TURIN, Italy - Lazio reached the Italian Cup final with a 2-1 win at Juventus which completed a 4-2 aggregate semi-final victory on Wednesday. Argentine forward Mauro Zarate curled a splendid right-foot shot into the corner in the 38th minute and Serb full back Aleksandar Kolarov doubled the lead with a deflected strike soon after halftime. Captain Alessandro Del Piero came off the bench to pull one back for Juve, who had substitute Mauro Camoranesi sent off in the closing stages when he protested after being booked. The exit came in a difficult week for Juventus with the storm caused by the racist chants their fans directed at Inter Milan's Mario Balotelli last weekend. It left them with little hope of winning a trophy this season as they are 10 points behind leaders Inter Milan in joint second in Serie A and speculation about coach Claudio Ranieri's future is likely to increase "All these rumours (about me) are definitely not good for the players, but that's no excuse," Ranieri told Rai television. The visitors started well, with Pasquale Foggia using a freedom to roam to good effect and Zarate thrashing a powerful shot across the face of goal from a tight angle. Ranieri tried to inject extra zeal at halftime by bringing on experienced midfielders Pavel Nedved and Mauro Camoranesi but Kolarov effectively wrapped up the tie with a powerful shot that ballooned beyond keeper Gianluigi Buffon's reach after hitting Zdenek Grygera. They responded with pride, giving Lazio a series of scares and Vincenzo Iaquinta came close before being substituted for Del Piero while Nedved struck the post with a header. "We've deserved this final," Lazio coach Delio Rossi said. "We've come up against important teams, we knocked out AC Milan, we've knocked out Juventus. "I'm happy above all for these lads because we've had ups and downs this year." Wednesday's game will be the last time Juventus's fans can see their team at home for a while unless they win their appeal against the decision to have the May 3 game against Lecce played behind closed doors for the chants directed at Balotelli in Saturday's 1-1 Serie A draw. League leaders Inter need to overturn a 3-0 deficit when they host Sampdoria in the other semi-final return on Thursday to reach the competition's final for the fifth consecutive year. The final will be at Rome's Stadio Olimpico, Lazio's and AS Roma's home ground, on May 13.
22 April 2009
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