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Wednesday, 3 December 2008
The Coppa Italia is a competition that is not taken too seriously in Italy but, nevertheless, this was a game both teams wanted to win, to use as a confidence booster following their poor recent form.
Milan fielded a surprisingly strong line-up, with regulars Kakha Kaladze, Clarence Seedorf, Ronaldinho and Kaka all starting, while Andriy Shevchenko was offered a rare chance up-front. Lazio's team was also familiar, and Pasquale Foggia, Tommaso Rocchi and Goran Pandev forged a fearsome-looking three pronged attack.
Lazio had the first attempt of the game on three minutes as Ousmane Dabo lashed the ball well over from long range. Ledesma also tried his luck from distance, but Dida gathered.
Rocchi got away from his marker but slipped as he was about to shoot, while Stephan Lichtsteiner sliced horribly wide, as the away side did most of the early running.
Milan finally woke up on 18 minutes with a piece of brilliance from Ronaldinho, who controlled brilliantly before sending Shevchenko clean through on goal with an inspired first time pass. The Ukrainian's first touch was perfect, but he then dallied and was denied by goalkeeper Nestor Muslera.
Lichtsteiner almost made Shevcheno pay for this miss five minutes later, as he cut in from the left and struck a reverse shot inches past Nelson Dida's right hand post.
Milan lived dangerously again on 34 minutes when Kaladze carelessly gave away a free kick for handball, and Dida was required to fly to his left to beat away a fierce drive from Aleksandar Kolarov.
Shevchenko was playing on the shoulder of the Lazio defence, and he gained a few yards to bear down on goal, but once again his finish was not up to scratch as he sliced high and wide.
Kaka failed to make crisp contact after being teed up by Ronaldinho while, down the other end, Kolarov lashed the ball wide with his sweet left foot. Lazio were handed a blow just before half time as Lichtsteiner limped off the pitch and had to be replaced by Mourad Meghni.
In injury time both sides threatened to break the deadlock. First Mathieu Flamini flashed a 25-yard shot just past the post. Then, Pandev rocketed an effort a few inches over from the edge of the box.
Into the second half, and Kolarov had his third shot of the evening, dragging a shot wide from 25 yards.
On 54 minutes, Lazio came very close to opening the scoring. Rocchi cut past Philippe Senderos and supplied Pandev, who turned well and forced a superb one handed save out of Dida.
The Biancocelesti were dominant at the start of the second period and, before the hour mark, Foggia became the latest player to pepper the Milan goal with a powerful long shot.
Shevchenko was struggling up-front, and he wasted a promising position when he finished poorly following a fine Ronaldinho pass.
Things were not going right for Milan, and on 65 minutes they were reduced to ten men as Emerson was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Cristian Ledesma. From the resultant free kick, Dida produced another excellent save to push out Kolarov's bomb of a free kick.
Ronaldinho had been Milan's best player, but he didn't crown himself in glory on 70 minutes when he clearly elbowed David Rozenhal in the face as he shielded the ball. The referee missed the incident, but it is possible the Brazilian could now face a ban through the use of video evidence.
Lazio continued to attack, and Dida had to be alert to tip over Foggia's acute volley.
However, with just 13 minutes remaining, Milan broke the deadlock against the run of play. Shevchenko, who had had a poor game up until that point, grabbed the goal, cutting in from the right and rifling home a left-footed 20-yard shot into the bottom corner.
Lazio, with star man Mauro Zarate now on the pitch, pushed forward looking for an equaliser, and a daisycutter from Rozenhal forced Dida into yet more action.
Milan looked like they were going to hold on, but with just three mnutes remaining Giuseppe Favalli upended Pandev in the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. Substitute Zarate made no mistake, and Lazio were back on level terms.
Lazio threatened again before the end of 90 minutes, with Zarate and Kolarov having further efforts, but the game now moved into extra time.
Just two minutes into extra time, and a rampant Lazio now took the lead. Pandev delightfully took down a long ball, cut inside Jankulovski and brought out a brilliant save from Dida. Senderos blocked Zarate's follow-up, but it was third time lucky for Pandev who then fired into the roof of the net.
You could not take your eyes off the action, and just seconds later Ronaldinho almost immediately got Milan level again, as his thirty yard free kick cannoned off the post with Muslera beaten.
Flamini then tested Muslera with a low shot, while Ronaldinho unsuccessfully let fly with another free kick.
Into the second half of extra time and Lazio had a golden chance to kill off the game on 112 minutes as Dida made yet another top class save to deny Foggia from close range. Mauri then saw his follow-up blocked.
Ultimately though it didn't matter. Lazio held on to win 2-1, and thus eliminate Milan from the Coppa Italia at the last 16 stage.
Milan: Dida, Antonini (Jankulovski 74), Senderos, Kaladze, Favalli; Flamini, Emerson, Seedorf (Zambrotta 74), Kakà, Ronaldinho, Shevchenko (Cardacio 85).
Lazio: Muslera; Lichtsteiner (Meghni 42), Rozehnal, Diakitè, Kolarov; Dabo (Mauri 84), Ledesma, De Silvestri; Rocchi (Zarate 73); Foggia, Pandev.
Shevchenko 78 (M)
Zarate pen 87 (L)
Pandev 92 (L)
Emerson 65 (M)
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