Early Lazio hope soon dissipated as a Radamel Falcao-inspired Atletico Madrid comfortably fought back to take a valuable first leg Europa League lead.
Entering the knock-out stages of the competition, both Coaches - Edy Reja and former Aquile man Diego Simeone - selected almost the best starting XIs respectively available for the first leg of their knockout fixture on Thursday evening.
Reja welcomed back Modibo Diakite into central defence alongside Giuseppe Biava, whilst Miroslav Klose started in attack with Hernanes behind him, in a 4-2-3-1 system. Antonio Candreva was handed a second start for the club since his January move.
Last season’s competition top-scorer Radamel Falcao started up top for Atleti and was supported by former Juventus playmaker Diego, in a similar formation chosen by Simeone.
Within a minute of kick-off, Falcao had a great opportunity to open the scoring, but he flashed a shot from six yards out over the crossbar.
Simeone’s side started the stronger in the match, but failed to create too much to test Federico Marchetti with, a 13th minute header from Miranda the next casual involvement from the shot-stopper.
A Falcao flick-on opened up the Lazio back-line, but in clearing the ball, Le Aquile went down the other end to open the scoring. A Thibaut Courtois howler saw Hernanes’ swerving effort rebound off his arms to an eager Klose to slot in for 1-0, midway through the first half. This was the first goal that Atletico have conceded since Simeone took over as Coach and arguably arrived against the run of play.
The lead only lasted five minutes though, as Adrian latched on to a Falcao knock-down to equalise. There were calls that the goal-scorer was offside, but replays showed he was just level with the last defender.
10 minutes later, Falcao struck to give Atletico the lead, finishing off a cross from Diego, after the Brazilian’s initial good work to get into the penalty area.
The Colombian could have had a second when he then tested Marchetti with a diving header minutes before half-time, having lost his marker Luciano Zauri in the box.
Lazio lost Giuseppe Biava to injury at half-time, Marius Stankevicius coming on as his replacement.
In the early stages of the second half, Hernanes tested Courtois with a neat shot form the corner of the penalty area, but the young Belgian comfortably scooped it up.
Zauri cleared off the line on 55 after a clever run into the box and back-heel by Adrian eventually saw Koke with the side-footed effort straight at the Lazio defender.
Atletico did make it 3-1 just after the hour mark as Falcao notched his second tap-in of the night. An intelligent ball down the channel sent Adrian in behind the Aquile’s back-line for the simple cut across the six-yard box for the No 9’s finish.
With 10 minutes left, Falcao had a penalty appeal turned down, after chasing the ball and falling under Diakite’s attentions.
The 3-1 defeat now leaves Lazio needing at least 2-0 away win in Spain to progress.
Lazio 1-3 Atletico Madrid
Scorers: Klose 19 (L), Adrian 25 (AM), Falcao 36, 63 (AM)
Lazio: Marchetti; Konko, Diakite, Biava (Stankevicius 46), Zauri; Ledesma (Zampa 84), Matuzalem; Gonzalez (Kozak 54), Hernanes, Candreva; Klose
Atletico Madrid: Courtois; Juanfran (Salvio 82), Miranda, Godin, Filipe; Suarez, Gabi; Adrian (Perea 66), Diego (Arda 73), Koke; Falcao
Ref: Pavel KRALOVEC (CZE)
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