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The Biancocelesti are the Italian cup champions, following an intense victory in the final over Samp on penalties.

Lazio 1-1 Sampdoria (6-5 penalties)

Pre-Match And Team News

Lazio and Sampdoria both advanced to the Coppa Italia final against the odds, by knocking out their highly fancied opponents in Juventus and Inter respectively. There was plenty at stake in this clash, as an Italian cup, as well as a place in next season’s Europa League were on offer for the victor.

The Biancocelesti were boosted by the return of Goran Pandev and Pasquale Foggia in the lead up to this match, however they had to do without the services of their Brazilian midfielder Matuzalem, who missed out through suspension. Meanwhile, the Blucerchiati welcomed back their key defensive duo in Pietro Accardi and Stefano Lucchini, as well as Paolo Sammarco, who passed a late fitness test, to assure him of a spot in the final.

First Half

Lazio got this highly anticipated clash underway, in front of a packed house at the Stadio Olimpico in the Italian capital. They took no time whatsoever to move forward in an extremely positive manner, as Pandev won a corner for the Biancocelesti within the first 30 seconds of play. Despite not making the most of the early corner kick, they were certainly the dominant side in the early stages.

Astonishingly after just four minutes, Mauro Zarate opened the scoring with an absolute thunderbolt of a strike, from the edge of the area. A mazy run to skip past his Samp opponents, allowed him to work himself into a promising position, and he made no mistake whatsoever by curling a wonderful effort past Luca Castellazzi in goal. The Samp players were furious with the referee, as they felt that the play should have been halted moments prior, due to a knock on Giampaolo Pazzini that caused him to go to ground.

Luca Castellazzi single-handedly kept the Genoa based outfit in the game, after making two world class saves in succession to deny the Aquile from doubling their advantage. Firstly, he did well to block a long range effort from Aleksander Kolarov that forced him to dive low to his right. His follow up save on Pandev was even better though, as he denied the Macedonian from all of a few yards, in what looked to be a certain goal.

In remarkable fashion, Sampdoria got themselves right back into the final with an equalising goal through Pazzini on 31 minutes. Antonio Cassano’s glorious ball into the area met the head of Marius Stankevicius, who then directed the ball towards Pazzini, and the former Fiorentina man made no mistake by impressively heading the ball on, and over Muslera to get his side right back into it. It was a training ground routine that couldn’t have gone any better, one that placed even more significance on the Pandev miss just moments prior.

With exception of the two goals, neither side had managed to create any clear cut opportunities throughout the half. You could just sense that both sides were keen not to concede in the closing stages of the opening 45 minutes, as both looked very tentative when moving forward. As expected, that’s how it ended, as the Biancocelesti and the Blucerchiati headed for the dressing rooms all square at one goal apiece.

Second Half

Sampdoria resumed the play in the second half, and they started in extremely promising fashion, as Paolo Sammarco had the opportunity to tap in a Cassano ball across the face of goal within the first minute of play. With the assistance of Pazzini, the former Roma man easily skipped past a number of opponents, in order to play the ball across the goal, one that in the end had to be cleared off the line by Kolarov.

The second glorious opportunity in the early stages of the half, came about on 52 minutes, when Zarate simply should have made it 2-1 from close range. Foggia’s ability to beat Stefano Lucchini and send a brilliant ball in from the left, looked likely to be tapped in by Zarate at the near post, however the Argentine’s failure to attack the ball, allowed Pietro Accardi to make a tremendous lunging challenge to deny the capital club the chance to reclaim the lead.

Lazio began to look the more dangerous side as the hour mark approached, however after winning a few corners, and causing several problems for the Samp back three, the Aquile squandered yet another two chances through Pandev and Foggia. The latter failed to convert a volley from only a few yards out, following a delicate chip by his Macedonian team-mate, however his powerful right footed effort lacked the accuracy required to beat Castellazzi in goal.

Both coaches commenced making some changes with the hope of making a difference, and the inclusion of Rocchi on 73 minutes almost paid instant dividends moments later, when he just failed to get a boot on to a lovely ball played across the face of goal by Zarate.

