Lazio: Bizzarri, Cavanda (77’ Matuzalem), Diakite, Dias, Lulic, Gonzalez, Ledesma, Sculli, Hernanes, Cisse (66’ Klose), Rocchi.
Verona: Rafael, Abate, Ceccarelli, Mareco, Pugliese, Hallfredsson, Russo, Esposito, Galli, Bjelanovic, Lepiller.
Serie B side Hellas Verona visited Stadio Olimpico in a one-off cup game this evening. Lazio have been looking out of form and playing without any self esteem in the last few matches, but the round of 16 in Coppa Italia on paper seemed as a great chance to get back to winning ways. Verona, on the other hand, have been looking tremendously good and are unbeaten in the last eleven games in Serie B, despite being newcomers this season. An intriguing game was on the cards and the fact that the two teams’ fans are known for providing good support an additional dimension to what otherwise could have become a less interesting game in the tournament that Lazio rank the lowest out of the ones a part if this season.
The game started with Hellas Verona creating a dangerous header within the first minute of the game. Lazio reacted positively on the occasion and the rest of the 45 first minutes of the game was all about the home team. The players looked a lot more interested than in the league game on Saturday against Siena, a game that ended with a humiliating 4-0 defeat, and created plenty of chances throughout the half. The visitors mainly focused on defending the 0-0 result and hoping to punish Lazio on a counter – a tactical approach that has seen Lazio drop numerous points at home this season. The energetic display from the biancocelesti resulted in a constant pressure against Rafael in the Hellas goal, but the goalkeeper showed good quality on shots fired at him. Rocchi, Sculli, Cisse and Hernanes created chance after chance without managing to finish the chances off.
As Lazio maintained the pressure the visitors looked more and more likely to concede before the half time break and with only a couple of minutes left on the clock the opening goal finally came. After Rocchi missing two shots straight after each other yet another corner was won and following a series of poor corners a perfect one was finally delivered by Ledesma and Dias, today returning from an injury that has kept him sidelined for some time, volleyed the ball behind Rafael for 1-0. The half ended with Lazio continuing the pressure and with Cisse trying his best to break his goal drought, but the Frenchman had to walk off to the dressing room without having gotten his name on the score sheet again.
The second half started with Lazio creating chances through Cisse, who within the first ten minutes had two attempts at the Verona goal before getting an assist to Rocchi’s 2-0 goal in the 57th. Against the weaker opposition Lazio looked like at least being one level above in quality and the crowd in Curva Nord were hoping the late hours of the Tuesday would give an enjoyable home win; one of few this season.
Unfortunately, Lazio this season have clear problems in defense when the opposition attackers get in behind the midfielders and in front of the defenders. On a rare occasion Verona players did so and shortly after doubling the lead the Romans conceded. Berrettoni left Bizzarri with no chance after a great finish and the game that looked sealed was opened again.
Lazio created more chances after the Hellas goal but were unable to finish the chances in style with Gonzalez having the best of chances after a Klose shot, but the Uruguayan fired the shot high and wide. The German had replaced Cisse shortly before in an attempt to kill the game off and looked as dangerous as always on the field. In between the attacks of Lazio the visitors came to more chances than earlier in the game and when coach Mandorlini made his second substitution of the night he also threw on the second goal scorer for his team. Berretoni, who himself had been coming off the bench, served D’Alessandro with a pass and the linkup resulted in the equalizer. The game was tied and the remaining quarter of an hour became nervous minutes for both teams and despite good situations to again put Lazio ahead the clock reached 90 and things looked like heading to extra time.
In the first additional minute to the second half Hernanes got a brilliant chance to redeem himself after having wasted numerous set pieces and passes through the game. With a well taken free kick from just outside the penalty area the Brazilian got himself a well needed goal and got the winner for his team; an even more needed victory. The remaining three minutes gave the viewers of the game a final chance of listening to two impressive crowds this night, the travelling group of supporters singing through the game and giving the perfect response to Curva Nord. The Serie A team had done what was needed and now the team will have to look at the coming weekend and a tough game against Atalanta –hopefully delivering an encouraging and winning display in the lunch game on Sunday.
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