Fenerbahçe set for first-ever European semis after 1-1 draw in Rome

Fenerbahçe set for first-ever European semis after 1-1 draw in Rome

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Fenerbahçe set for first-ever European semis after 1-1 draw in Rome

Caner Erkin celebrates with teammates after scoring Fenerbahçe's decisive away goal in Rome. AP photo

Fenerbahçe made history April 11, qualifying for the first time in the Europa League semifinals, after a 1-1 draw against Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The two-goal advantage from last week's first game was finally enough on aggregate for the Yellow Canaries as Lazio, deprived of its notoriously fervent fans due to a ban, failed to force the game to extra time just when it appeared that the momentum was on their side.

Bosnian left winger Senad Lulic opened the score with an incisive header inside the area in the 60th minute. As the Italian attacks became more insistent, Fenerbahçe players equalized with Caner Erkin
in almost their first dangerous attack in the 73rd minute after a huge defensive mistake from Lazio.

The Istanbul side started the game with the intention of displaying organized football with tactical discipline – very much in the Italian style – trying not to allow Lazio to threaten Volkan Demirel's goal.

With the pressure to turnaround the two-goal deficit on their shoulders, the Italians' first dangerous attempt came in the 12th with a free kick far from the area. Seeing that Demirel was not in the right place on his goal line, the Brazilian midfielder Hernanes tried to lob the keeper, as everyone expected him to center. Demirel struggled to get back to his goal but managed to block the ball right above the line.

In the 27th minute it was Antonio Candreva’s turn to try his luck, with an outstanding volley on the edge of the area that went wide across the bar.

The Italians’ best chance to score in the first half would come in the 41st minute. Hernanes, very active during the whole game, found fellow Brazilian Ederson unmarked in the area, but his effort was saved by Demirel.

Lazio increased the pressure before the break and found another important opportunity in the 45th minute. Hernanes opted this time to shoot on the edge of the area. The ball first slipped from Demirel's grasp, but the keeper then managed to catch it before a Lazio player could touch the ball.

After wasting a number of opportunities, the Romans laid the siege in Fenerbahçe's area in the second half with the incorporation of their star Miroslav Klose, who started on the bench because of an injury.

It was finally Lulic who scored with a header, the trademark of Klose, in the 60th minute to keep Lazio's chances alive.

However as Lazio was piling on pressure, Fenerbahçe did not forgive a huge error in Lazio defense, and Erkin, alone in the Italians' area, sealed the game, making it 1-1.

Demirel continued his outstanding game in the last minutes of the game and the Yellow Canaries cruised to the European semifinals for the first time in their history, joining Chelsea and Benfica in the last four.

On a sidenote, Fenerbahçe, who already played two home matches in the two previous rounds of the competition behind closed doors, earned again their qualification in an empty stadium.