Football: Lazio inspired by Gascoigne: English maverick rejuvenated

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The Independent Online
PAUL GASCOIGNE and Italian football had appeared to be heading for a messy, protracted divorce until yesterday when the mercurial Geordie returned to Lazio's line-up to orchestrate the 3-1 defeat of Juventus in the Olympic stadium. Gazza, full of ebullience, arrogance and skill, also lasted the distance - and even had the energy to score a fine goal in the final minute.

A myriad doubts, from form to fitness, had surrounded Gascoigne. As the patience of his long-suffering employers appeared to be on the verge of snapping, Leeds United, among others, expressed an interest in bringing the English playmaker home. But the reasons for paying pounds 5.5m became apparent yesterday as Gascoigne eclipsed Roberto Baggio, widely believed to be the next European Footballer Of The Year.

Lazio have looked a more potent proposition since the arrival of the Croat stiker, Alen Boksic, a year early from Marseille - a move that initially appeared to have undermined Gascoigne's prospects, given Italy's three-foreigner rule. Boksic - tall, powerful but with an above-average touch - has given Lazio's forward line an extra dimension, and Gascoigne was swift to exploit it.

Boksic headed Lazio's second (after a Jurgen Kohler own goal and close-range equaliser by Andrea Fortunato) before Gazza's grandstand finish. The 26-year-old England international broke through, only to shoot at Angelo Peruzzi's legs, although his response with the rebound was ruthless.

David Platt, England's other Serie A representative, fared less well, Sampdoria going down 3-0 to Internazionale. Platt missed two good chances before Inter took control through Sergio Battistini's header, Vladimir Jugovic's own- goal and a penalty from - who else? - Dennis Bergkamp. Parma moved back to the top with a 4-0 win at Cagliari last night.

Sao Paulo won the Intercontinental Cup for the second successive year in Tokyo yesterday, beating Milan 3-2. The decisive goal came from the Brazilians' forward, Muller, four minutes from time.

More football, pages 30 and 31