Felipe Caicedo broke his Lazio duck and Ciro Immobile scored a late second to beat Zulte Waregem 2-0 in the Europa League.
The Aquile won the opening game 3-2 away to Vitesse, but had to do without injured Stefan de Vrij, Wallace, Bastos, Dusan Basta and Felipe Anderson, while Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Nani were only fit for the bench. Belgian Cup winners Zulte Waregem lost 5-1 at home to Nice in their group debut.
This game was played behind closed doors due to a left-over ban from Lazio’s last participation in the Europa League.
The deadlock was broken after 18 minutes when Jordan Lukaku’s cross was knocked down at the back post by Adam Marusic for Felipe Caicedo’s diving header from five yards.
Alessandro Murgia turned his marker from 12 yards to drill straight at Nicola Leali, the goalkeeper on loan from Juventus, and Davy De Pauw wasted a promising counter-attack for the Belgians.
Luis Alberto’s ferocious half-volley from the edge of the box flashed just wide and Caicedo nutmegged a defender to enter the box, but then ran into a crowd.
Marco Parolo’s rising right-foot strike was palmed out from under the bar by Leali, but moments later Zulte almost equalised, Aaron Leya Iseka inches past the near top corner.
The Belgians made a double substitution at the break and seemed livelier, a free kick charged down with handball appeals waved away.
Lazio lost Luis Alberto to a suspected right ankle sprain, but introduced Ciro Immobile and Milinkovic-Savic to get the game under control.
It should’ve been 2-0 on 67 minutes when Milinkovic-Savic whipped in a cross for the head of Caicedo, but the Ecuador international incredibly turned wide from a couple of yards.
A corner fell to Caicedo, but Leali somehow managed to parry from point-blank range and again on the rebound, Zulte desperately scrambling it clear.
Moments later, the visitors went on the counter and had their best chance of the game so far, Thomas Strakosha with a decisive reaction save one-on-one with Leya Iseka.
Heylen risked an own goal on Immobile’s pull-back from the by-line, but Strakosha flew to palm a towering Olayinka header round the near post. Hamalainen’s powerful free kick also whistled just past the upright.
However, Lazio’s quality paid off in the final minute, as Alessandro Murgia surged forward and waited for the perfect time to roll across the pass for Immobile, who put a wicked bend on the low ball into the far bottom corner with his right foot.
Lazio 2-0 Zulte Waregem
Caicedo 18 (L), Immobile 89 (L)
Lazio: Strakosha; Patric, Luiz Felipe, Radu; Marusic, Parolo, Di Gennaro (Immobile 54), Murgia, Lukaku (Lulic 79); Luis Alberto (Milinkovic-Savic 54); Caicedo
Zulte Waregem: Leali; De Fauw, Baudry (Saponjic 84), Heylen, Hamalainen; Derijck, De Pauw (Kaya 46), Doumbia; Coopman, Leya Iseka, Kastanos (Olayinka 46)
Ref: Lechner (AUS)
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