Serie A - Sculli double downs Palermo
Lazio strengthened their challenge for Champions League football next year with a comfortable 2-0 win over Palermo at the Stadio Olimpico.
Two first half goals from Giuseppe Sculli put the home side in the driving seat, and though Palermo enjoyed plenty of possession, a Javier Pastore header at the near post provided the only real test of the evening for Lazio goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
Palermo had been hoping for a change in fortunes after replacing coach Delio Rossi with Serse Cosmi following three defeats that saw them concede a hefty 12 goals, including seven in the thrashing at the hands of Udinese last week.
Those hopes were dashed after just seven minutes, however, when Cristian Ledesma released Sculli in behind the Palermo defence, and the striker kept his cool to tuck the ball low past the onrushing Salvatore Sirigu.
Palermo’s back three looked totally at sea each time Lazio brought the ball forward, and paid the price once again on 18 minutes, though this time they will perhaps feel an offside flag should have been raised as Sculli nodded home Ledesma’s inch-perfect cross at the far post.
Though the Sicilians recovered, and enjoyed some prolonged spells of possession, the hesitancy of their strikers to attack a couple of dangerous crosses from the impressive Federico Balzaretti ensured ‘keeper Muslera enjoyed a quiet evening, disturbed only by a Pastore header that he clawed clear at the near post just before half-time.
Though Palermo reverted to a standard back four at half-time, their lack of incision in attack prevented them from hauling themselves back into the game.
Veteran midfielder Fabio Liverani was unable to provide the vital spark they were looking for, though Josip Ilicic did at least make the home fans’ hearts skip a beat as he beat Matuzalem with a nifty dragback on the edge of the area on 51 minutes, only to fire his shot straight at the ‘keeper.
Guglielmo Stendardo should have wrapped things up for Lazio on 82 minutes from another peach of a cross from Ledesma, though his miscued header will be forgotten as Lazio nevertheless closed out the game with ease to leapfrog Udinese back into fourth position.
Palermo, for whom the defeat signalled their worst run of form in three years, remain eighth, with the prospect of European football next year fast disappearing.