STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome): Lazio took a big step towards the Europa League knockout stages by coming from behind to beat FC Midtjylland 2-1 and claim some revenge for their humiliation in Denmark.
Gustav Isaksen’s well-taken early strike got the visitors off to a dream start, but Maurizio Sarri’s men eventually came to life and goals from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Pedro either side of half-time turned an entertaining game on its head.
Determined to make amends for a shock 5-1 defeat in September, the in-form Roman club claimed a result that extended their unbeaten run to eight games in all competitions and put them in a strong position to progress from a fiercely competitive group.
A tight group for Lazio
All four teams in Group F were tied on five points heading into the penultimate round, so Lazio’s win sent them top ahead of Feyenoord’s trip to Sturm Graz later in the evening.
Midtjylland’s resounding victory last month seemed to still be haunting Lazio early on, as the Danes took the lead after just eight minutes.
The goal was a mess of Lazio’s own making; Mario Gila’s ill-judged cross-field pass was intercepted and Marcos Antonio was unable to gather the loose ball, allowing Isaksen the chance to curl home a fine finish.
Remarkably, Midtjylland have managed to score more goals (6) against Lazio in 100 minutes of Europa League football than all of the Biancocelesti’s Serie A opponents combined have mustered in 11 matches this season.
Lazio rally after slow start
Going behind early stunned Sarri’s much-changed side, but a stuttering performance eventually came to life after the half-hour mark when Felipe Anderson stung the palms of Jonas Lossl.
Two minutes later Mattia Zaccagni, whose speed and trickery was causing all sorts of problems, got to the byline and the ball was worked back to Milinkovic-Savic, who expertly guided a finish into the bottom corner.
Confidence bolstered, Lazio pushed for another before the break as Toma Basic had a shot cleared off the line and Milinkovic-Savic’s curling effort required a fingertip save from the stretching Lossl.
Midtjylland almost caught Lazio cold after the break when Anders Dreyer headed off the bar and Edward Chilufya’s volley hit the side-netting, but Zaccagni soon produced a response when his deflected effort was palmed onto the bar by Lossl.
Zaccagni threatened again with a dipping shot that needed to be pushed wide, and soon after Lazio completed their comeback when Pedro found the bottom corner three minutes after coming off the bench.
Lazio had good chances to extend their lead as Anderson was denied when one-on-one with the keeper and Milinkovic-Savic’s clever finish drifted wide, and Pedro thought he had found the elusive third when he tucked home a finish, only for VAR to rule out the goal for offside
There was a worrying moment for the home crowd when Juninho headed in an equaliser late on, but the Midtjylland sub’s goal was also chalked off for offside.