Lazio fell to defeat in Spain to Atletico Madrid and have subsequently been eliminated from the Europa League at the Round of 32 stage.
Lazio headed into this encounter needing a miracle to progress, having fallen 3-1 in the first leg at the Stadio Olimpico. Edy Reja named what could be his last starting line-up as Lazio Coach and is able to name a more convincing back-line.
Without a host of defenders at the weekend, Reja was forced to change formation and name just Andre Dias as an available stopper in the League match at Palermo. In the wake of the subsequent 5-1 defeat, Reja handed in his resignation and had the club reject it, but has still indicated that his intentions will only be made clear after this evening’s Europa League clash.
Hours before the match, though, Reja had offered hope of staying, by suggesting that his resignation was not irrevocable.
The Coach had better options available to him on Thursday, with Modibo Diakite, Luciano Zauri and Senad Lulic all returning to feature alongside Dias at the back. Matuzalem and Cristian Ledesma started another game together, despite Reja's desire to rest them.
Stefano Mauri made his first start since returning from a serious thigh strain, whilst Libor Kozak deputised in attack for the absent Miroslav Klose. Federico Marchetti was only on the bench.
Atletico Coach Diego Simeone, meanwhile, was without playmaker and former Juventus man Diego, who was ruled out this week with a hamstring injury.
The Spanish had won their last five home games in European competition, whilst Lazio had only previously won once on Spanish soil, from six attempts.
In an uneventful opening, both sides provided early catching practice for the goalkeepers with a series of unsuccessful crosses at either end. Lazio visibly were struggling to find space in between an organised Atletico defensive unit.
Atleti’s Salvio was the first to test Albano Bizzarri between the Aquile sticks, forcing a corner after nicely working some space to unleash a shot. Soon after that he struck the post after Adrian Lopez had stolen possession and quickly released the ball to him.
At the other end, it was midway through the half before Lazio had pressured Thibaut Courtois in Los Rojiblancos’ goal, when the young Belgian slipped and needed two attempts to secure the ball.
Juanfran and Dias clashed in the penalty area soon after, but the goal-line referee who was two metres away did not signal.
The Spanish went close to taking the lead through Adrian. Koke beat his marker and passed the ball into the area for the onrushing forward, but Dias deflected his shot out for a corner.
Adrian was proving to be the difference in the game and wonderfully brought down a Perea header to then unleash a powerful effort that again forced Bizzarri into a save.
Within two minutes of the second half, Lazio’s fate in the competition looked sealed, with Diego Godin nodding in a corner from Gabi to make it 1-0 on the night, 4-1 on aggregate.
Almost immediately after that the home side went close on two occasions to doubling their lead, through attempts by Koke and Adrian.
Substitutes Arda Turan and Radamel Falcao combined to almost get on the scoresheet, after the Colombian striker fought off the attention of his marker. Turan’s subsequent shot took a deflection and almost resulted in an own goal. Straight after this, the home side had a penalty appeal turned down, when a ball into the area appeared to strike the hand of a Lazio defender.
Matuzalem almost pulled one back for the struggling visitors, latching on to a rebound from Perea to force Courtois to knock the ball out for a corner.
Atleti backed off the pace of play in the final stages and the Biancocelesti almost capitalised through substitute Enrico Zampa’s run and shot in the area that produced another good save from Courtois.
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Lazio (4-1 on aggregate)
Scorers: Godin 48 (AM)
Atletico Madrid: Courtois; Dominguez, Miranda (Silvio 70), Godin, Perea; Assuncao, Gabi; Juanfran (Arda Turan 58), Salvio, Koke; Adrian Lopez (Falcao 61)
Lazio: Bizzarri; Zauri, Diakite, Dias; Lulic (Rozzi 77); Matuzalem, Ledesma (Zampa 80); Mauri, Hernanes, Candreva (Gonzalez 57); Kozak
Referee: Martin ATKINSON (ENG)