Lazio beats Leverkusen 1-0 in Champions League playoff
ROME (AP) Lazio beat Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 in the first leg of their Champions League playoff on Tuesday, with halftime substitute Keita scoring the only goal of an entertaining match.
The 20-year-old Keita, who had added more bite to the Lazio attack after replacing Miroslav Klose, struck in the 77th minute. He raced from the halfway line before firing across into the bottom left corner to leave the Italian side with real hope of ending an eight-year absence from Europe's premier competition.
The second leg will be in Germany on Aug. 26, with the losing side dropping into the Europa League.
Leverkusen striker Hakan Calhanoglu had a goal ruled out for offside eight minutes earlier.
Both teams hit the woodwork in the first half while Calhanoglu almost scored an outstanding goal just before halftime.
Lazio fans had to be warned about racist chanting early in the match.
Leverkusen, which had won both its competitive matches this season, should have taken the lead in the 26th minute but an effort from Lars Bender crashed off the left upright from 20 yards (meters). Less than a minute later, Miroslav Klose hit the same post at the other end.
Wendell, who had already been booked, was fortunate to escape a second yellow card and a sending off when the Brazilian blocked Felipe Anderson shortly before halftime, with the Lazio crowd shouting for his dismissal.
Moments later, Calhanoglu tried to chip Etrita Berish from inside his own half but the long-range effort was just off target, with Lazio's stand-in goalkeeper scrambling.
There were several chances at either end in the second half with Berisha doing well to push away Calhanoglu's free kick from under his bar, while Keita fired just over from a tight angle after getting himself into a good position.
Leverkusen thought it had taken the lead in the 69th but Stefan Kiessling was offside when Karim Bellarabi pulled the ball back for Calhanoglu's finish.