ROME Fourth-placed Lazio missed the chance to keep pace with leaders Juventus when they were held to a 0-0 draw at struggling Bologna in Serie A on Monday and are now eight points off top spot.
Bologna were not pretty but they were certainly effective, stifling a Lazio side who looked to create chances throughout the first half as they sought to leave with a victory.
The home side, by shutting down Brazilian playmaker Hernanes and midfielder Antonio Candreva, cut off Lazio's supply lines, leaving Libor Kozak increasingly frustrated up front.
The Rome club started with talismanic striker Miroslav Klose on the bench, with the Germany international still working his way back to match fitness after a recent ankle injury.
The visitors had their chances, with Candreva testing goalkeeper Federico Agliardi in the 13th minute and Giuseppe Biava misdirecting a Michael Ciani cross just before the break.
But Lazio struggled in the early stages of the second half, allowing the hosts to create a series of chances with Tiberio Guarente sending Alberto Gilardino's pass wide and Gilardino failing to reach Saphir Taider's cross from close range.
When Kozak was sent off for a second booking four minutes from time Lazio's hopes of breaking the deadlock were all but over despite the introduction of Klose late in the game.
The draw leaves Lazio on 30 points from 16 games, three behind third-placed Napoli and a point above city rivals AS Roma, and they next face a confident Inter Milan side who have moved up to second place after beating Napoli on Sunday.
"It was the right result, no side really deserved to lose," said frustrated Lazio coach Vladimir Petkovic. "However, we certainly should have done more to win.
"We seemed to lose a bit of courage after the break, we weren't able to support our striker in the right way and I didn't like that.
"We should have created more pressure, to press Bologna more. That way we would have got a better result."
Bologna are sixth from bottom with 15 points and have a difficult trip to Napoli as their next fixture.
Sampdoria lost 2-0 at home to Udinese in a mid-table clash after first-half goals from Danilo and Antonio Di Natale.
The visitors went ahead in the 17th minute when Brazilian defender Danilo headed Di Natale's corner in at the far post.
Di Natale doubled the lead just before the half-hour after linking up with Emanuel Badu before going through on goal and sliding the ball past goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
Sampdoria had their moments but, with teenage Argentine Mauro Icardi on his own up front, they struggled to create chances despite enjoying most of the possession.
The win takes Udinese up to eighth place with 22 points, while Sampdoria have slipped to 13th on 17.
(Writing by Matt Barker; Editing by Ken Ferris)