Lazio hopes in balance after draw with Dinamo

August 14, 2007

BERLIN, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Nine-man Lazio had to settle for a 1-1 draw at home to Dinamo Bucharest on Tuesday, leaving their hopes of a return to the group phase of the Champions League in the balance.

Valencia made all but certain of their ticket to the main event with a 3-0 win over Swedish champions Elfsborg but otherwise the home favourites had to work hard in third qualifying round, first leg games.

Benfica snatched a 2-1 win over FC Copenhagen in Lisbon when Rui Costa scored his second of the night four minutes from time.

Rangers left it even later to grab a 1-0 victory at home to former European champions Red Star Belgrade, with Nacho Novo pouncing on a loose ball to supply the winner in the last minute.

The other 12 first leg matches in the third and final qualifying round are being played on Wednesday. The second legs are set for Aug. 28 and 29.

The match between Lazio and Dinamo Bucharest was marred by clashes between fans before kickoff. Two Dinamo fans were stabbed and three more injured, the ANSA news agency reported.

Lazio, trying to get back into the group stage for the first time since 2003-04, fell behind to a 22nd minute header from Ionel Danciulescu.

Tommaso Rocchi missed the chance to equalise from the penalty spot in the 38th minute but Lazio got a deserved equaliser when Massimo Mutarelli headed home a Lorenzo De Silvestri cross early in the second half.

Lazio finished the game with nine men after Valon Behrami was sent off for a dangerous two-footed challenge and Mutarelli received a second yellow card. Dinamo's Lucian Goian got a red card for a second booking in added time.

Benfica, twice former European Cup winners, were heading for a similarly disappointing result at home to Copenhagen before Costa's late second goal.

Costa had given his side the lead with a 25-metre shot midway through the first half only for Atiba Hutchinson to equalise 11 minutes later.

Four minutes from the end Costa delighted the 56,000 supporters at Luz stadium with another shot from outside the area to give Benfica victory from a match that saw American teenager Freddy Adu make his debut as a first-half substitute.

Valencia took an early lead in a much easier game against Elfsborg with a close-range shot from Vicente.

The Champions League runners-up in 2000 and 2001 gave themselves breathing space in the 59th minute when Joaquin swept a fine curling cross in from the right and David Silva got between two defenders to nod home.

Joaquin repeated the trick 19 minutes from time, this time supplying the cross for Fernando Morientes to head in.