Football: Gazza's Lazio cameo: Trevor Haylett sees the Rome club spurred to success at White Hart Lane by a former Spur

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The Independent Online
ON THE basis that 50 minutes of Paul Gascoigne is worth 90 of anyone else, his White Hart Lane admiration society went home content last night, reassured that their hero who had returned to say his goodbyes is fit and well and ready to dominate the world stage again.

In truth, however, it was a low- key Gazza performance, a low-key occasion from which he departed at the start of the second half and it was almost as an addendum to the main event that Lazio then went on to win the game and clinch the Capital Cup with a 5-0 aggregate thanks to late and spectacular goals from Giovanni Stroppa and Giuseppe Signori.

Winning it was the easy part for the Italian club's captain, Claudio Sclosa. It was much harder keeping hold of the trophy to display to the cameramen when a certain Geordie rascal was pulling his shorts down to his knees at the same time]

'There's no problem with my fitness,' Gascoigne confirmed afterwards. 'It was just that Dino Zoff wanted me off to keep me fresh for Sunday's game with Atalanta. The crowd were brilliant. There was a lump in my throat at the start but I took it all in my stride. Claudio's shorts? That was a bit of fun - you know me, I can't resist a laugh and a joke.'

There was high expectation in the north London night air, which there had not been for some time, hardly since Gascoigne last graced this treasured turf, 18 long and exceedingly painful months ago.

Inside the ground there was a reasonable turnout, 11,112 ignoring the temptations of live television and the wretched weather to come and pay homage but the reception they afforded him was more respectful than emotional. After all, how many comebacks can a player have, even someone as charismatic as this one.

There was Rome four weeks ago, Wembley seven days ago and now White Hart Lane. The exertions of that England occasion had clearly exacted a price, Gazza being content to do the simple things, to make the easy pass and to decline every opportunity to strut his stuff in the extravagant way of old.

Lazio wore yellow - Tottenham's second colours - to make him feel at home and there were also reminders of Rome and the first leg in the powerful hailstorm that broke out midway through the first half.

Hail the returning hero? There was little opportunity to celebrate the fact as he popped in and out of the picture, passing to the nearest available team-mate, a broad smile never far away for the familiar faces in white.

A free-kick from long range went tantalisingly close, a shooting chance after a delicious exchange of back-heel flicks with Stroppa declined as the Tottenham defenders hurried to crowd him out.

Then Gascoigne was on his way, leaving the stage for his replacement, Signori, and Stroppa to demonstrate the gulf in class with eye-catching goals.

Arrivederci Gazza - we and our impoverished game will miss you.

Tottenham Hotspur: Walker; Edinburgh, Van den Hauwe (Austin, h/t), Samways (Anderton, h/t), Mabbutt, Ruddock, Sedgley (Watson, h/t), Durie (Turner, 61), Barmby, Nayim, Allen (Howells, h/t).

Lazio: Orsi (Fiori, 61); Bonomi, Favalle (Fuser, h/t), Sclosa, Luzardi, Cravero, Neri, Winter, Riedle, Gascoigne (Signori, 50), Stroppa.

Referee: A Ward (Middlesex).

(Photograph omitted)

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