The last time Lazio were in Middlesborough 2 months ago

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Jan 9 2005 18:46
The last time Lazio were in Middlesborough 2 months ago

Il Duces Dunces Dunched

Middlesbrough 2 – 0 SS Lazio 33,991 attendance

Boro’s Red army were in fine form and not only saw off Benito Mussolini’s favourite football team, they went home humbled. This was a game where some commentators competition favourites, Lazio, fielded a weak side and were made to pay the price. Their short goalkeeper, Fabrizio Cassazza, was promoted straight from their under 18 side, and had not played in serie a, never mind a European competition.

Paulo Di Canio had a below average game, and they were lacking in inspiration too. Di Canio, who talks candidly in his autobiography of his right-wing beliefs and feeling that Mussolini was much misunderstood got his judgement wrong at the Riverside in this game too. Many Lazio fans however understand - and support - Mussolini's legacy quite openly.

Before the game started, and the crowd was small, the 50 travelling fans did some fascist salutes and shouted ‘Duce Duce’, but they were totally outshouted the rest of the evening. One of the biggest and most eagerly awaited games in Middlesbrough's history was marked by a flag night, and they waved all night as they had plenty to cheer.

Lazio’s keeper was the first in action, and that was to be the pattern for the whole match. All of Boro’s team played well, the solid central defence of Chris Riggott and Gareth Southgate were easily capable of dealing with the Lazio attacks, and Riggot even had time to make forward runs. The midfield and wing play of Boudewijn Zendon, Stuart Downing, Ray Parlour and George Boateng was solid and creative. Competing well, and supplying the ball wide or forward, where on another night Mark Viduka and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink would have scored goals apiece as well.

Downing was a threat all night, from crosses and shots. He supplied the ball into the centre of the Lazio penalty area, where the ball was chipped up into the air for Zendon to hammer home into the far corner in the 16th minute. There was to be no way back for the visitors. Viduka made a great overhead attempt which only just cleared the crossbar in the 22nd minute, and Boro dominated the rest of the half, with Parlour firing just over, and Downing just wide.

The second half started slowly, but Lazio made too many errors. Good work by Viduka was followed by a cross by Downing on 53 minutes which struck the cross bar. Lazio had one short spell when they came forward, but there was nothing special displayed. The rest of the match was again dominated by Boro, with more good work by Downing who shot wide and supplied good crosses. One of them coming in from the right which went over the Lazio defence, for Zendon to head back across the goal and in at the far post for his second. Viduka nearly scored again shortly after with a header that went just over, when he should have done better. Lazio were reduced to a shot from 40 yards out in the 84th minute that stood no chance of going in, and looked as dispirited as they played.

After the match Steve McClaren could hardly contain his excitement. He said Boro were 8 games unbeaten, had only conceded 1 goal in 4 games, and virtually certain to progress further in Europe. The buzz in the town was palpable, and great performances were capped by great goals. The real test will come on Sunday however, when an in form Bolton team will stretch them. Whose manager, Sam Allardyce, was scouting at the Riverside last night looking for weakness.