An uninspired Lazio fell to a 1-0 first leg Europa League Round of 16 defeat to FCSB at the Areana Nationala in Bucharest on Thursday.
After a string of errors whilst in an attacking position, the Italian outfit fell behind to a deadly Steaua counterattack, with Harlem Gnohere tucking away on the half hour mark.
Lazio rarely tested their Romanian counterparts, although ought to have levelled late on when Martin Caceres slid in to score from close range, only to clear his own effort off the goalline with his trailing foot. Nevertheless, the Aquile were unable to get back into the game and were hindered by a lack of creativity in the final third.
Both sides began the match with trepidation, as FCSB controlled the possession without making any progress upfield. However, the hosts did occasionally venture forward, with Dennis Man flicking the ball on for the overlapping Romario Benzar to whip a dangerous cross into the box. Bastos did well to clear the danger for Lazio.
Lazio almost fell behind in calamitous circumstances with only a quarter of an hour gone. Junior Moraes’ long ball over the top was collected by the onrushing Thomas Strakosha, only for the goalkeeper to be clattered by teammate Luiz Felipe. The Albanian scrambled back to his feet to pounce on the loose ball before Constantin Budescu could tap in.
Steaua were looking the more threatening and came within inches of breaking the deadlock. A deep freekick was nodded behind by Dusan Basta as Man dived in to head home at the back post.
Despite their lack of creativity, Lazio were able to fashion chances of their own midway through the first half. Lucas Leiva’s smart pass into the feet of Felipe Caicedo allowed the Ecuadorian to turn and drive a powerful effort, although it failed to test Andrei Vlad.
Caicedo came even closer soon after, as Alessandro Murgia’s intelligent run allowed him to nod back a lofted pass into the striker’s path. Vlad did well to force Caicedo wide and ultimately block the former Manchester City man’s effort.
However, FCSB were gifted the lead on the half hour mark, and it came courtesy of string of Biancoceleste errors. Nani squandered an attacking freekick with an over-hit effort, and whilst Caicedo collected the loose ball, his pass back into the danger zone was wayward and allowed Steaua to break forward.
Man launched a rapid counterattack upfield to Florin Tanase, although the Romanian was only able to collect the pass due to Nani allowing the ball to roll under his foot whilst attempting to intercept. This catalogue of errors saw Gnohere sent clear on goal and the striker sidefooted past Strakosha with ease.
On the stroke of halftime the Aquile looked to have levelled, as Luiz Felipe rose highest to meet Nani’s corner, but his header rattled the top of the crossbar.
The second half started slowly but soon burst into life. Budescu’s driven freekick from near the corner flag forced a strong palm from Strakosha, before Lazio substitute Felipe Anderson played a fine one-two with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic before blistering through the defence. With only the keeper to beat, the Brazilian scuffed his effort wide.
Despite a dominant Lazio spell, the Romanian hosts came closest midway through the second period. Gnohere showed great strength to hold up the ball before squaring for Budescu to break into the box. Quick feet allowed the Romanian to glide past Bastos, but the forward overran the ball whilst trying to round Strakosha and could not apply the finish.
With only five minutes remaining, Lazio came within a whisker of drawing level, but were denied in an extraordinary manner. Anderson drive into the box from out left allowed him to cut the ball across the face of goal, where Martin Caceres evaded his marker to slide in from close range.
However, the Uruguayan inexplicably hooked the ball off the line with his trailing foot, preventing himself from scoring what looked to be a certain goal.
Lazio must now overturn the single goal deficit in the return leg at the Stadio Olimpico next Thursday.