Lazio lift Italian Super Cup
Lazio ruffled the feathers of Serie A champions Inter Milan in the Bird's Nest in Beijing to win the Italian Super Cup 2-1. Lazio captain Tommaso Rocchi superbly lobbed Inter keeper Julio Cesar after finding a gap between the Inter defence just after the hour to secure the win.
Two minutes earlier, Rocchi's 61st minute free-kick found its way through the Inter wall and rebounded off keeper Cesar, bobbling up into the path of Lazio's Brazilian midfielder Matuzalem, who slotted home to the delight of several thousand Chinese Lazio fans. The quick double strike stunned Inter and their throngs of Chinese fans into a rare silence after they had controlled affairs for most of the tense final.
Staring defeat in the face, the normally cool Inter manager Jose Mourinho brought on Patrick Vieira and replaced Serbian captain Dejan Stankovic with Mario Balotelli. But it was new signing and Cameroon talent Samuel Eto'o who threatened several times before firing into the roof of the Lazio net in the 75th minute to rally Inter into a frantic search for a dramatic comeback.
Inter had controlled the game, but were frustrated numerous times by the excellent Nestor Muslera in the Lazio goal. Another Inter new arrival, Argentinian Diego Milito, rolled the ball past the stranded Muslera in the 81st minute only to be agonisingly ruled offside.
Eto'o then went just wide with a free-kick from just outside the box in injury time. And though Mourinho's men laid siege to the Lazio goal in the dying minutes, it was the team from Rome who lifted the cup for a memorable party spoiler in China's Olympic stadium.
The Bird's Nest played centre stage to China's highly acclaimed and choreographed opening ceremony for the 2008 Olympics and the final was the first significant competitive sporting event to be played in the iconic stadium since the end of the Games. The stadium, made of a lattice of cement and steel, has largely served as a tourist attraction since the Games ended, prompting criticism that many costly Olympic venues are sitting idle and not being used for sporting events.
A year later to the day, however, football chants replaced drummers, acrobatic dancers and singers, with many of the 65,000 in the 80,000-seat stadium sporting replica football shirts of their Italian heroes.
The Italian Super Cup is the season curtain raiser contested by the winners of Serie A and the domestic Italian Cup. It is usually played at the home of the Serie A champions, but in a bid to broaden the appeal of Italian football, it is on occasion contested overseas.