Monday, April 22, 2024

Lazio 1-0 Juventus: Talking points as Marusic strikes late for Tudor to start Lazio spell with huge victory

Veselin Trajkovic in Editorial, Serie A 30 Mar 2024

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In what was undoubtedly the most interesting clash in the 30th round of the Serie A roller coaster, Lazio emerged victorious over Juventus, the only goal of the game being the work of Adam Marusic in the final seconds of the second-half stoppage time.

The game

The opening 45 minutes saw Lazio mostly dominating the contest and creating several chances, with Taty Castellanos narrowly missing the target on two promising occasions, and Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny doing well to save a fine shot from Felipe Anderson.

On the other hand, Juventus threatened early with Gleison Bremer missing a header from close range, and Christos Mandas, who stood between the posts for Lazio instead of the injured Ivan Provedel, denying Federico Chiesa’s efforts twice.

At the break, Juve boss Massimiliano Allegri decided to leave the insufficiently fit Mattia De Sciglio and Fabio Miretti, who made no mark whatsoever in the first half, in the dressing room, and send Samuel Illing-Junior and Weston McKennie into the fray instead. The changes made a difference early in the second half as the Bianconeri grabbed control over the proceedings for a while, and threatened very seriously when Illing-Junior’s cross found Andrea Cambiaso on the far post and only an excellent reaction from Szczesny prevented McKennie from scoring from close range.

Igor Tudor, who recently replaced Maurizio Sarri as the Lazio head coach, responded to this change by making changes of his own. With just under an hour gone, Castellanos and Pedro made way for Ciro Immobile and Gustav Isaksen upfront. The home team quickly re-established their previous domination over the ball, and it was Allegri’s turn to react once more.

Timothy Weah and Kenan Yildiz replaced Cambiaso and Chiesa, but this time the changes didn’t make as much impact as at halftime. All the visitors were able to do was to try and stifle Lazio’s attacks, and they mostly played with 10 men behind the ball in the final stages of the game. On the other hand, thanks to his lucid team selection, Tudor was able to turn up the volume further for the final 10 minutes, and it was time for Luis Alberto and Matteo Guendouzi, regular starters under Sarri, to come on in the places of Daichi Kamada and Mattia Zaccagni.

Allegri’s final throw of the dice was to pull out Moise Kean and give 22-year-old Nikola Sekulov his Juventus debut, and it later turned out to have been a huge mistake.

Just as it looked Juve would be able to resist to the final whistle and leave the Italian capital with a point, in the final second of the three-minute stoppage time, Marusic escaped the attention of Sekulov on the far post to get on the end of a fine cross from Guendouzi slammed his header into the back of the net, with Szczesny unable to do anything about it.

Allegri’s youth gamble misfires again

At the start of March, Juventus traveled to Naples to face the reigning Serie A champions, and as the game approached its end, Allegri gave a chance to 18-year-old Joseph Nonge. The youngster was on the pitch for 12 minutes before conceding a penalty and earning a yellow card, resulting in Giacomo Raspadori scoring the winning goal for Napoli. And then, when it looked like Nonge’s confidence couldn’t be hurt any more than it was, Allegri took him out.

This time he took a gamble with Sekulov, and Marusic simply took advantage of a clear lack of experience from his marker in that crucial situation to hit the Old Lady with another heart-crushing defeat. At least there was no time for Allegri to humiliate Sekulov further.

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There has lately been much talk about Allegri’s future at the club being uncertain, but regarding the time he still has in the job, the Juve faithful will be hoping that the 56-year-old tactician has learned his lesson about throwing raw youngsters into the fire when important matches approach the final whistle with the score tied.

A new dawn for Lazio under Tudor?

In the last month, Lazio lost four consecutive matches at home in the Italian flight, a staggeringly poor run at the Olimpico. That, coupled with the Champions League exit at the hands of Bayern Munich and a defeat away to Fiorentina in the same span, were the reasons why Sarri resigned his post. The club put his assistant Giovanni Martusciello in charge of the team for the trip to Frosinone last week, and the team responded with an important, albeit more difficult than expected, win.

Tudor was appointed three days later on a contract until the summer of 2025, and judging on this game, admittedly a small sample, it seems they’ve chosen the right man.

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Not many expected the likes of Immobile, Alberto, Guendouzi, Isaksen, Elseid Hysaj and Patric to be left on the bench for the game against Juventus, which obviously indicates that the Croatian coach has plenty of courage to show in his work. The team he selected to start was not only a match for the Bianconeri, but was actually the better one on the pitch for a large part of the contest. And then, he had all those players to introduce off the bench if need be, and when he did, it made a big difference.

In this manner, Tudor sent a strong message to his players – there are no guaranteed starters at this point, they have to earn that status through strong individual performances in accordance with what’s asked of them. Whether the 45-year-old will lead the Biancocelesti into a new era, remains to be seen.

Looking ahead

Leaving the Champions League at this stage of the season may yet prove a blessing in disguise for Lazio. They were never really likely to win it, realistically speaking, and they can now turn their attention solely on the domestic challenges ahead.

Interestingly enough, the next obstacle Tudor’s men will face is – Juventus. On Tuesday, just three days after this game, these two teams will meet at the Allianz Stadium in Turin, in the first leg of their encounter in the semifinals of the Coppa Italia.

And five days later, they return to league action at the Olimpico, but as the nominal visitors, which means the team they’ll be up against is city rival AS Roma. Matches at home against bottom side Salernitana and away to mid-table Genoa follow, before they welcome Juventus again for the second leg of the Coppa clash. By then, the football public in Italy should have a clearer picture on Tudor and his impact at the club.

As for Juventus, after welcoming Lazio on Tuesday and the home game against Fiorentina at the end of next week, they also have a city derby to go through as they make their way across town to face Torino. They also play away to Cagliari before facing Lazio in the second leg of the Coppa semis, and they round April off with a nice game against AC Milan.

Juventus are currently third with a 15-point deficit to Serie A leaders Inter Milan, and holding on to the spots leading into the Champions League next term appears the best they can do now. Lazio are seventh, four points behind Atalanta in sixth and one point ahead of Napoli in eighth, and they really should be able to qualify for one of the lesser European competitions at the end.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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