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 The season 2002/03 (part 2)

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Curva Maestrelli
Curva Maestrelli

Number of posts : 149
Age : 40
Country and city : MALTA
Laziale since : 1986
Registration date : 2008-08-12

PostSubject: The season 2002/03 (part 2)   Sat Aug 16, 2008 5:15 pm

Under heavy rain at the Stadio Olimpico, Lazio lost 1-0 the return match of the Uefa Cup bringing an end to an unbeaten run that lasted for 18 matches. On a waterlogged pitch, Sturm Graz scored the winning goal in the game's closing minutes. Thanks to Lazio's 3 - 1 away win in Graz , however, the Rome side still qualified for the next round of the UEFA Cup.

The away match at Juventus was next and it was a 2-1 triumph for Lazio, indisputably the better team on the night. A neat goal angled in by ex-Lazio player Pavel Nedved put the home side ahead in the first half. But the Juventus fans only had sixty seconds to celebrate before Stefano Fiore scored Lazio's equalizer. The Rome side continued to dominate, with Peruzzi remaining unemployed in goal. And at the beginning of the second half, the cohesion of a determined Lazio side paid off. Fiore hit a splendid volley into the net to give Lazio the lead. The team held onto their advantage until the final whistle, before celebrating with their fans. Lazio remain in second place, one point behind leaders Milan . The coppa italia was next and Lazio's 'midweek' team sealed their place in the next round, after a 2-1 victory in Empoli with goals by Chiesa and Pancaro. Empoli snatched a late goal, but failed to challenge Lazio's remarkable away record.

The last match before the Christmas break was a disappointing 1-1 draw in Rome against Bologna that moved Lazio back down to third place. Claudio Lopez scored to give Lazio the lead just before half time, but during the second half Lazio's celebrations were cut short when Zaccardo equalised for the visitors.

At the beginning of January 2003, Lazio's president Sergio Cragnotti announced his resignation after twelve happy years in charge. Club lawyer Ugo Longo was nominated new president. He indicated that he was standing in for a few months only, until the club is reorganised and permanent solutions found. He was responsible for re-shaping the board of directors, bringing in Parma 's director Luca Baraldi. Lazio's players received part of the salary owing to them, and the threatened legal action was halted.At the restart of Serie A Lazio failed to earn a place in the record books with an eighth consecutive away win at Brescia in the first Serie A match of 2003. Instead the game ended in a goalless draw which dims Lazio's title hopes slightly.

In the first leg of their Coppa Italia quarterfinal, Lazio won 2-1 against Bari . After taking the lead with Castroman, the home-side struggled to make headway, missing several chances in front of goal. Bari 's equaliser gave them the boost of an away goal, but in the closing minutes luck was on Lazio's side; a Fiore corner was cleared badly and came off a Bari player to give Lazio the victory. In the second leg at Bari ,Lazio fought a challenging match and despite pressure from the home side, managed a goalless draw that saw Lazio qualifying for the semi-final of the Coppa Italia.

Serie A season has reached the halfway point, and Lazio sealed their fairy tale by rising to second place after beating Udinese 2-1 in Rome . Lazio sent their fans wild when a Lopez goal gave the side the lead. However Udinese battled bravely and Muzzi scored a good equaliser before the ex-Udinese player Stefano Fiore, on his 200th game in Serie A, slotted the ball in neatly just before the half-time whistle which meant second place and a welcome home victory for Lazio. The visitors continued to threaten, but the exciting second half saw no change to the score. Milan were top, with both Lazio and Inter just three points behind. Then unexpectedly against Reggina, Lazio suffered their second defeat of the season at the Stadio Olimpico and subside to fourth place in Serie A. The first half ended 0-0, and as the second half began a moment's inattention from Stam gave the ball to Bonazzoli who scored the decisive goal.

Following the surprise first defeat of the season at home against Reggina, Lazio's next match was at Chievo. Mancini's side suffered some bad luck, hitting the woodwork several times, and paying for debatable refereeing decisions - including the penalty awarded to Chievo at the end of the first half. The home side took the lead, and despite dominating most of the game, Lazio faced losing three crucial points. Then with just a minute to go before the final whistle, Simeone got his head to a Fiore cross, and Lazio equalised.

