Lazio ended a 13-year wait for qualification to the Champions League group stages by coming from behind to beat Cagliari 2-1 in Rome on Thursday and ensure themselves of a top four finish.
Giovanni Simeone’s deflected strike gave the Sardinians the lead at half time but the Aquile turned it round through Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Ciro Immobile strikes, despite the best efforts of inspired Cagliari goalkeeper Alessio Cragno.
The result leaves Lazio with 72 points, 11 more than fifth-placed rivals Roma with three games left to play, while Atalanta in the runners-up spot are just two points ahead. Cagliari remain in 13th place, but are already safe from relegation.
Joao Pedro thought he’d given the visitors a dream start after just two minutes when he fired an unstoppable free-kick into the top corner, but the goal was disallowed as it had been awarded as an indirect freekick and he wasn’t allowed to take the shot.
Lazio immediately responded with a string of chances but couldn’t find a way past Cragno, who made three stops from Manuel Lazzari efforts before flying through the air to deny Luis Alberto and making a point-blank reaction save on an Immobile volley.
His efforts were rewarded on the brink of half time, when Simeone’s shot from the edge of the box took a big deflection off a defender to beat Thomas Strakosha.
But Lazio came out fighting in the second half and were level within two minutes thanks to a sensational half-volley from Milinkovic-Savic, which swerved away from Cragno into the top corner.
It had taken something special to beat the Cagliari goalkeeper, but he was soon frustrating the Romans again as he clawed a dangerous Alberto shot out of the bottom corner before displaying lightning-quick reactions to palm a powerful Immobile shot onto the post.
Lazio eventually made their pressure count on the hour mark, when Alberto threaded a pass through to Immobile, who showed great composure to find the bottom corner and pull ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo in the Serie A scoring charts with his 31st league strike of the season.