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  25/10/2012: Europa League: Panathinaikos - Lazio 1-1
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Panathinaikos: Karnezis; Seitaridis, Pinto, Velazquez, Spyropoulos; Zeca, Vitolo, Fourlanos (68' Owusu-Abeyie); Sissoko (79' Mavrias), Fornaroli,(75' Toche) Christodoulopoulos

Lazio: Bizzarri; Konko, Ciani, Dias, Cavanda; Ledesma; Candreva, Hernanes (78' Onazi), Gonzalez (87' Cana), Mauri (46' Zarate); Floccari

Lazio traveled to Athens in order to create the perfect circumstance for advancing to the next step of Europa League. After a draw in London and a win in Rome, the team had managed to put itself in pole ahead of the clash with Panathinakos it was given that a win would give the Italian side a perfect chance for advancing from the group stage of the tournament.

Petkovic fielded a close to preferred starting eleven. Only three players were replaced from the game against Milan on Saturday, a decision that shows how seriously the competition is taken this time around. Lulic, who showed signs of fatigue towards the end of the Milan game, was left in Rome and Cavanda took his place. Ciani replaced Biava and Floccari again started in EL ahead of Klose. Else, the usual players were to be found on the pitch from the start.

For Panathinakos the game was a do or die encounter. A loss would see the distance between them and Lazio get extended to six points, with both Lazio and Tottenham away left in their schedule. The players fielded were the expected and the strongest possible out of the pool of players that Portuguese coach Ferreira has to select from.

The first half started with the visitors putting pressure from the very start, where Candreva fired a good shot after only two minutes, only to see his shot being saved to a corner by Karnezis. Within the first quarter of an hour Lazio created four corners, but Pana went closest with a chance wasted on a failed Dias clearance. A little later the same defender had to save a shot with his head as Gonzalez's shot had been deflected and led to a quick counter for the hosts. The Lazio defense again looked shaky without the pairing of Biava – Dias, a similar trend as in the other games where Ciani has replaced one of the two central defenders.

On 17' Lazio could have opened the scoring through Dias, but the Brazilian hit the upright with a well timed header on a good Candreva corner. Lazio's midfield, with Hernanes, Ledesma and el Tata, was slowly taking over the game and the home team felt more and more pressure when on the ball.

At 26' the opening goal came for Lazio and this through an own goal by Seitaridis. The Greek goalkeeper had left his area and saved a ball from corner by passing to the defender, but when he in his turn tried to find a teammate with a simple back pass the ball rather ended up in the empty net. It has to be mentioned that Floccari put a lot of pressure on the PAO players at the moment of the goal, somehow stressing the player to make a mistake that should not take happen in football at this level.

After this not much happened in the first half, as Lazio rather shut down the game and the Greek failed to put any pressure on Bizzarri. Ahead of the second half Petkovic went for one substitution, benching Mauri and introducing Zarate.

Five minutes into the half the lead was almost doubled for the visitors, as Zarate found Konko on the right and a well aimed cross was headed by Floccari, but the direction was slightly off the goal. Lazio dominated most of the show and despite playing at home Panathinaikos had to rely on quick counters in order to create any chances against a superior Lazio.

At 70' one of few chances in the second half came through Hernanes, but his attempt was saved comfortably. At the other end Lazaros responded with a shot passing Bizzarri's left post by less than a meter and only seconds later Owusu-Abeyie went close with a curled shot just outside the other post. The game had all of a sudden opened up and a fourth shot inside three minutes was fired by Gonzalez, but also the Uruguayan went wide.

With ten minutes remaining Pana got their golden opportunity to get an equalizer as Toche beat Ciani and Dias to find himself alone with Bizzarri, who managed to save Lazio from conceding their first goal in EL. The pressure against Lazio intensified and the veteran goalkeeper, often called the best second choice in Serie A, had to show quality in order to keep a clean sheet. Two great decisions on crosses from left and right and well timed exits on two corners within a couple of minutes meant Lazio was still in the lead.

The hosts opened the Lazio goal in the very last minute though, as the Lazio players looked more and more tired and the substitutions again meant Lazio were pushed back far down the pitch. Cavanda gave away a number of free kicks outside the penalty area, giving the Greeks the opportunity to put pressure on the Lazio goal and move up players. After having defended the well inside the area on numerous attempts the Lazio defense finally lost their marking and allowed the equalizer through Toche.

The final chance fell to Cana, who sent a volley high and wide off the goal. A draw away to Panathinaikos is not a bad result, but Lazio failed to take advantage of dominating the first half of the second 45 and towards the end Petkovic again showed he imposes a destructive tactic when Lazio are up. Against Milan the team managed to avoid dropping points and one could have hoped the Bosnian would have learned something from that, but the same tactics were employed today – leading to Lazio losing two points. As the other game in the group also ended in a draw, a win for the Biancocelesti would have meant a nice cushion having been established at the top of the group.

Picture gallery : http://lazioland.com/GallerySub.htm?AlbumId=547

Author: Khashayar Kashefi
 
 
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