Lazio emerged 4-2 winners in a pulsating game againstNapoli at the Stadio San Paolo in their key Serie Aclash on Sunday night. Marco Parolo and Antonio Candreva struck to put the visitors in a commanding position. Gonzalo Higuain scored twice in ten second half minutes while Parolo was dismissed for two bookable offences. Faouzi Ghoulam also saw red for the hosts and Higuain missed from the penalty spot. Ogenyi Onazi scored a late winner within seconds of coming on to secure and Miroslav Klose headed home in injury time.
This was a last round showdown for third place and Champions League qualification, as the Partenopei needed a victory to leapfrog their opponents in the table. The Aquile feared their entire campaign falling apart in the final three weeks after losing the Coppa Italia Final to Juventus and a defeat to Roma putting second place beyond them. Miguel Angel Britos started his three-match ban for headbutting Alvaro Morata, joined by the injured Jonathan de Guzman and Michu, while Stefan Radu and Lucas Biglia were sidelined for the visitors, Miroslav Klose only fit for the bench. There was a minutea s silence and Napoli are wearing black armbands after former player and Coach Bruno a Petissoa Pesaola died on Friday.
But, despite the efforts of a partisan crowd, they struggled to get going and it was not until the 12th minute that they carved out a chance that saw Higuain pass the ball into Federico Marchetti’s legs. Gokhan Inler could not make any of his passes stick and when Jose Callejon darted into the area to connect with one of the better efforts, Marchetti was on hand to smother. Lazio capitalised on their hosts’ uncertainty and opened the scoring against the run of play in the 33rd minute.
It was a fine goal that brought Parolo into double figures for the season, the former Parma midfielder cutting inside from the left before driving the ball over Mariano Andujar’s shoulders and home. Napoli looked shell-shocked and failed to respond with half-time rapidly approaching and they were duly punished. One minute into stoppage time Lazio doubled their lead and tightened their grip on third place as Senad Lulic sent Candreva into a one-on-one with Andujar that the Italy midfielder won with ease.
Ten minutes after the break, the game erupted into life as Higuain tapped home from close range, following Callejona s dangerous low cross to give the home side a fresh impetus. The pendulum had swung and it was now Lazio who could barely cope and seconds later Dries Mertens fired an effort past Marchetti, only to see it cleared off the line by Stefan De Vrij at the last second. In what was now a breathless affair, after 62 minutes the game took another twist as Parolo was dismissed for a second bookable offence and Beniteza s side took advantage almost immediately as Mertens found space on the left before playing in Higuain, who showed his composure inside the box and fired home to level affairs.
Just as Napoli were on top, Ghoulam picked up two bookings within five minutes to level up the numbers with twenty minutes to play. Higuain wasted his chance to complete his hat-trick as Lulic fouled Christian Maggio in the box and the Argentine blazed the resulting penalty over the crossbar. Remarkably, Lazio retook the lead with five minutes to go as Onazi, with virtually his first touch, side footed home from the angle to silence the home supporters. To compound matters, in injury time Klose stooped to head home Cristian Ledesmaa s free kick to ensure that Lazio claimed the final Champions League spot.
Rafael Ben tez failed to deliver Champions League football to Napoli as his final act before leaving the Serie A club. During half-time he motivated his players to hit back, and Gonzalo Higu ina s quickfire brace rocked the Biancocelesti before the Argentinian missed a penalty to cool Napolia s comeback. With Juventus and Roma having secured automatic entry to the Champions League, Napoli required no less than a win at the San Paolo to leapfrog Lazio into third place and qualify for the competitiona s playoffs at the capital cluba s expense. Napolia s defeat, as well as Fiorentinaa s 3-0 victory over Chievo, saw Rafael Beniteza s men drop one place to fifth in what was the Spaniarda s final game at the club ahead of his reported move to Real Madrid. Napoli join Fiorentina in next seasona s Europa League, with Sampdoria, who finished seventh.
Rafa Benitez takes Napoli from second to fifth while spending A?110m in two years and lands the Real Madrid job. Nice work if you can get it.
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) May 31, 2015
After selling Hernanes to Inter last January, a time when he was undoubtedly their most influential player, Lazio slumped to a ninth-place finish that meant they missed out on European football altogether. Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovi a having delivered the glory of a Coppa Italia Final victory over city rivals Roma a returned to his homeland to lead the national team, and the return of former favourite Edy Reja failed to spark the Biancoceleste. Pioli a once a journeyman central defender whose playing career included spells with both Juventus and Fiorentina a has solidified his reputation as a pragmatic tactician, transforming the previously porous Lazio backline into a well-drilled, cohesive unit. Having conceded 54 goals last term, they have allowed just 38 this year, with both De Vrij and Basta playing key roles. Their finances are also in good order, setting a strong example to many of Serie Aa s other once-great clubs and putting them in a strong position to sustain their current success. Like their mascot Olimpia a the eagle who soars around the Stadio Olimpico before their home games a it will be interesting to see where Lazio finally land next season.
— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 31, 2015 .