Pioli warns Serie A rivals: This is just beginning for Lazio

The 49-year-old admits his side did their utmost to make life difficult for themselves against Napoli but insists they deserve to qualify for the Champions League
Stefano Pioli feels Lazio "have laid the foundations for something" after their thrilling win over Napoli saw them qualify for the Champions League.

Lazio found themselves 2-0 up at half-time at the Stadio San Paolo only for Gonzalo Higuain's double to level the scores at 2-2, as visiting goalscorer Marco Parolo saw red in the second half.

Higuain then missed a decisive penalty before late goals from Ogenyi Onazi and Miroslav Klose secured a spot in the play-off round for the Champions League group stages.

And while the coach accepts Lazio threatened to trigger their own downfall, Pioli feels they fully deserve to finish third after their efforts a year on from finishing ninth in Serie A.

"We did everything possible to make it difficult for ourselves, even tonight, but we deserve our place," he told Sport Mediaset. "We're only at the beginning. This year we've laid the foundations for something important.

"We've already started talking with the board. We'll discuss things in the coming days. We want to improve the team, next season will be more difficult."

Pioli is, however, still frustrated by the fact that the Coppa Italia final - which his side lost to Juventus - was played before the Serie A campaign had drawn to a close.

"The only regret is the Coppa Italia final - our team wasn't quite ready to handle two big games in four days. In the rest of Europe, the major cup finals were played after the end of the league season," he added.

Antonio Candreva - who struck Lazio's second against Napoli - believes his side showed the perfect response to their derby defeat to Roma last time out.

"We're a great team and it's been a great year," he told Sky. "We deserved this, and fortunately Higuain missed his penalty. After the derby defeat, we were bitter. We played a great game on a difficult pitch."