French defender scores priceless winner in the closing stages as Edy Reja's side continue quest to enter Europe's premier tournament next season
Mobido Diakité struck late in an abject encounter, but the result was a fair reflection of the match, with Lazio claiming the victory they deserved, while Cagliari never looked likely to score.
The hosts came into the match without their coach Edy Reja, who took his place in the stands following his dismissal against Catania, with assistant Giovanni Lopez taking charge of first team duties. The hosts were further set back by the absence of top goalscorer Miroslav Klose, who remains sidelined for a month.
The first half saw Massimo Cellino’s men defend resolutely, with Lazio short of ideas, resorting to numerous long range efforts that failed to trouble visiting custodian Michael Agazzi. Cagliari didn’t offer an attacking threat in the first half, failing to register a single effort on target with home goalkeeper Federico Marchetti a relative spectator.
Abdoulay Konko was the Biancocelesti’s best outlet down the right flank and his cross for Rocchi was the central moment to the first half, with the veteran unsuccessful in claiming for a penalty. Cagliari defender Davide Astori was untidy in the challenge but the Lazio captain did make plenty of it as the referee waved play on.
The second half saw a much needed change in tempo; with Lazio replacing Stefano Mauri for forward Libor Kozak and thus signalling their intent. The home supporters were in bullish spirits, aware of how crucial the match was to their side’s future European aspirations and this was exemplified on the pitch, with Lazio transformed and full of life.
Rocchi struggled in the first period but looked comfortable with Kozak, who was happy to do the running and take the pressure off the veteran. Their first involvement together saw Rocchi take down a lofted pass from the inside right position, hitting an instinctive volley that Agazzi managed to smother.
But the last ten minutes saw the encounter truly come to life. A floated Cristian Ledesma free kick saw Diakite unmarked and able to head home; the goal was reward for Lazio’s persistence and positivity.
With mere minutes remaining, Marchetti saw himself involved; with the custodian crucially smothering Astori’s follow up. From the resulting move, Antonio Candreva completed a counterattack that saw the midfielder strike the far post, completing an enthralling final spell as the match came to a close.
The result sees Edy Reja’s men claim a much needed win in the race for Champions League football, following Napoli’s late slip up at home to Catania.