Football: Gascoigne impresses as Lazio labour: England exile illuminates Roman night but faithful are frustrated

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The Independent Online
Lazio . . . .0

Foggia. . . .0

FOR Paul Gascoigne, the lacklustre nature of Lazio's opening match of the Italian League season last night was not really the point. Nor was his departure from the field after 65 minutes, substituted without apparent injury. The absence of his notorious hair extension, removed a few days ago, gave a hint that the business he meant was not just show, and a sensible, diligent performance did nothing to harm the prospect of a more meaningful contribution to England's World Cup match against Poland next week.

If this was not quite the kind of inspiring display that Lazio must be hoping to get from their volatile English midfielder, then at least Gascoigne paced himself carefully, looked reasonably comfortable on a warm Roman night, and was certainly not to blame for the home team's frustrations against decent but hardly distinguished opposition.

Five separate touches of the ball and a provocative toss of the ball at an opponent in the first minute alone made it look as though Gascoigne was determined to be the instant star of the Italian League's first Sunday night pay-TV match. He cooled down, though, and settled into a position at the forward point of Lazio's midfield diamond, concentrating on infiltrating the Foggia rearguard with short passes to the front-runners, Thomas Doll and Pierluigi Casiraghi.

Lazio have not had a distinguished pre-season, losing seven of their 10 friendly matches, and the 40,000 or so fans in the Olympic Stadium last night sounded as if they need convincing that Sergio Cragnotti, the club's president, and Dino Zoff, the coach, have constructed a team capable of living with Milan, Internazionale, Juventus and perhaps Sampdoria.

In the early exchanges they looked highly vulnerable to counter-attacks, notably when Pierpaolo Bresciani, Massimiliano Cappellini and Foggia's own Dutchman, Bryan Roy, all brought saves from Luca Marchegiani within the space of a minute. In the next instant a characteristic Gascoigne dribble almost put Doll in, but the home fans had little else to enthuse about before half-time.

The injured Beppe Signori's deftness and gift for the unexpected were missed from Lazio's attack, in which Casiraghi looked cumbersome. Doll brought a rare cheer from the crowd with a whipped cross-shot, but Gascoigne's disappearance did little for the coherence of the team's patterns, and the visitors were happy enough to receive yellow cards for Chamot, Seno and Bucaro in the course of stifling the home team's increasingly frantic efforts.

Afterwards, Zoff praised Gascoigne's first-half performance. He had taken him off because of tiredness. Zoff estimated Gascoigne's fitness to be 'about 20 days behind that of the rest of the team', but he expected him to be fully fit before long.

Lazio (4-1-2-1-2): Marchegiani; Luzardi, Cravero, Negro, Favalli; Di Mauro; Fuser, Winter; Gascoigne (Di Matteo, 65); Casiraghi, Doll. Substitutes not used: Orsi (gk), Bergodi, De Paola, Saurini.

Foggia (4-3-3): Mancini; Chamot, Bucaro, Bianchini, Nicoli; Seno (Sciacca, 51), Di Biagio, Stroppa; Bresciani, Cappellini (Kolivanov, 69), Roy. Substitutes not used: Bacchin (gk), Di Bari, Caini.

More football, pages 24 and 25

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