Football: Ronaldo's menace mesmerises Lazio

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The Independent Online
Lazio 0 Internazionale 3

RONALDO warmed up for the World Cup by helping Internazionale to their first serious silverware in four years, humiliating Lazio in a pulsating Uefa Cup final here last night.

The Brazilian wunderkind scored a simple third goal and had many breathtaking moments but his main contribution to the Inter cause was his terrifying presence. The usually solid Lazio back four seemed mesmerised by his potential threat, leaving spaces which the other Inter forwards joyfully exploited. The only blots on a fast and skilful match were two unnecessary sendings- off in a bad tempered final few minutes. Inter's previously outstanding Taribo West saw red for kicking an opponent and the Lazio substitute, Matias Almeyda, was dismissed for a second bookable offence.

Inter had been presented with the kind of start all cup final teams would kill for. In the fifth minute the Chilean striker, Ivan Zamorano, unaccountably left in space by the Lazio defence, ran on to a through ball from the left-back, Javier Zanetti, and fired past Luca Marchegiani.

Any thought that this would be a defensive, space-starved match vanished. Lazio poured forward, leaving gaps for the busy Youri Djorkaeff and Ronaldo. Inter could have sealed the game in the 25th minute. A clever dummy by the French striker found Ronaldo on the edge of the area. He hit a prodigious shot which pinged off the angle of post and cross-bar. Minutes later Djorkaeff looped a header just too high.

Lazio forced a series of corners and free-kicks but seldom bothered the Inter defence. Pavel Nedved almost dribbled clear in the area but the ball bobbled away from his boot as he was about to shoot. The Lazio captain, Diego Fuser, threw away his side's best chance of the first half, scuffing wide when through on the right.

Increasingly, the Roman attacks foundered on the cosmopolitan Inter midfield, with Aaron Winter and Diego Simeone outstanding.

Inter have been sulking since their controversial 1-0 defeat at Juventus last month trampled their hopes of winning the Italian championship, but the Milanese club took an increasingly powerful, often thrilling, hold of the game in the second half.

Zamorano, again left in space, ran on to a through ball from Simeone in the 55th minute. His shot hammered the foot of the left-hand post and the ball rebounded the length of the Lazio goal-line and somehow circumnavigated the far upright. Five minutes later the match was explosively ended by the Inter right-back, Zanetti. Ronaldo crossed from the right, Zamorano headed the ball back and the defender hit a screamer into the net from 25 yards.

Ronaldo completed the humiliation in the 71st minute. Francesco Moriero made a thrilling run from midfield and found the Brazilian, who rounded Marchegiani and rolled the ball into the net.

Lazio (4-4-2): Marchegiani; Grandoni (Gottardi, 55), Nesta, Negro, Favalli; Fuser, Venturin (Almeyda, 48), Jugovic, Nedved; Casiraghi, Mancini.

Internazionale (4-3-1-2): Pagliuca; Colonnese, Fresi, West, Zanetti; Winter (Cauet, 65), Ze Elias, Simeone; Djorkaeff (Moriero, 65); Ronaldo, Zamorano (Sartor, 73).

Referee: A Lopez Nieto (Spain).