Lazio the last of the cup winners

 

Lazio won the last European Cup Winners' Cup last night when Czech mid-fielder Pavel Nedved crashed in an 81st-minute winner to give them victory over Real Mallorca at Villa Park.

Nedved, who has struggled to make an impact in Sven-Goran Eriksson's side this season, earned himself a permanent place in the Rome club's folklore as Lazio made up for losing last year's UEFA Cup final by winning their first European trophy.

Christian Vieri had given the Italians a seventh-minute lead before Mallorca, playing their first season in European competition, hit back four minutes later through the highly-rated Spanish striker Dani.

The Spaniards had the better of the second half until Nedved's intervention which will have done much to calm the nerves of Lazio's shareholders after they lost the leadership of Italy's Serie A last weekend in the penultimate match of the league season.

Italian international Vieri was a threat from the start and put Lazio ahead after just seven minutes from their first meaningful attack in front of 33,021 fans at Villa Park.

Yugoslav Dejan Stankovic picked up the ball in midfield, lofted it forward and Vieri stole in between Marcelino, reportedly Newcastle-bound next season, and Mallorca captain Javier Olaizola to send a looping header past Carlos Roa.

The lead didn't last long. Miquel Soler combined delightfully with Jovan Stankovic down the left and his cross found Dani unmarked and the Spanish international side-footed Mallorca's equaliser from five metres out.

Despite the setback it was Lazio's front pair of Vieri and Chilean Marcelo Salas, who cost over $45 million between them, who posed the greater threat. Both went close before Vieri had to leave the field to have his head bandaged.

Vieri emerged unswathed after the break but Mallorca started the brighter with razor-sharp Cameroonian Lauren showing his ability with a series of dashes down the right flank.

Lazio hit back on the hour when Yugoslav Sinisa Mihajlovic showed his much-vaunted deadball prowess by whistling a free-kick just past Roa's right-hand post from 30 metres and then Roberto Mancini struck the bar, though he was flagged offside anyway.

Mallorca seemed to have the greater belief and after 70 minutes Lauren gathered the ball in space on the right edge of the area before drawing a superb springing save out of Lazio goalkeeper Luca Marchegiani with a fierce right-footed volley.

Stankovic then tricked his way into the area and chipped Marchegiani but Lazio captain Alessandro Nesta dived to head the ball clear. The Italians looked spent but out of nothing they scored their second goal and Olaizola was again partially to blame. The Mallorca skipper, under pressure from Vieri, failed to get sufficient distance on a defensive header and the ball bounced up for Nedved who curled a sweet shot past Roa.

The Czech was immediately substituted to a huge ovation and Lazio held out to bring the curtain down on 39 years of competition history.

Lazio: Marchegiani, Favalli, Salas, Mancini (Couto 90), Mihajlovic, Nesta, Pancaro, Nedved (Lombardo 83), Dejan Stankovic (Conceicao 56), Almeyda, Vieri. Subs Not Used: Ballotta, Negro, Gottardi, De La Pena. Booked: Mihajlovic, Vieri, Marchegiani. Goals: Vieri 7, Nedved 81.

Real Mallorca: Marcelino, Dani, Ibagaza, Jovan Stankovic, Lauren, Olaizola, Biagini (Paunovic 73), Engonga. Subs Not Used: Galvez, Carreras, Carlos, C Soler, Nino, Lopez. Booked: Siviero. Goal: Dani 11.

Referee: G Benko (Austria).