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ROME: Lazio players celebrate with the Coppa Italia trophy after beating Atalanta in the final at the Olympic Stadium.—AFP
ROME: Lazio players celebrate with the Coppa Italia trophy after beating Atalanta in the final at the Olympic Stadium.—AFP

ROME: Two late goals gave Lazio a 2-0 Coppa Italia final win over Atalanta at the Stadio Olimpico on Wednesday.

Substitute Sergej Milinkovic-Savic headed in from a corner with eight minutes remaining before Joaquin Correa’s solo goal settled a nervy match in stoppage-time on a night in Rome dogged by fan violence.

It was the seventh time Lazio have won the competition and their first triumph since 2013, the capital club’s victory ending four years of Juventus’ dominance in Italy’s domestic cup competition.

The victory books Lazio a ticket to next season’s Europa League, much-needed for Simone Inzaghi’s side as they are eighth in Serie A, four points off the European berths with two games left to play.

“It was a wonderful evening in front of marvellous fans,” Inzaghi told Rai. “We had a great game, but also congratulations to Atalanta, as it was hard fought, the same way it was in Serie A, and this time we did well to turn the incidents our way.

“I told the lads that at times those who come off the bench are more important than the starting 11. I am satisfied, as we had a wonderful run in this Coppa Italia.”

His side’s win was marred by clashes outside the stadium between Lazio’s hardcore “Ultras” supporters and police before the game.

Fans threw projectiles at officers as a police car was burned near the Ponte Milvio bridge not far from the Olimpico.

According to Italian media, two police officers were injured, one in the ear by a projectile, and five fans were arrested.

Atalanta, who were looking to lift the Coppa Italia for the first time since 1963, have been the story of the season in Italy, after making a surprise charge into the Champions League places in Serie A.

The game was a nervy affair from the start, but the Bergamo side created the best chance of the first half when Marten de Roon’s deflected shot struck the post with the goalkeeper beaten. His shot took a deflection off the hand of Lazio defendeB3r Bastos, but the video assistant referee deemed it to be involuntary as it was too close range.

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini was furious after being shown a replay of the incident during a television interview after the match.

“I wasn’t angry before I saw that replay, as from the bench I absolutely didn’t see that,” he said. “But it’s a very serious error. It’s a shot that’s going in. It is unacceptable. If there hadn’t been VAR, then that’s understandable. But no, this is unjustifiable.”

Lazio took the lead when Milinkovic-Savic rose to direct a header into the corner just minutes after coming off the bench.

Correa then put the result beyond doubt in stoppage time as he skipped past a defender, rounded the goalkeeper and tucked a finish in from close range.

Several of the Atalanta players were in tears after the final whistle.

“It’s a pity, but these finals are like that,” Gasperini said. “In the decisive moment, we seemed to be in better shape, but we lost the game on a corner. It’s a shame.”

Atalanta can console themselves by fulfilling its other ambition, of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time.

The team are on an 11-match unbeaten run in the league and that has lifted them up to fourth place in Serie A and the final Champions League qualifying spot.

Atalanta have a three-point advantage over AC Milan and AS Roma with two matches remaining.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2019