Lazio demolished Udinese 3-0 at the Olimpico despite seeing an early penalty saved and fly into fifth place, just two points shy of Inter and Fiorentina.
These teams finished in the top four last season and Udinese won the battle for a Champions League preliminary round spot, but were stuttering in recent weeks. Miroslav Klose returned from a knock, but Ederson stepped in for the not 100 per cent fit Hernanes. Andre Dias, Cristian Brocchi and Mauro Zarate were sidelined. Udinese missed Giampiero Pinzi, Mehdi Benatia, Dusan Basta, Andrea Lazzari, Diego Fabbrini, Luis Muriel and Paulo Vitor Barreto.
Lazio were wearing a special jersey for this game carrying the slogan ‘No racism’ after recent incidents in and around the Europa League games with Tottenham. It made little difference to certain figures in the stands, who launched another anti-Semitic chant that was quickly drowned out by the jeers of the majority.
There was controversy after 11 minutes when Stefan Radu flicked on a corner with his heel and struck Willians’ hand behind him. Udinese insisted it was ball-to-hand and therefore unintentional, but the referee pointed to the spot as the arm was raised. Cristian Ledesma stepped up and his accurate but fairly slow penalty towards the near bottom corner was brilliantly parried by Zeljko Brkic. The goalkeeper also got back up quickly to block Stefano Mauri’s follow-up.
Udinese went very close moments later, as Antonio Di Natale curled a free kick straight on to the crossbar.
However, it was Lazio who did break through with a well-worked team move. Mauri’s inspired first time through ball sent Alvaro Gonzalez down the left and he smashed the rising drive under the bar.
Things got worse for the Friulani, as Gabriele Angella had to replace the hobbling Maurizio Domizzi in defence.
Antonio Candreva, who is still on loan from Udinese, almost scored against his former club when bursting forward on the counter, but his snapshot found a strong Brkic hand. From that corner, the goalkeeper got his rush off the line all wrong, but Danilo crucially charged down the Ederson follow-up.
Candreva pulled back for Klose, but he let it through only for Mauri and Gonzalez to get in each others’ way.
Klose did get the second on the half-hour mark, bursting through the defenders on a Mauri flicked pass from the centre-circle and side-footing into the net after sending Brkic the wrong way.
Udinese also threatened from a corner, as Danilo’s header whistled just past the far post. Federico Marchetti got away with a howler, as he fumbled Di Natale’s free kick and was fortunate that Andrea Coda only prodded the dropped ball wide from point-blank range.
After the restart Klose was set up by another Mauri assist, but hesitated when trying to find the right angle and was eventually charged down. Coda was booked for bringing down Klose in a counter-attack and that free kick proved crucial.
Substitute Hernanes curled a wonderful set piece over the wall and in at the near post to leave Brkic stranded. Despite not being 100 per cent fit, The Prophet still celebrated with his trademark backflip.
Mathias Ranegie’s header was well over, but Udinese made absolutely no dent in the Lazio back line. In fact, there was almost a fourth in stoppages on the counter for Senad Lulic.
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Saved penalty: Ledesma 12 (L)