20.01.2016 23:09 - in: Coppa Italia S

      Juve see off Lazio to seal Coppa Italia semi

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      The Bianconeri progress to the Coppa Italia semi-finals thanks to Stephan Lichtsteiner’s second-half strike against his former club Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico

      Cup holders Juventus will continue the defence of their title after booking their place in the Coppa Italia semi-finals by beating Lazio 1-0 in a closely-competed affair at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Wednesday evening.

      In a tight first 45 minutes, Keita Balde wasted the best opportunity of the half, firing over when clean through on goal. Thereafter, the visitors grew into the encounter, with Paul Pogba forcing Lazio stopper Etrit Berisha into a smart save, but neither side, in truth, did enough to take a lead into the interval.

      Massimiliano Allegri’s men stepped up their efforts in the second period and, after knocking on the door on a couple of occasions, they took a 66th minute lead when goal-line technology confirmed that Stephan Lichtsteiner’s shot had entered the net, the Swiss wing-back scoring against his former club to ensure it would be his current team to progress to the competition’s semi-finals.

      In the match’s opening stages, it would take both sides a little while to settle into their stride. Lichtsteiner had the visitors’ first shot of the night, but Berisha was untroubled by his centrally hit strike from distance.

      Down the other end of the pitch, Keita spurned a brilliant chance for the hosts to take the lead, scooping over the crossbar from close-range.

      Coming back into the line-up after being rested on Sunday against Udinese, Pogba was next to attempt to break the deadlock. The Frenchman got a strong head on Claudio Marchisio’s free-kick, but it just sailed over the frame of the goal.

      By the 25th minute, Juve were beginning to play with more conviction and pose a greater attacking threat. Zaza’s willing running saw him latch on to a perfectly lofted ball forwards from Lichtsteiner, but the forward scuffed his shot wide of the mark.

      Then, Pogba curled a fierce effort towards Berisha’s bottom left corner, but the Albania international keeper was quick off the mark and did well to tip the ball around his post for a corner.

      On 34 minutes, the Bianconeri had a penalty appeal turned down, when Alvaro Morata fell down under pressure from Milan Bisevac in the box, but referee Antonio Damato waved for play on.

      If the first half lacked rhythm, no such accusations could be made about the start of the second, as Allegri’s charges immediately raced out of the traps and almost took a 51st minute lead when Berisha dived low to stop Morata’s goalbound drive and Zaza was unable to wrap his foot fully around the rebound, missing the open net from an acute angle.

      Moments later, Pogba, not for the first time, got his head on to a fine delivery into the box, this time whipped in by Alex Sandro, but could not steer his effort on target.

      By the 66th minute, however, Juve reaped the rewards for their persistent endeavours going forwards, as Zaza beat Berisha all ends up with a crisply executed strike from the edge of the box that cannoned off the upright into the path of Lichtsteiner. Lazio’s keeper scrambled back to block the Swiss’ shot, but Damato pointed to the centre circle upon receiving confirmation from the goal-line technology that the ball had only just crossed the line.

      The decision saw Biancocelesti heads drop somewhat and it would be the Bianconeri to come closer to finding a second goal, as Stefano Sturaro struck wide of the mark before late substitutes Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic brought two fine reflex saves out of Berisha, who was the far busier keeper on the night.

      In the final attack of the match, Dybala very nearly added gloss to the victory, but struck whiskers wide.

      For Allegri’s men, however, the task of reaching the competition’s next round had been achieved and they will now look to continue the defence of their title in a two-legged semi-final against Roberto Mancini’s Inter.

      Neto; Caceres, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner (Cuadrado 80), Sturaro, Marchisio, Pogba, Alex Sandro; Zaza (Dybala 90), Morata (Mandzukic 76)
      Unused substitutes: Buffon, Audero, Rugani, Padoin, Hernanes, Asamoah
      Coach: Allegri

      Berisha; Konko (Anderson 73), Bisevac, Mauricio (Hoedt 62), Radu; Milinkovic-Savic, Biglia, Lulic; Candreva, Klose (Matri 82), Keita
      Unused substitutes: Guerrieri, Matosevic, Braafheid, Patric, Onazi, Cataldi, Parolo, Mauri, Djordjevic
      Coach: Pioli

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