Lazio holds Real Madrid to draw

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Lazio held nine-time champion Real Madrid to a 2-2 draw on Wednesday in the Roman team's first Champions League game at home in four years.

Updated: October 07, 2007 17:06 IST
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Lazio held nine-time champion Real Madrid to a 2-2 draw on Wednesday in the Roman team's first Champions League game at home in four years.

Ruud van Nistelrooy scored two goals for Madrid, but Goran Pandev equalised each time for Lazio.

"The guys had a lot of pride. They were nervous, facing Real Madrid in front of a full stadium. We did what we tried to do," Lazio coach Delio Rossi said. "We played evenly with a team that is technically superior."

Van Nistelrooy, who had missed two games with a calf strain, scored in the eighth and 61st minutes to give him 56 goals in 75 European matches. Pandev answered in the 32nd and 75th.

Van Nistelrooy received the ball all-alone behind Lazio's defence and had only Ballotta to beat for his second goal, but Pandev equalised from the edge of the area.

"When we were ahead 2-1, I felt we were in control and I thought at one point we would win the game. It was a very open game," Madrid coach Bernd Schuster said. "But getting one point is OK. This is the Champions League, these games are not easy."

Madrid has four points in Group C and Lazio has two.

With the Stadio Olimpico full, Lazio took the initiative after kickoff, but Fabio Cannavaro blocked Pandev's shot in the fourth minute and Sergio Ramos stopped a chance for Tommaso Rocchi a minute later.

"It was a great atmosphere, so many fans in such a big stadium, a bit more than I expected," Schuster said. "The fans were key."

Cannavaro, who captained Italy to the World Cup title last year, played with a foreign club for the first time in his home country.

Van Nistelrooy scored on Madrid's first opportunity, redirecting a free kick from Wesley Sneijder.

Cannavaro made a difficult play on Rocchi in the 18th to start a counterattack and a defensive error led to another Lazio chance in the 26th, but Pandev couldn't get the ball to Rocchi, who was wide open.

"Lazio played a great game. They made us suffer in defense," Cannavaro said. "When you play with a lot of offensive midfielders it's difficult to cover well. We're a little lazy."

In the 28th, Cristian Ledesma sent a free kick in on goal which Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas calmly caught. Two minutes later, Rocchi set up Pandev with only Casillas to beat but Pandev shot high.

"We were able to keep the pace high. Too bad we missed some opportunities, but making mistakes is ok, especially when you're facing an opponent of this level," Rossi said. "We're improving."

Pandev made up for his error with his first goal, finishing off a beautiful play. Luciano Zauri sent the ball over to Guglielmo Stendardo, who headed the ball over to Pandev, and the Macedonia striker pounded the ball in.

Madrid ended the half with two chances. Sergio Ramos strode into Lazio's area in the 37th but shot wide and Arjen Robben's attempt from beyond the area was caught by 43-year-old goalkeeper Marco Ballotta in the 44th.

Both sides kept their energy level up to start the second half.

Ballotta had to make a diving save to stop a bicycle kick by Van Nistelrooy in the 51st and Stefano Mauri wasted a chance in the 52nd because he thought he was offside.

Van Nistelrooy had another chance in the 53rd but couldn't get a good shot off. Rocchi had a chance inside Madrid's box in the 57th but shot wide from a difficult angle.

Madrid hosts Olympiakos next and Lazio visits Werder Bremen.

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