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

Andrew Murray On January - 12 - 2012

Team of the Week: Siena Slay Lacklustre Lazio

This week we saw 31 goals, four red cards and no draws for an exciting return to Serie A action this past weekend. Cagliari and Bologna upset higher-ranked opposition, Inter’s revival continued with a 5-0 hammering of Parma and Milan cruised through surprise package Atalanta, but nothing caught the eye like Siena’s humiliation of Lazio.

Despite widescale reshuffling necessitated from missing the likes of Stefano Mauri and Federico Marchetti, Lazio were confident. The Aquile boasted an unbeaten away record and had only conceded six goals away from the Stadio Olimpico. Their trip to Siena was to be an eye-opener.

Both teams lined-up with identical 4-4-2 formations and the hosts raced out of the starting blocks. Mattia Destro, Alessandro Gazzi and Emanuele Calaio threatened early, and it took just 11 minutes for the deadlock to be broken. Destro cut through Lazio’s central defenders as if they weren’t there and finished from an acute angle to notch Siena’s first goal in five Serie A games.

Lazio started tentatively but grew as the half progressed. Giuseppe Sculli blew an excellent chance to equalise but fluffed his lines from six yards, and the Aquile were made to pay minutes later when Marius Stankevicius’ clumsiness cost them a penalty. Calaio put a perfect spot kick straight into the top corner, and the hosts went into the break two goals to the good.

Hopes of a Lazio revival were squashed seconds into the second-half when ‘keeper Albano Bizzarri was dismissed for impeding Destro. Third-choice stopper Juan Pablo Carrizo couldn’t stop Calaio’s second penalty of the night, but his team certainly improved. 3-0 up, Siena sat back. The Biancocelesti, however, couldn’t keep it up, and the home side started to dominate possession shortly after Miroslav Klose missed a close-range header.

Destro put the visitors to the sword in the 81st minute, again finding space between Stankevicius and Giuseppe Biava to nod a sweet header past Carrizo. It finished 4-0 to Siena: a result that sees Lazio remain fourth and gives the hosts a five-point cushion over the relegation zone.

This is by far Siena’s most convincing result of the season. Their previous wins had come against Chievo, Cesena and Lecce and four goals is their biggest winning margin so far. Lazio are competing for a Champions League place and, on paper, should’ve breezed through Siena, but things aren’t so simple in Serie A this year.

Coach Giuseppe Sannino’s demanding system emphasises physicality, heavy pressing and width, and it has served the newly promoted Tuscans well this term. The Robur have one of the meanest defences in the league (only Fiorentina, Udinese and Fiorentina have shipped less goals), and some impressive attacking talent for a bottom-half side.

Destro was particularly impressive on Saturday and turned-in one of the best performances of his career. The Genoa loanee hasn’t always started for Siena but he’s scored 5 goals in just 8 starts. In a country notorious for its slow approach to youth development, Destro’s progress must be noted. The 20-year-old is as good on the ball as he is in the air, and his finishing is clinical. There’s still room for improvement, especially in Destro’s link-up play, but the early signs are encouraging.

Calaio, Destro’s strike partner, is Siena’s top scorer with seven goals this season. The journeyman striker played a key role in Napoli’s mid-2000s revival, and is on-course for the most-productive top tier season of his career. A limited forward who’s ineffective in deeper roles, Calaio has nonetheless proven to be a very effective goal-sniffer for Siena and, at 30, he certainly benefits from playing alongside the more exuberant Destro.

It’d be wrong not to praise Siena’s other top performers. Alessandro Gazzi was typically solid in the middle, making several tackles and completely the vast majority of his passes. Angel de Almeida and Cristiano Del Grosso, the full-backs, had excellent games. Both boasted 88+% pass completion rates, with Del Grosso providing Siena’s final assist.

One wonders how Siena would’ve faired with marquee signing Gaetano D’Agostino in the line-up. Replacement Francesco Bolzoni had a half-decent game and completed 78% of his passes but failed to make a single tackle all game. D’Agostino has hardly pulled-up trees at Siena but he’s a very good passer and one of Siena’s most prolific tacklers, contributing an average of 3.6 per game. Lazio were allowed 15 shots on Saturday, a figure that’d surely have been diminished if D’Agostino was on the pitch.

Little was expected of Siena this term and 16th place is a fair representation of their season so far. Beating Lazio 4-0 is a superb recovery from a slump that’d lasted nine winless games, but whether or not they have the quality to push up the table remains to be seen.

Siena’s core is built from a sturdy base. Sannino has kept most of last season’s promotion-winning side together, and the benefits are evident. Siena are one of the most together and hard-working squads in the league: even if they are relegated, it won’t be because they gave-up without a fight. This is a steely, aggressive team who are usually willing to sacrifice possession and get results through superior defending and their attacking players’ quality.

That said, grinta and aggression can only get you so far. The Robur will likely avoid relegation and finish in the lower-midtable but they lack the guile and technical quality to really push on. D’Agostino was supposed to help in that department, but the playmaker still has some way to go to completely revive his career. Destro is very talented and Calaio is effective, but progress necessitates more supply lines and a bigger goal contribution from other players. D’Agostino, with two, is the only other Siena player who’s scored more than once this season.

Beating Lazio was a glorious victory for Siena who face an ailing Parma side this weekend. Their solidity and physical strength should be enough to ensure comfortable survival, but it might take a new face or two this month to make Siena a more balanced, dangerous side.

Andrew Murray

Scottish football writer with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for all things calcio. Visit for more from Andrew.

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