Khashayar Kashefi
 
 
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