LECCE, Italy, July 7 (Reuters) - Lazio’s fading Serie A title challenge suffered a potentially fatal blow when they lost 2-1 at relegation-threatened Lecce and their frustration boiled over as Spanish defender Patric bit an opponent and was sent off near the end on Tuesday.
Lecce, with Serie A’s worst defence, had an early goal disallowed for the faintest of handballs, missed a penalty but still ended a run of six straight defeats as they climbed out of the drop zone with goals by Khouma Babacar and Fabio Lucioni.
A chaotic game in which Lazio led through Felipe Caicedo’s early goal ended with 10 minutes of added time which included Patric’s red card for biting Guilio Donati’s arm as several players argued.
Lazio, suffering from having a small squad and ravaged by injuries, stayed seven points behind leaders Juventus after losing for the third time in five games since the season restart. Juve were playing at AC Milan later on Tuesday.
Lecce are a point above the bottom three, having played a game more than 18th-placed Genoa who host Napoli on Wednesday.
There was drama from the outset as Lecce’s Marco Mancosu burst upfield and rifled a left-foot shot into the top corner, but it was chalked off after a long VAR review because the ball brushed Mancosu’s hand as he controlled it in the centre circle.
Almost immediately, Lecce goalkeeper Gabriel slipped as he tried to clear the ball, sent it straight to Marco Parolo and Caicedo scored into an empty net in the fifth minute.
That should have suited Lazio’s counter-attacking style but they left Babacar unmarked to head in Filippo Falco’s cross on the half hour and then conceded a penalty in first-half stoppage time.
Marco Calderoni’s cross hit Patric on the arm as he slid in to block the ball and the referee pointed to the spot but, as Mancosu was about to take the kick, he decided to review the incident.
The decision was confirmed after a two-minute delay but Mancosu appeared distracted and fired his effort over the bar.
Lazio’s relief was short-lived as Lucioni headed Lecce in front from a corner two minutes after halftime.
Gabriel atoned for his earlier mistake with superb saves from Luis Alberto, Bobby Adekanye and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic while Lazio defender Luiz Felipe’s header was cleared off the line. (Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)