The Coppa Italia first leg semifinal against Roma was next. The stadium was on fire and the game was hard-fought. Roma dominated for the first twenty minutes, Cassano slipping an easy goal past a befuddled Lazio. But once Lazio, the official home team, stirred themselves, the game changed direction, even if the scoreline didn't. Enrico Chiesa played a good game, and it was his move that set up Fiore for Lazio's goal in the second half, after Roma had made it 2-0. After striking the woodwork, sending countless chances just wide, and putting Roma's defence and 'keeper to the test, Lazio had to settle for a defeat.

In the league, Lazio's bad luck in their home matches continued with a frustrating draw against struggling Torino . Diego Simeone gave Lazio the lead in the first half, and midway through the second half, Ferrante equalised for the visitors. Before, between and after these goals, Lazio dominated the game and attacked the Torino goal constantly but fruitlessly. The next encounter was against Milan at San Siro. Lazio played an outstanding first-half, dominating the San Siro pitch. After the ball was pushed away by Milan goalkeeper Dida, Stankovic reacted superbly to fit a smart shot under the crossbar. Lazio doubled their lead minutes later, when ex-Lazio captain Nesta appeared to push Corradi. Referee Collina awarded a penalty to the visitors, and Lopez scored to double Lazio's advantage. For the second half, Ancelotti brought on Pippo Inzaghi, a change that altered the complexion of the match. It was Milan 's turn to dominate, and Inzaghi hurdled Peruzzi to score for the home side, before making an excellent run to set up Rivaldo for the equalizer. Both teams continued to fight for victory, but the match finished in a draw.

In the Uefa cup match against Wisla Krakow the match started slowly, until a goal by new boy Lazetic took Lazio ahead. The Polish side, however, soon delighted their five thousand fans with an equaliser, before an own goal once more gave Lazio the advantage. A dubious penalty awarded against a sliding Marchegiani gave Wisla their second equaliser. Then the reckless Marchegiani brought another player down on the edge of the area, and it was a second penalty, and a 3-2 scoreline for the visitors. Lazio battled back, bringing on Lopez to bolster the attack, and his pass gave Chiesa a ball perfectly designed to bring Lazio back on level terms. Chiesa didn't throw away the chance, and Lazio managed a draw.

Another disappointing home draw followed against Atalanta as Lazio encountered enormous difficulty getting the ball into the net. Then the match against Perugia came and Lazio managed a respectable draw, although extra points would have been useful for Mancini's side, who were slipping further behind first place in Serie A.

Then came the away match in Poland and, against the odds, Lazio beat Wisla to qualify for the next round of the UEFA Cup. After the postponement of the game the week before, and despite the controversy over the state of the Krakow pitch, the game could have turned nasty, but instead both teams played determined football on a difficult surface. The referee was the most notable casualty of the playing surface, limping off to be substituted by the fourth official early on in the first half. The home side took the lead after three minutes, with an opportunistic counter-attack. Lazio's prospects looked bleak; after a 3-3 draw in Rome , they needed to win this leg. As the team had repeatedly shown in this season's away fixtures, Mancini's players responded well to the challenge. A Fernando Couto header from a Lazio corner levelled the score, and sent the defender somersaulting with joy. During the second half, the Poles put everything they had into the game, but Lazio fought back, and a superb shot by Enrico Chiesa gave them the lead they needed. Next opponents were Besiktas.

The second league derby was next. Lazio took an early lead through Stankovic and outplayed their city rivals but despite constant pressure failed to increase the lead. Lazio had a Corradi goal disallowed for offside. Stankovic and Delvecchio were sent off. And finally, with minutes to go, Roma striker Cassano slotted the ball into the net to send his crowd wild for a final score of 1-1.

The next match was against Empoli at home. Lazio had an outstanding performance and despite going down after five minutes, the squad had a fantastic reaction and after just three minutes equalised through Lopez and then went in front with an acrobatic goal from Corradi. Simeone and Castroman added another two to round the score.

