Monday, June 17, 2024

Lazio 2-1 Juventus: Talking points as Juventus suffer another Olimpico defeat

Veselin Trajkovic in Editorial, Serie A 9 Apr 2023

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Juventus suffered two defeats in their last 15 games in all competitions, both at the same venue. The first happened when they played away to AS Roma in early March, and having returned to Stadio Olimpico on Saturday evening, they lost to Lazio as the iconic stadium in the Italian capital proved fatal for them again.

It was Sergej Milinkovic-Savic who took advantage of poor defending by Alex Sandro to break the deadlock in the 38th minute, and it took just four minutes for Juventus to level the score through Adrien Rabiot. Nonetheless, the home side emerged victorious as Mattia Zaccagni finished off a great team move, crowned by a stunning display of skill and vision from Luis Alberto to set the winger up for an unobstructed shot in the 53rd.

The game

Lazio started the contest strongly and for the most part of the opening quarter of the match, the ball was closer to the Juventus goal. And just as the Bianconeri started pushing the hosts back and establishing some degree of control over what was happening on the pitch, they were undone by a fine Zaccagni cross towards Milinkovic-Savic, which, in all honesty, Sandro should have done better to clear.

The Juventus defender, however, chose to instigate contact with the Lazio midfielder and then went down, hoping for an attacking foul to be given. Referee Marco Di Bello allowed the play to go on and Milinkovic-Savic scored. The VAR review showed Sandro to have gone down far too easily, and do the dismay of the players in black-and-white, the goal was allowed to stand.

Juventus responded almost immediately. Angel Di Maria whipped in a dangerously taken corner and though Ivan Provedel did well to save Gleison Bremer’s header, the ball was literally forced over the line by Rabiot.

The winning goal was a superb display of football brilliance, not only individually from Alberto and Zaccagni. It was a group effort, involving Felipe Anderson and Ciro Immobile too.

Anderson broke down the right wing and pulled a low ball across the box, and as Immobile made his run towards the near post and dragged Bremer with him, Federico Gatti was left standing in an indecisive way and Juan Cuadrado was forced to leave Zaccagni on the far post, rushing to block a potential shot by Alberto from about a yard behind the penalty spot. Seeing this, Alberto simply chose not to shoot but to flick the ball on to Zaccagni instead, and Zaccagni’s shot to the far bottom corner was inch-perfect.

A glimpse at the stats gives off a pretty good idea of what went on for the most of the game. The possession was evenly distributed between the two teams, they were balanced in terms of shots on target (4-4), Juventus had one more that failed to find the mark (3-4); all in all, a relatively even contest in which Lazio still managed to look more dangerous, particularly on the counter – they threatened in such manner 11 times, compared to Juventus’ four. That difference was particularly notable in the last 30 minutes, as the visitors tried to increase the pressure in search of an equalizer that eventually wouldn’t come.

Assistant coach Marco Landucci was in charge for Juventus with boss Massimiliano Allegri reportedly ill, and in the 63rd minute, he made a triple change to try and boost his team’s chances. Federico Chiesa came on to replace Filip Kostic, Dusan Vlahovic made way for Arkadiusz Milik, and Leandro Paredes replaced Manuel Locatelli, but to no avail. 

Deserved Lazio win

With a goal and an assist, it’s hard to argue with Zaccagni being named the Man of the Match, but truth be told, none of it would’ve happened without the industriousness of Milinkovic-Savic and Alberto’s creativity, or for that matter, the composure of Danilo Cataldi at the base of the midfield.

Despite everything the stats say, Lazio deserved to win this game. They were the ones directing its course, and it went the way they wanted it to. Apart from a few mistakes by left-back Elseid Hysaj in the form of a couple of dangerously misplaced passes, the entire Lazio team had a relatively good game and stuck to their plan. Maurizio Sarri has obviously built a great football unit, capable of squaring up to anyone.

On the other hand, nerves and frustration appeared to be getting the better of several Juventus players on several occasions, most notably Juan Cuadrado and Sandro. Kostic, who proved extremely important for the Bianconeri in a number of previous matches, was far too quiet and his withdrawal from the game in favour of Chiesa was no surprise. The same goes for his compatriot Vlahovic, who certainly should’ve been involved more in his team’s buildup.

Table rankings

Roma squeezed very important three points out of their match away to Torino, and though neither Milan team won their respective matches, the round has seen the amazing Juventus climb halt for a while, and it remains to be seen if they can bounce back the way they did after losing in the capital to Roma.

The round has also seen Roma climb above both Milan teams, right behind city rivals Lazio, and the gap separating seventh-place Juventus from the much-desired fourth place has increased to eight points. With nine games to go, even if they start winning relentlessly again, it will be difficult. If they don’t it will be impossible.

As for Lazio, it’s been a great weekend. In the face of the hardest of oppositions, they’ve actually increased their advantage on the teams below, and if they maintain anything like a straight course between now and the end of the season, their place in the Champions League next should not be questioned.

But with Napoli still 16 points ahead, it’s obviously far too late to be thinking about the Scudetto.

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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