Football

Lazio suffer blow before Cup final

Lazio stumbled ahead of the Italian Cup final showdown against Juventus on Thursday morning (Singapore time), falling to a 3-2 Serie A defeat by Fiorentina yesterday morning.

Second-half strikes from Khouma Babacar and Nikola Kalinic, and a Cristiano Lombardi own goal sealed the three points and kept Fiorentina's Europa League hopes alive.

Keita Balde's 55th-minute opener for Lazio - his seventh in four games - had Fiorentina hanging their heads in desperation and staring at a possible third defeat from their past five games.

But Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi rested several key players ahead of the Cup final date with treble-chasing Juventus, and Paulo Sousa's hosts capitalised to claim a precious win that sent them up to seventh, one point behind Europa League-chasing AC Milan, who were held 1-1 away to fifth-placed Atalanta.

Gerard Deulofeu got the equaliser for Milan three minutes from time after prolific goal-scoring defender Andrea Conti's opener just before the break - his eighth of the season.

The result ensured Atalanta qualify for next season's Europa League after a 26-year absence from continental competition.

In Florence, Babacar spurned a chance to level moments after Balde's strike when Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha sent a clearance straight to the Senegal striker but made amends by tipping his curling drive to safety.

But Strakosha was left stunned when the big centre-forward pulled Fiorentina level minutes later with a header at the goalkeeper's near post.

That set up a busy finale as Kalinic (73rd) and an own goal from Lombardi (76th) gave Fiorentina a 3-1 lead.

Alessandro Murgia reduced the arrears in the 81st minute but Fiorentina held on for the win.

Lazio remain fourth, 15 points behind Juventus who can seal a record sixth straight title with a draw at Roma this morning.

- AFP

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