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May 26, 2013

Lazio wins Rome bragging rights

Lazio won the Coppa Italia for the sixth time in their history after beating local rivals Roma in the final

ROME -- Lazio took city bragging rights by beating Roma 1-0 Sunday in a derby to win a heated Italian Cup final and maintain its recent edge in the series.

Senad Lulic scored in the 71st minute at the Stadio Olimpico after goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont failed to clear a cross from Antonio Candreva, leaving the unmarked Bosnia-Herzegovina midfielder to put the ball into the net at the far post.

"This victory won't be forgotten," Lulic said. "I found myself there in the right moment. I dedicate this goal to my wife, who is pregnant."

Lazio has now won four of the last five derbies, with the last meeting a 1-1 draw in April. Its sixth Italian Cup title also earned Lazio a spot in next season's Europa League group phase.

Worries of fan violence at the match were high and there were brief clashes despite the presence of thousands of police officers both inside and outside the stadium.

Also, South Korean rapper PSY was met with boos and small firework explosions during a pre-game performance. Organizers responded by raising the volume while he sang his hit, "Gangnam Style," to drown out the dissent.

Roma started with an attacking 4-2-3-1 lineup featuring Erik Lamela, Francesco Totti and Marquinho behind center forward Mattia Destro. Lazio countered with a 4-5-1 spearheaded by veteran Germany forward Miroslav Klose.

Klose had the first opportunity four minutes in but missed wide.

Totti, Roma's 36-year-old captain, had his club's first chance in the ninth, a bouncing shot that was stopped by Lazio goalkeeper Federico Marchetti near the post.

A minute later, United States midfielder Michael Bradley dribbled free and had a clear look at the target but sent his angled effort wide.

Klose had an even better chance in the 35th but his close-range header was blocked by Lobont.

Roma also wasted a header in the 45th when Destro's effort from within the box sailed over the bar.

Five yellow cards were handed out in the first half, with both sides playing very physically.

The physical battle continued at the start of the second half and Lazio captain Cristian Ledesma exited on a stretcher in the 53rd following contact with Destro.

Eventually the match opened up and there was end-to-end action, with Totti producing three more shots and Klose failing to redirect a volley cross from Mauri, Ledesma's replacement, in the 68th.

Two minutes after Lulic's goal, Roma thought it had scored with a free kick from Totti that bounced off Marchetti and the underside of the bar but the ball did not go in.

In the 90th, Panagiotis Tachtsidis was shown a red card on Roma's bench for protests and Totti then received a yellow, also for protests.

In all, eight yellow cards -- four for each side -- and one red were handed out.

Ahead of the game, police confiscated bags of knives, rocks, clubs and other homemade weapons hidden outside the stadium. Still, fans inside the stadium set off loud fireworks throughout the match and the start of the second half was delayed when smoke bombs were thrown onto the pitch.

As for the reception during PSY's performance, the rapper appeared embarrassed but told fans afterward in Italian, "I love Italy." It was unclear if the boos were of a racist nature, although fans for both clubs have come under attack this season for racist chanting.

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