In the first leg of the Uefa quarter-final at home against Besiktas Lazio managed a 1 - 0 victory through Simone Inzaghi who marked his return as a substitute with a prompt winning goal for Lazio. The week after, early goals by Fiore and Castroman secured Lazio an away victory and a place in the semi-final against Porto .

The following Sunday Lazio went to Parma to play an important match against a direct contender for the fourth place in the table. The match was balanced and seemed destined for a 1-1 draw until a last minute goal from Adriano condemned Lazio to their second league defeat of the season. Then Lazio played at home against bottom-placed Como and easily won 3-0 thanks to Fiore, Corradi and Lopez.

Four days later the squad travelled to Oporto to play the first leg of the Uefa Cup semi-final against Jose Mourinho's mighty Porto . The match started excellently for Mancio's boys when Lopez put the light-blues in front. It seemed to be the goal that could give Lazio the eventual final, however four minutes later under a torrential rain Porto equalised and then dominated the match scoring another three goals for a final score of 4-1 that meant elimination. The second leg was quite a formality despite the fact that the squad that its best to try to overcome the three goal deficit but the match ended goalless with Lopez missing a penalty.

In Serie A the goalless away draw at Modena saw a tired Lazio extending their lead over nearest fourth-place challengers Parma . The clouds continued to gather overhead for Lazio, who in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal agaisnt Roma lost 1-0 and were eliminated. The absence of Stam and above all Peruzzi was a decisive factor. After several near misses, including a header which came off the post, Lazio still looked as though they could overturn the defeat of the first leg. But Roma began the second half with more conviction. Montella came on for Cassano and scored the sole goal by taking advantage of an error by Marchegiani.

The early-season hopes of Lazio fans took several blows during one week, as Lazio followed their Coppa Italia exit with a nailbiting home game against Piacenza and a draw against Porto that meant goodbye to the UEFA Cup. Against Piacenza , the home side stirred themselves to recover from a Piacenza goal. Reacting well, the squad managed a 2-1 victory, thanks to Inzaghi and Corradi , maintaining the 4-point clearance above Parma for the coveted fourth spot. In the second leg of the UEFA Cup semi-final, Lazio had to win 3-0. The club had appealed to fans for their support, and with tickets just one euro for women and children, the stadium was a sell-out. But all the singing and flag-waving was to no avail. The usual story of missed chances in front of goal, and a determined opposition left the scoresheet goalless. When Inzaghi went down in the area, and the disappointing Claudio Lopez saw his penalty saved by Porto goalie Vitor Baia, the writing was already on the wall for Lazio.

Lazio then travelled to San Siro and achieved an honourable away draw against Inter with an Inzaghi goal. Then came Juventus at home and after the familiar saga of missed chances culminated in a missed second-half penalty this time by Fiore, the match ended goalless.

Lazio needed a win at Bologna to continue its progress towards the next Champions League. The three points were obtained thanks to a 2-0 win with goals from Inzaghi and Favalli. To secure the fourth place a win against Brescia their last home match of the season was necessary.

In front of a sold-out Stadio Olimpico, Lazio came back from a 0 - 1 scoreline (Roberto Baggio's old magic) to score a celebratory 3 - 1 victory. Lazio equalised with a penalty by Sinisa Mihailovic in front of the Curva Nord. Exorcising past penalty nightmares, the defender blasted the ball home and Lazio had equalised. Shortly afterwards, Cesar gave the home team the lead, and during the second half Claudio Lopez scored Lazio's third goal. At the end of the game, the fans invaded the pitch. Thanks to Roma, who held challengers Chievo to a 0 - 0 draw, Lazio had now secured fourth position and a place in the following year's preliminary round of the Champions League.

Lazio's final match of the 2002-2003 season was disappointingly a 2-1 away defeat at Udinese with Lopez scoring a late-consolation goal from the penalty-spot. The team's fourth place was a highly honourable placing for a season wracked by financial uncertainties. Lazio ended the season with 60 points, 12 below winners Juventus and 11 above city rivals Roma. Like Juventus, Lazio only lost three matches, but won 15 to the leaders' 21.

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The season 2002/03 (part 2)
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