Football: Italians on course for Uefa Cup final clash

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ANOTHER all-Italian Uefa Cup final has moved one step closer after Internazionale and Lazio won their respective first-legs of the semi-finals on Tuesday.

The Brazilian midfielder Ze Elias scored a dramatic late winner for Inter as they won 2-1 at home to Spartak Moscow, while Lazio won 1-0 at Atletico Madrid - conquerors of Leicester and Aston Villa in earlier rounds.

Inter, who lost last season's final on penalties to the German club Schalke 04, dominated their tie from start to finish. Ivan Zamorano gave them a first-half lead, but the Spartak captain, Dmitri Alenichev, prodded home a vital away goal after 48 minutes.

However, the Italians piled on the pressure and were rewarded in the last minute when Ze Elias, who had already set up Zamorano's goal, fired home following a goalmouth melee.

Lazio produced the perfect example of how to play away from home in a European tie when they shut out Atletico in Spain. Their Yugoslav international midfielder, Vladimir Jugovic, fired home the only goal of the game in the 34th minute as the Rome club extended their unbeaten record to 24 matches stretching back to last November.

Jugovic struck from just outside the penalty area after neat approach play from Croatian Alen Boksic, who along with the captain, Diego Fuser, ran the Atletico defence ragged.

Jesus Gil, president of the Spanish club, watched the game and defied a Uefa ban that should have kept him out of the stadium.

VfB Stuttgart, worried by a league defeat and rumours over the future of their coach, Joachim Loew, can at least welcome back a key trio for tonight's European Cup-Winners' Cup semi-final first-leg at home to Lokomotiv Moscow.

The playmaker Krasimir Balakov and the strikers Fredi Bobic and Jonathan Akpoborie, who were all missing through injury when the German Cup winners slumped to a 3-0 defeat away to Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga on Saturday, are fit again.

Lokomotiv Moscow, competing in a European semi-final for the first time, have a secret weapon - an intimate knowledge of VfB Stuttgart that the Russian club's staff have built up over years of spending their winter close season at a training camp just outside the German city.