Higuain strike ousts Lazio, sets up Roma Cup semi

29 January 2014 10:46

Napoli striker Gonzalo Higuain scored eight minutes from time to secure a 1-0 win over holders Lazio and a place in the semi-finals of the Italian Cup against Serie A rivals Roma on Wednesday.

Napoli dominated throughout a rainy fixture at the San Paolo but struggled to pierce a stubborn Lazio defence until Higuain scored with a deft touch in the 82nd minute to send Rafael Benitez's side through.

The Italian Cup semi-finals are held over two legs. Udinese, who stunned AC Milan in the quarter-finals last week, host Fiorentina on February 4 before travelling to Florence for the second leg a week later.

Napoli will travel to Roma's Olympic Stadium on February 5 before hosting the Giallorossi a week later.

Benitez said: "Lazio showed they're a fast, quality side but we played with intensity from start to finish and we deserved to win."

Napoli won their fourth Italian Cup in 2012 and Higuain told Rai Uno: "It was a really important tie for us, given what is at stake in the Cup semis.

"The lads showed their strength from kick-off and we achieved what we set out to do at the end.

"Now, we're looking to our next league game against Atalanta, and then we'll start thinking about Roma. It will be difficult, but all the games are."

Although Higuain and Jose Callejon were a constant menace it was new signing Jorginho who threatened to steal the show in the first half.

The Brazilian-born Italian midfielder only made his Napoli debut last week after signing from Verona and already looks to have carved a place for himself in Benitez's quality-packed midfield.

Jorginho, making his first start, had most of the 55,000 crowd in the stadium on their feet when he hit the upright with a superb curling shot from the left of the area, with Etrit Berisha well beaten.

Lazio were without several key players including Miroslav Klose, Stefan Radu, Ederson, Sergio Floccari and Stefano Mauri and were looking to remain unbeaten since Edy Reja, formerly of Napoli, replaced Vladimir Petkovic at the turn of the year.

Klose's absence, in particular, was felt as Lazio struggled to provide any kind of threat in the opening half while Napoli launched wave after wave of attacks.

An early Higuain effort was palmed away by Berisha at the near post, then Callejon's pass for Higuain, lurking in the area, was blocked by Michael Ciani.

Pepe Reina was off his line when Cristian Ledesma hit an ambitious lob from the centre circle but the 'keeper saw his effort fly over.

Jorginho gave a first warning with a long-range effort that Berisha easily collected but the 'keeper was well beaten when the 22-year-old's curling strike came off his far upright.

Napoli dictated play from the start of the second half and a Callejon strike sailed wide.

Lorenzo Insigne was eventually replaced by Belgian Dries Mertens shortly after the hour and while the Italy forward was unhappy at the decision, with some fans hurling insults, it would lead directly to Napoli's winner.

Defender Christian Maggio whipped a dangerous looking ball into the penalty area from the right and when Lazio defender Giuseppe Biava tried to clear, the ball fell to Callejon on the edge of the area.

Callejon's angled strike looked to be edging past the Lazio goal but Higuain intervened in timely fashion to send the ball flying past Berisha.

Source: AFP

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