Serie A - Lazio comeback stuns Cesena
Ten-man Lazio produced a fantastic second-half fightback to come from two goals down and defeat Cesena 3-2 in their Serie A clash at Stadio Olimpico.
Adrian Mutu broke the deadlock against the run of play on 14 minutes with a close-range finish to Vincenzo Iaquinta’s cross.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts when Mutu found his way through again just after the half hour mark, only to be brought down by Abdoulay Konko for a straight red card and a penalty scored by Iaquinta.
But Edoardo Reja’s depleted men came out for the second half with renewed fire, turning the two-goal defecit on its head in the space of 10 minutes through Hernanes, Senad Lulic and Libor Kozak.
The remarkable result sends the Biancocelesti into third place in the Serie A table, where they will hope to stay pending this weekend’s other results, while Cesena remain second from bottom.
The home side controlled the early stages of the contest, and Miroslav Klose really should have opened the scoring after just four minutes when he beat the offside trap to latch onto Lulic’s pass into the penalty area.
But in a one-on-one with Francesco Antonoli, it was the Cesena stopper who won out with a great stop at full stretch at the expense of the game’s first corner.
Lazio’s dominance up front also left holes at the back, and 10 minutes later a snap counter from the visitors exposed them 10 minutes later.
Iaquinta showed good strength to fend off Giuseppe Biava and centre for strike partner Mutu to slide in and convert at the far post to give Cesena the lead against the run of play.
Klose sprung the trap once again almost immediately after the restart when he expertly brought down a raking pass from the back, but this time from a tight angle he was unable to find the target.
But though Lazio continued to have the majority of possession and the attacking impetus, they failed to learn from their mistakes unlike the away side, who were now catching Klose offside on a regular basis.
Indeed, the sky blues were still prone to breakaways and Mutu led another on 32 minutes, looming for a showdown with goalkeeper Federico Marchetti until he was hacked down by Konko.
As the last man, Konko was shown a straight red card and after Iaquinta put away the penalty, things looked pretty bleak for the Serie A title challengers.
But after making an atypically attack-minded change at the interval for a team one man short, with forward Kozak coming on for Antonio Candreva, Lazio sprang to life and the comeback was on.
It began just eight minutes into the second period, with Klose teeing up Hernanes to burst past two defenders and unleash an unstoppable drive into the roof of Antonoli’s net.
And after Mario Santana came within inches of restoring the two-goal lead only for his low shot to roll the wrong side of the far post, Lulic brought the contest back to equal terms on the hour.
There were appeals for offside against the defender, up for a preceding set piece, but he was played on by a defender out on the wing as Kozak unsuccessfully went for goal himself before Lulic completed the move.
Just three minutes later, the home fans went from distress to jubilation when Cesena failed to deal with a corner which Kozak brought down, manoeuvred into space and tucked between Antonoli’s legs to complete the turnaround.
Daniele Arrigoni’s stunned side struggled to find an answer for the remainder of the game, even with the extra man on the field, though Gianluca Comotto almost equalised five minutes from time with a spectacular distance effort which narrowly missed the target.