Veteran striker delivers crucial blow in race for Champions League qualificationUdinese secured an invaluable 2-0 victory over fellow European hopefuls Lazio at Stadio Friuli in Sunday evening’s tense Serie A encounter.
The goals came from talismanic captain Antonio Di Natale and Roberto Pereyra, who struck deep into injury time as the race for third changes hands once again.
The score line was a fair reflection of the match on the whole with the home side dominating in terms of possession and chances, while Lazio looked overawed by the occasion. The rivals went into the match knowing that Inter had earlier won, which only further intensified the battle for the elusive third spot in the league.
Udinese started the match much the brighter as Kwadwo Asamoah signaled his intentions with a strong bustling run, only for his claims of a penalty to go unheard of by the referee.
The home side had the firt chance of note through influential skipper Di Natale but his free kick was ably stopped by visiting custodian Federico Marchetti. With twenty minutes on the clock the hosts continued to assert their dominance on proceedings through Giampiero Pinzi, who struck from distance and only just missed Marchetti’s near post with Lazio struggling to hold any form of possession. The visitors looked bereft of ideas and struggled for a focal point with Miroslav Klose missing.
The Biancocelesti had Francelino Matuzalem and Giuseppe Biava both suffering from knee knocks which saw both men replaced by Lorik Cana and Mobido Diakite as the encounter began to take its toll on the visitors. They did however spring into life during the closing stages as Tommaso Rocchi’s header nearly broke the deadlock, only for Samir Handanovic to expertly tip over the bar and keep both sides level going into the second half.
The second half started in the same vein as the first with Asamoah striking, only for the Ghanaian to miss the target as Udinese looked to go level on points with their opponents. Such was the significance of the encounter; the match was played in a very cagey manner with neither side building on from former forays forward as the tensions from both sets of supporters began to show on the pitch.
But with just over twenty minutes remaining, the deadlock was broken through Di Natale who timed his run to perfection and expertly volleyed his side into the lead with his 21st goal of the campaign. The goal was just what the match required and breathed new life into what was a very timid encounter.
The remainder of the match was played at breakneck speed with Lazio looking to yet claim something whilst Udinese searched for the goal that would all but secure the three points. And, as the visitors plundered men forward, the Zebrette sealed the victory through Pereyra who struck into an empty net.
However, Udinese held on to earn the win to draw level with Lazio and ensure the closing rounds of the season end in thrilling fashion.
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