Goran Pandev scored against his old club, but a sensational Stefano Mauri overhead kick gave Lazio the 3-1 victory over Napoli to consolidate third place. The result puts them six points clear of the Partenopei and three ahead of Udinese.
This was essentially a play-off for the third Champions League berth and more pressure was on after Udinese’s win earlier today. The Biancocelesti were without Miroslav Klose, Marius Stankevicius, Senad Lulic, Francelino Matuzalem and Andre Dias, so Lorik Cana and Antonio Candreva had rare starts.
Napoli had so many absentees that they abandoned their three-man defence. Camilo Zuniga and Walter Gargano sat out bans, joining the injured Christian Maggio, Marco Donadel and Antonio Rosati. Goran Pandev faced his former club, moving Marek Hamsik into a deeper role, playing in yellow shirt and white shorts.
It was an emotional night, as Giorgio Chinaglia’s original shirt from the 1974 Lazio Scudetto victory was displayed in the centre-circle, then placed on the bench for the game. His son and that side’s captain Pino Wilson were in the stands to commemorate the legend who died last week. During the minute’s silence a huge banner of ‘Long John’ was unveiled over the Curva Nord.
Lazio took the lead with their first real chance after nine minutes, as Tommaso Rocchi knocked back an Abdoullay Konko cross for Candreva, who hit a daisy-cutter past Morgan De Sanctis at the near post. It was a surprising goal for the ‘keeper to concede.
Edinson Cavani almost equalised moments later when sent through to spring the offside trap, but Federico Marchetti sprinted off his line to charge down with his legs. The move continued and a Hamsik angled drive from distance skimmed the back stick.
Cavani sent Ezequiel Lavezzi through, but the pass found nobody ready to tap in. De Sanctis seemed nervous after that early mistake and flapped at a Cristian Ledesma cross.
Napoli drew level with the former Lazio outcast Pandev, who won a bitter legal battle to leave the club after six months in the stands. The Macedonian was sent clear by an inspired Lavezzi backheel pass that stunned the Lazio defence and he did the rest, smashing the shot over an on-rushing Marchetti.
Pandev had penalty appeals when he appeared to be barged over by Cana, but the referee waved play on, perhaps because his first touch was heavy.
Alejandro Gonzalez replaced Hernanes at half-time, moving Stefano Mauri into the centre of that supporting trio.
Pandev should’ve made it 2-1 to Napoli within 50 seconds of the restart, as Lavezzi burst between defenders down the left flank to pull back, but the Macedonian only scuffed the tap-in. Lavezzi went for goal himself moments later, but lost his footing after skipping past Konko.
Lazio almost went in front too on 52 minutes, as Hamsik’s poor pass was intercepted and Candreva burst past Hugo Campagnaro to force a difficult save out of De Sanctis, then the defenders scrambled back to stop Rocchi tapping in the loose ball.
De Sanctis spilled a Rocchi shot, then the veteran’s header from a corner was past Giuseppe Biava at full stretch. Hamsik flashed a ball across the face of goal, but Gonzalez intercepted to knock it out for a goal kick off Lavezzi’s heels.
The game seemed to be slowing down, but Mauri came up with a moment of sheer magic. Stefan Radu’s cross from the left was deflected to loop up and Mauri immediately readjusted his position for a sensational overhead kick into the near top corner that left De Sanctis no chance. It was a fantastic finish from the former Udinese midfielder and gave Lazio the lead.
Mauri volleyed over after good work from Candreva and Gonzalez, while Edu Vargas was thrown on for Pandev.
Gokhan Inler under-hit a backpass that Rocchi pounced on, but Miguel Angel Britos lunged to trip the veteran for an inevitable penalty. Ledesma stepped up and stroked the penalty into the near top corner to double Lazio’s advantage.
Konko found space on the edge of the box and forced De Sanctis into a diving save with his curler.