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Udinese fightback floors Lech

Second-half goals from Simone Pepe and Antonio Di Natale secured Udinese Calcio’s place in the last 16 of the UEFA Cup as the Italian side survived a scare to overcome KKS Lech Poznań at the Stadio Friuli.

Having drawn 2-2 in Poland last week, Udinese were favourites to progress on home soil but they fell behind inside 13 minutes as Hernán Rengifo scored for Lech. The Serie A side regained their composure, though, and after Pepe levelled just shy of the hour-mark to restore their advantage on away goals, Di Natale made sure of their passage to the next round in added time.

Udinese received an early notice of Lech’s threat when defender Giovanni Pasquale had to make a goalline clearance from Semir Stilić’s left-footed strike with home goalkeeper Emanuele Belardi beaten. However, the Italian team failed to heed that warning and the visitors took a deserved lead after 13 minutes, Stilić playing in Rengifo who surged into the area and fired past Belardi.

Udinese struggled to make inroads against Lech’s well-drilled defence and the Polish league leaders had chances to extend their lead. Stilić’s angled effort went just wide of the far post before Rafał Murawski fired over. Then, on 43 minutes, Udinese defender Maurizio Domizzi made a crucial clearance from Stilić’s powerful effort after a quick counterattack.

Whatever Udinese coach Pasquale Marino said in his half-time team talk, it evidently worked as the hosts stepped up a gear. Di Natale fired over the bar, Pepe shot wide of a post and shortly before the hour Udinese pulled level as substitute Antonio Floro Flores played in Pepe who stroked the ball past Ivan Turina. Moments later, Robert Lewandowski could have restored the visitors’ lead but his close-range effort went over.

Kwadwo Asamoah was unlucky not to put Udinese in front when his effort rebounded off the bar with nine minutes remaining but Marino’s men were not to be denied and Di Natale sealed a 2-1 win in added time as he found the net from the edge of the box. The prize for the Friulani is a last-16 tie with last year’s winners FC Zenit St. Petersburg.