Lazio Wins Italian League Title
Lazio of Rome vaulted past Juventus of Turin on the final day of the season to win the Italian League for only the second time ever.
Trailing Juventus by two points, Lazio beat Reggina 3-0 Sunday at Olympic Stadium in Rome while Juventus of Turin lost 1-0 at Perugia in a rain-delayed game that ended about an hour after the other eight matches.
Lazio (20-4-9), which won its other title in 1974, finished with 72 points, one ahead of Juventus (21-5-8), which had lost just once in the first half of the season.
Lazio led during most of the 1998-99 season but was overtaken by AC Milan with one game remaining and finished second. This season, Lazio trailed by as many as nine points.
Simone Inzaghi (33rd minute) and Juan Sebastian Veron (37th) converted first-half penalty kicks for Lazio, and Diego Simeone scored in the 59th.
Fans at Olympic Stadium listened on radios to the game at Perugia, where water in the parking lot was higher than car tires. Play was delayed at halftime, and referee PierLuigi Collina watched as the ball was bounced on the soggy field as he debated whether to continue the game.
Juventus, whose 25 Italian League titles are the most of any team, fell behind when Alessandro Calori scored five minutes into the second half.
Juventus forward Filippo Inzaghi _ the elder brother of Lazio’s Simone _ missed a clear scoring chance in second-half injury time, which would have given Juventus a tie a berth in a title playoff.
Juventus’ defeat was cheered by thousands of Lazio fans who had stayed on at Rome’s Olympic stadium waiting for the outcome of the Perugia match.
The most fanatic Lazio supporters had demonstrated in front of the soccer federation headquarters, clashing with rot police, a few days ago to protest alleged help received by Juventus in last weekend’s game against Parma. Juventus won 1-0 after the referee voided a late goal by Parma.
This time, Juventus played the last 18 minutes a man short after Gianluca Zambrotta received a pair of yellow cards in a five-minute span. It was a replay of 1976, when Juventus lost at Perugia on the final day as Torino won the title.
AC Milan (16-5-13) beat Udinese 4-0 and finished third with 61 points, joining Lazio and Juventus in next season’s European Champions Cup. Internazionale of Milan (17-10-7) and Parma (16-8-10) tied for fourth with 58 points apiece and will meet in a playoff for Italy’s final Champions Cup berth.
Fiorentina and AS Roma earned UEFA Cup berths. Torino, Venezia, Cagliari and Piacenza were relegated the second division.
Leeds (21-11-6) clinched England’s third and final place in next season’s Champions Cup with a scoreless tie at West Ham and will join Manchester United (28-3-7), the English League champion, and second-place Arsenal (22-9-7).
Liverpool, which needed a victory to have any chance of finishing third, lost 1-0 at Bradford City and finished in fourth with 67 points. Liverpool qualified for next season’s UEFA Cup.
Wimbledon lost 2-0 at Southampton and was relegated to the first division on the final weekend of the season. Wimbledon had been at the top level for 14 straight seasons.
Sheffield Wednesday and Watford also were relegated, while Charlton and Manchester City were promoted and will be joined by Birmingham, Barnsley, Ispwich or Bolton.
Deportivo de La Coruna (20-11-6) missed a chance to clinch its first Spanish League title, playing a scoreless tie against Racing de Santander.
Second-place Barcelona (19-12-6), which trails by three points with one game remaining, played a scoreless tie against Real Sociedad.
Deportivo is at Espanol (12-14-11) next week, while Barcelona finishes at home against Celta de Vigo (15-15-7).
In Belgium, Thordur Gudjonsson scored two second-half goals as Racing Genk rallied a 4-1 victory over Standard Liege in the Belgian Cup final, earning a UEFA Cup berth.
In the Netherlands, Feyenoord of Rotterdam played a 1-1 tie against FC Twente and clinched a berth in the qualifying rounds for the Champions Cup. Dutch champion PSV Eindhoven and SC Heerenveen have the other places.