Samp were clearly being outplayed in the closing stages, as they were forced to sit back and defend the barrage of Lazio’s attacking movements. They offered little up front, and as a result they were forced to make some changes to tighten things up, as Gennaro Delvecchio was introduced in the place of Daniele Franceschini, and Daniele Dessena came on for Sammarco.

The referee’s whistle brought a fairly lacklustre period to an end, especially in comparison to the first half, meaning that both sides had to get themselves ready for an additional 30 minutes of extra time, and possibly more.

Extra Time

Lazio got the extra time period under way, with both sides well aware of the fact that one moment of magic could be enough to win the Italian Cup, and earn a place in next season’s Europa League. As was the case for the majority of the second half though, both sides were very tentative when in attack, resulting in a number of strikes from long range in this period.

The highlight of the first 15 minutes undoubtedly came through Cassano, who did extremely well to make his way past Ousmane Dabo, and then unleash an effort from all of 30 yards. The attempt on goal sailed inches over the bar, however it certainly seemed to boost the confidence of his team-mates, as their spirits were lifted in the closing stages of the first period.

Sampdoria restarted the play in the second half of extra time at the Stadio Olimpico, as the evidently fatigued players set their sights on scoring in the final 15 minutes, to avoid the dreaded penalty shoot out. Incredibly, a moment of absolute brilliance by Cassano allowed him to get past a couple of defenders and send a low ball in towards Pazzini in the area. What looked likely to be the winner wasn’t though, as Lorenzo De Silvestri got a boot to the ball to deflect the former Fiorentina man’s effort onto the post and out of play.

The Biancocelesti had a claim for a penalty on 115 minutes, when Stephan Lichtsteiner went to ground following a clash with Accardi. The referee called for the play to continue though, and despite the fact that both sides were giving their all, it was obvious at this point that a penalty shoot out would be required to separate the two clubs on the night. After such an entertaining and intense affair, the players were simply exhausted, and the referee’s whistle brought the play to a halt, confirming the fact that this season’s Coppa Italia would be decided in a shoot out.

Penalties

Sampdoria got off to the worst possible start, as their star man Cassano saw his spot kick easily saved by Muslera, and when Cristian Ledesma successfully responded with a coolly converted effort, Lazio were in the box seat. This was until Rocchi saw his penalty smash against the post, meaning that both sides were backing in with a chance of emerging victorious.

Following six successful conversions, sudden death was required to separate the two sides on the night. Unfortunately there always is a culprit, and tonight that man was Hugo Campagnaro, as his poorly directed spot kick allowed Dabo to coolly slot home the winner for Lazio.

The Biancocelesti are the Italian cup champions for the fifth time in their history, and for the first time since 2004, and significantly they will be playing football in Europe next season.

TEAMS

Lazio (4-4-2):
Muslera; Lichtsteiner, Siviglia, Rozenhal, Kolarov; Brocchi (De Silvestri, 102’), Ledesma, Dabo, Foggia (Del Nero, 80’); Pandev (Rocchi, 73’), Zarate

Sampdoria (3-5-2): Castellazzi; Campagnaro, Lucchini (Gastaldello, 96’) Accardi; Stankevicius, Sammarco (Dessena, 90’+1), Palombo, Franceschini (Delvecchio, 88’), Pieri; Cassano, Pazzini

GOALS

4’ Zarate (Lazio)

31’ Pazzini (Sampdoria)

PENALTIES

Cassano (Sampdoria) – Miss
Ledesma (Lazio) – Goal
Palombo (Sampdoria) – Goal
Rocchi (Lazio) – Miss
Pazzini (Sampdoria) – Goal
Rozenhal (Lazio) – Goal
Gastaldello (Sampdoria) – Goal
Kolarov (Lazio) – Goal
Accardi (Sampdoria) – Goal
Zarate (Lazio) – Goal
Delvecchio (Sampdoria) – Goal
Lichtsteiner (Lazio) – Goal
Campagnaro (Sampdoria) – Miss
Dabo (Lazio) – Goal

Adrian Del Monte, Goal.com

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