A brilliant performance by Antonio Di Natale saw 10-man Udinese move into the final Champions League spot with two games remaining in Serie AUdinese defeated Lazio 2-1 in a fiery encounter, which saw the home side reduced to 10 men at the Stadio Friuli. Antonio Di Natale was the mastermind as his first half performance tore apart the visiting defense.
The first goal was scored when Alexis Sanchez set up Di Natale, who slotted the ball past Fernando Muslera. The forward then doubled the lead six minutes later as he tapped in Mauricio Isla's cross. Mauro Zarate missed a penalty following a foul by Gabriele Angella on Tommaso Rocchi, but Lazio netted a consolation goal through substitute Libor Kozak late in the second half.
Udinese should have opened the scoring in the sixth minute as Di Natale was clean through but his shot was saved by the legs of Muslera. Alexis Sanchez slotted away the rebound but the assistant referee called him offside.
Hernanes was the Biancocelesti’s most potent threat in the first quarter of an hour as his skills were constantly taunting the home side. The Brazilian earned a free kick after a solo run but squandered it when he blazed over the bar.
Lazio was finally finding its feet 20 minutes into the game with Hernanes and Zarate creating chances for their side.
Following a corner for the visitors, Sanchez was in possession of the ball and played through Giampiero Pinzi who had a goal scoring opportunity saved by Muslera and Di Natale hit the side netting with his follow up.
In a similar attack, Isla passed the ball into the feet of Di Natale who put his shot wide of the post as Lazio was living on thin ice and was lucky to still be in the game.
However in the 35th minute, Di Natale finally broke the deadlock as he controlled the ball looped over the defense by Sanchez and with his second touch, thumped a shot past Muslera, who had no chance of saving it.
The Bianconeri’s talisman returned six minutes later to score his second of the game when Sanchez spotted a run by Isla on the edge of the box and with two touches the Chilean midfielder crossed the ball into the feet of Di Natale who couldn’t miss the open goal.
Lazio started the second half brighter but the first chance fell to Udinese when Di Natale saw Isla free in the box but his shot went straight into the hands of Muslera.
Francesco Guidolin decided that with the two goal lead a tactical change was needed to keep the result as Di Natale and Sanchez were replaced by Bernado Corradi and Joel Ekstrand.
Tommaso Rocchi came on to replace Sergio Floccari in the 66th minute and he won a penalty with his first few touches as Gabriele Angella took him down. The Udinese center back was shown the red card by referee Nicola Rizzoli.
With a chance to get back in the game Zarate stepped up to take the penalty but his shot was saved in the center of the goal by Samir Handanovic.
Libor Kozak was introduced to the fold in place of Hernanes in an attempt to score a goal. Edy Reja’s substitution paid off as Zarate crossed into the box and Kozak’s shin connected to the ball to reduce Udinese’s lead.
The last ten minutes saw Lazio crossing balls into the box but they failed to find an equalizer as headers from Kozak and Andre Dias were agonizingly close to finding the back of the net.
Lazio's defeat saw it tumble to fifth place, level on 60 points with city rivals Roma with two games still to play.
The victory for Udinese allowed it to leapfrog Lazio and take control of the final Champions league spot with a two point lead.Follow Goal.com on to get the latest soccer news directly. Check out Goal.com's page; be part of the best soccer fan community in the world!