Football: Gascoigne excels in his brief encounter: Lazio glimpse promised land in Englishman's cameo

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Lazio. . . . .1

Sampdoria. . .1

PAUL GASCOIGNE yesterday produced a 48-minute cameo of his stay in Italy, playing superbly in Lazio's draw with Sampdoria in Rome before limping off prematurely.

The endless frustration of being Gascoigne's manager was clearly etched on the face of Dino Zoff afterwards. 'Losing Paul at the start of the second half clearly affected the rhythm and fluency of the team,' the Lazio manager said. 'All sides have their player who makes the difference; you suffer when you lose yours.'

Gascoigne had inspired a good first-half performance by Lazio but two minutes into the second half he departed with a rib injury - the result of some particularly close attention from a Sampdoria midfield including David Platt. Gascoigne has badly bruised ribs but should play next week.

Sven Goran Eriksson, the Sampdoria manager, had special praise for Platt, saying: 'An unselfish player who makes his presence felt in all areas of play. His invaluable contribution is the hallmark of a great, great player.' How Zoff must dream to add the consistency and discipline of Platt to his own Englishman.

Once again Lazio were given a taste of Gascoigne's promised land, only for it to melt like the morning mist. Last year's never-ending list of problems seems to have continued into the new year, and the patience of the Lazio management is wearing desperately thin in their wait for a return on their investment. Even Gascoigne's position as idol of the Curva Sud has been taken by Alen Boksic.

In a game crucial for Lazio's struggle to keep in touch with the leaders, Milan, Zoff's team started badly, Ruud Gullit rising in splendid isolation to head home an Alberigo Evani corner after seven minutes. The reaction of the Roman side was immediate with Gascoigne the guiding light. He provided the imagination and variety of service for the penetrating runs of Boksic and Giuseppe Signori.

A header from the Croat, from a splendid Gazza pass, shaved the post and persistent Lazio pressure was rewarded in the 38th minute by a penalty awarded for a mistimed tackle from behind on Roberto Di Matteo. Signori dispatched the spot-kick past his international colleague, Gianluca Pagliuca.

Lazio then threatened to run away with the game. 'Gascoigne was running the show,' the Samp manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, said. 'I told my players to close him down as aggressively as possible.' The message was obviously received.

There remains barely five months in which Gascoigne must perform to retain his place on this most international of stages. He would do well to copy the example and professionality of the similarly injury-prone Gullit, for whom an Italian new year proverb is well suited: 'Time passes, form is transient, class is forever'.

Lazio (1-3-4-2): Marchegiani; Cravero; Bergodi, Bonomi, Bacci; Fuser, Winter, Gascoigne (Di Mauro, 46), Di Matteo; Boksic, Signori (Casiraghi, 70). Substitutes not used: Orsi (gk), Negro, Sclosa.

Sampdoria (4-4-2): Pagliuca; Mannini, Vierchowod, Sacchetti, Serena; Lombardo, Platt, Evani, Jugovic; Gullit, Mancini (Salsano, 80) Substitutes not used: Barigione (gk), Dall'igna, Invernizzi.

Referee: Nicchi (Arezzo).

Photograph, round-up, page 27