20.02.2021 23:14 h

Luis Alberto lifts Lazio to fourth in Serie A before Bayern clash

Luis Alberto scored the only goal as Lazio battled past Sampdoria 1-0 to move fourth in Serie A on Saturday before they take on holders Bayern Munich in the Champions League last 16 next week.

Lazio's six-match winning streak ended last weekend with a painful 3-1 defeat at Inter Milan.

But Spaniard Alberto struck after 24 minutes in Rome curling in a Sergej Milinkovic-Savic cross for his seventh league goal this campaign.

Simone Inzaghi's side overtake Juventus to move into the Champions League berths, equal on points with third-placed Roma, with both their rivals playing later this weekend.

"I congratulated the team, it was not easy to win this match a few days before the Champions League," said Inzaghi, who marked his 100th victory in Serie A as a coach.

"I feel great pride in this," continued the 44-year-old.

"Now, we have two objectives, to get past this round in the Champions League and hold our place in Europe, knowing that we're up against battleships."

Lazio are back in the elite European competition this season after a 13-year break and face Bayern in Rome on Tuesday.

Despite the Germans losing 2-1 to Eintracht Frankfurt in the Bundesliga on Saturday, Inzaghi said the six-time European Cup winners "were the only club in the draw we didn't want".

"Against Bayern it will be very difficult, we know. They are the champions and favourites since only a few months ago they won, but we're not afraid.

"They have some problems. We have to enjoy the challenge."

Lazio lost 3-0 to Sampdoria earlier this season and were again made to work by Claudio Ranieri's mid-table side.

Lazio forward Ciro Immobile and Sampdoria's Fabio Quagliarella both threatened in the first half after Alberto's opener.

And Vedat Muriqi came off the bench in place of Alberto after an hour, minutes later missing a chance for the second.

Adam Marusic sent the ball through from the right but Kosovar Muriqi was unable to finish in front of goal.

Lazio held on despite a late flurry with three yellow cards, to extend their unbeaten home run against their Genoa rivals to 15 games, and sit 11 points behind leaders Inter Milan.

Genoa earned a point late with a 2-2 draw against Hellas Verona, despite the hosts ending the match a man down after Luca Pellegrini went off injured.

Milan Badelj scored deep into injury time to extend his side's unbeaten run to seven games under new coach Davide Ballardini.

The port side came back twice, with Ivan Ilic putting Verona ahead after quarter of an hour, before Eldor Shomurodov levelled three minutes after the break.

Marco Davide Faraoni fired in Verona's second from an angle after the hour.

Genoa played the final quarter of an hour a man down after Pellegrini limped off with all substitutions made.

But just as it looked as if the visitors would end their away win drought Badelj blasted in the equaliser to continue 11th-placed Genoa's revival from 19th when Ballardini took over two months ago.

Kevin Lasagna missed two chances with only the goalkeeper to beat as Verona, in ninth, saw their European hopes fade.

"It was a great point against a strong team with players from the national side like Lasagna and (Mattia) Zaccagni," said Ballardini.

Bologna held on for a 1-1 draw against Sassuolo despite playing over an hour a man down after Scottish left-back Aaron Hickey was sent off for a foul on Mert Muldur.

Roberto Soriano put Bologna ahead after 17 minutes following a Sassuolo defensive blunder before losing Hickey after half an hour.

Francesco Caputo got a point for eighth-placed Sassuolo seven minutes after the break.

At the top of the table, leaders Inter and AC Milan, one point behind in second, renew their duel for pole position on Sunday in the San Siro.

Champions Juventus, in fifth, play catch-up at home against lowly Crotone on Monday.