Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Andrew Murray On November - 2 - 2011

Team of the Week: Lazio Shine in Sardinia

Superior finishing helped Lazio claim a 3-0 victory from a game that was more often than not spent on the back-foot. The result at Cagliari sees the Biancocelesti move to third in Serie A after an undefeated October. Edy Reja’s men have claimed four wins and a draw from their last five games to quietly become one of the league’s sides and this week’s Team of the Week.

Lazio started as slowly as you’d expect from a side missing the likes of Matuzalem and Stefano Mauri. The visitors struggled to get into the game early on and rode their luck as Lorenzo Ariaudo smashed a Michele Canini knock-down over from point blank. A long-range Thiago Ribeiro effort failed to trouble Federico Marchetti, but Cagliari continued to threaten with Ariaudo missing another close range effort minutes later.

The opener came shortly after a missed Thiago Ribeiro header. Djibril Cisse’s lay-off fell to Senad Lulic who expertly curled the ball into the back of the net from 25 yards. At this stage it was scarcely deserved: Cagliari had created several gilt-edged chances and Lazio had just Ledesma’s off-target thunderbolt to their credit. Still, it was a strike of impeccable quality, and the home side had been made to pay for shoddy finishing.

If the opening goal was harsh on Cagliari then Miroslav Klose’s second might as well have been a killing blow. Good work from Konko brought the ball to Cisse on the right flank, and the German timed his movement perfectly to meet the Frenchman’s cross and head home from six yards. Against the run of play they might’ve been, but there was no denying the calibre of the Biancocelesti’s goals.

The night only got more depressing for Cagliari who continued to create chances with their superior possession. Lazio were content to sit on their lead and only hit their hosts on the break at this point but the Sardinians couldn’t find that elusive goal. Ribeiro and Nainggolan threatened and Mobido Diakite almost put the ball in his own net, but Cagliari just couldn’t make a breakthrough.

The hammerblow came in the 88th minute. A Lazio freekick flew into the ball from some distance to meet Tomasso Rocchi’s head. Michael Agazzi produced an excellent save to push the ball onto the bar, but it fell into Rocchi’s path and the veteran hitman was on-hand to score his 100th Biancocelesti goal.

Lazio deserve full credit for coming away with three points from what could’ve been an incredibly tough game. Cagliari had been undefeated at home until Lazio came knocking, and they’d only conceded two goals at the Sant’Elia all season. The result may be completely at odds with the stats (Cagliari had 15 shots to Lazio’s 6), but the Briancocelesti made the most of their limited chances to secure an emphatic result.

This game was a huge test of Lazio’s resolve, and Reja’s men have now proved that they can travel to difficult grounds and leave with the points without dominating possession. Their counter-attacks weren’t exactly breakneck quick but they were incisive and the resulting goals were very wall-taken.

It looks like this squad is settling into a rhythm now. Reja’s position was in-question after a mixed start, but Lazio have taken advantage of Serie A’s collective inconsistency to slowly climb the table. As unspectacular as their European endeavours have been, the Biancocelesti have set the foundations for a strong Serie A campaign and should do well going forward.

It’ll be interesting to see how Lazio cope against the league’s “bigger” teams. They’ve already beaten Roma, but the passion of the Derby della Capitale tends to override all other factors. An opening day draw with Milan aside, Lazio haven’t really faced the big guns yet. There are still fixtures with Juventus, Napoli, Udinese and, ahem, Inter still to come. Whether or not their counter-attacks will be so effective against calcio’s toughest teams remains to be seen.

That’s not to discredit Cagliari: the Sardinians have fallen away a little but, but they’ve had a decent start to the season and have turned the Sant’Elia into a fortress. The Biancocelesti should be delighted with their win, and nobody will be happier than Rocchi.

The arrivals of Klose and Cisse have pushed the former Empoli man further to the peripheral, but Lazio could hardly ask for a better option from the bench. 100 goals from 266 games is an excellent record for a man who cost just €4m seven years ago and Rocchi is fifth in Lazio’s all-time top scorers list. Silvio Piola’s 142 might be unattainable, but with Rocchi claiming he feels as young as ever perhaps Beppe Signori’s 127 isn’t too lofty a goal.

It would be unfair to praise a Lazio striker without mentioning Klose though. As lethal as anyone in the world when it comes to playing in the penalty box, Klose has made a flying start to life on the peninsula and has scored 6 goals in 9 Serie A games. The German won’t create many of his own opportunities but he’s as ruthlessly efficient as his nationality suggests and looks to be enjoying his Indian Summer in Italy.

If only his strike partner was so lucky. Cisse hasn’t scored since the opening day, and looks an increasingly forlorn man every time he’s hauled off the pitch. It’d be unfair to write him off so early and he has contributed plenty of assists, but the ex-Liverpool man clearly hasn’t done as well as he could’ve.

It’s hard to predict where the Biancocelesti will finish but beating Cagliari away shows they can get the job done. They have one of the league’s best midfields, an incredibly talented playmaker in Hernanes and one of Europe’s greatest goalscorers, but can they keep it up? They’re not exactly blessed with great full-backs and they need to do better at home but they’re certainly capable of another high finish if they can keep this run going.

Andrew Murray

Scottish football writer with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for all things calcio. Visit http://aroundthepeninsula.wordpress.com for more from Andrew.

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  • rim

    I couldn’t agree with you more!!

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