Pitchside Europe

Klose enters the territory of Lazio legends


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As his Bologna players traipsed back into the away dressing room of the Stadio Olimpico, their pride hurting after a humiliating 6-0 defeat to Lazio, the club's heaviest since 1991, coach Stefano Pioli wasn't angry. Well, maybe just a little. His prevailing emotion, as became clear in his post-match press conference, was empathy.

Pioli had been in this position more or less before. He knew what they were going through.

He felt their pain. "As a coach I have never lost 6-0 but as a player," he explained. "I did even worse, losing 8-2. I even got sent off.

"Would you like to know where it happened? Right here, at the Stadio Olimpico against Lazio."

That was 18 years ago. Pioli, then nearly 30, was a defender for Claudio Ranieri's mid-table Fiorentina, a team that after regaining their top-flight status had signed a young Manuel Rui Costa to play in support of Gabriel Batistuta.

Together they'd form one of the great attacks of the `90s, but their defence couldn't live with the one they faced that afternoon.

Coached by Zdenek Zeman, Lazio finished second that season but, as so often is the case with one of his teams, they were top scorers.

Pierluigi Casiraghi in particular was to give Pioli a cold sweat-inducing nightmare. He scored a poker, the first Lazio player to do so in one game since João Fantoni in a 9-1 victory over Pro Vercelli 63 years before him.

As a feat, it was later matched by Simone Inzaghi, now in charge of Lazio's Under-16s, who hit four in a Champions League group stage game against Marseille in 2000. No Lazio player had gone beyond that number in a single match. Not even the club's greatest, most revered strikers: Giorgio Chinaglia, Bruno Giordano and Beppe Signori.

Not until Sunday, that is, when Miroslav Klose went one better and wrote a new page in Lazio's 113-year history. He scored five. It was a day that he and those watching at the Olimpico will never forget. The same goes for Bologna's young goalkeeper Dejan Stojanovic. It was his league debut, the poor guy.

The first quintuple in Serie A since Roberto Pruzzo's for Roma against Avellino in the same stadium 27 years ago and only the 12th in top flight history, this was made up of the kind of goals that have characterised Klose's career. A rebound. A one-on-one. A tap-in at the far-post. A header at the near-post. Another one-on-one.

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It was classic Klose. There was nothing spectacular about them. The goal of the game was the one he didn't score, a 25-yard screamer struck by Hernanes, which thumped the bottom of the bar and bounced in. His efforts eclipsed that. By half-time no less, the 34-year-old had already scored a hat-trick. His fourth came five minutes into the second half. His fifth after an hour.

It was at this stage that various commentators up in the gantry at the Olimpico started talking about the possibility of Klose equalling or maybe even breaking one of Serie A's 'unbreakable' records: that of scoring six goals in a game.

Only two players had ever done it before: Lazio legend Silvio Piola for Pro Vercelli in a 7-2 rout of Fiorentina on October 28, 1933 and Omar Sivori, one of the Angels with Dirty Faces, whose sextuple came for Juventus on June 10, 1961 when they put nine past Inter, who'd decided to field a youth team in protest at the game being replayed once a ruling handing them a 2-0 win after the same fixture had been abandoned in Turin because of safety fears was controversially overturned.

Klose had half an hour including stoppage time to add his name to theirs in the annals of the Italian game. Except he didn't as in the 68th minute, the fourth official held up his board. The number 11 was showing. It was Klose's. Coach Vladimir Petkovic was taking him off for Louis Saha.

The decision, as you can imagine, was criticised.

Hadn't Klose earned the right to a shot at immortality? Why should he be deprived of it? Petkovic, one assumes, was either unaware of the record or protective of his star striker's fitness.

Klose has finished 90 minutes just twice in 2013 and with the Coppa Italia final coming up against Roma at the end of the month, one can understand Petkovic wanted to look after him.

Just like last season, Klose has missed much of the second half of the campaign - 15 games in all - after tearing the collateral ligament in his right knee back in February. Before Sunday, his last goal had come almost four months ago, 141 days to be precise, a drought of 366 minutes on the pitch.

Lazio have suffered without him and his goals, dropping out of the Champions League places and even those for the Europa League in the meantime.

By substituting Klose midway through the second half, Petkovic did at least allow him to receive the standing ovation his performance so richly deserved. Among those rising to their feet was Paola Piola, the daughter of Silvio, a guest of honor in the Monte Mario stand.

"It was a beautiful day," Klose smiled before revealing he'd also scored five in one game while at Kaiserslautern, although in what context remained unclear, as Italy's papers struggled to verify the claim.

This particular quintuple, however, was as indelible as it was undeniable. It will live long in the memory. Is it any wonder the Lazio supporters call Klose Mito - Legend - instead of Miro?

James Horncastle - on Twitter @JamesHorncastle

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