Lazio: Marchetti, Konko, Diakite, Biava (46’ Stankevicius), Zauri, Ledesma ( 84’ Zampa), Matuzalem, Gonzalez (54’ Klose), Hernanes, Candreva, Klose.
Atletico Madrid: Courtois, Juanfran (82’ Salvio), Miranda, Godin, Filipe, Suarez, Gabi (66’ Perea), Adrian, Diego (72’ Arda Turan), Koke, Falcao.
Lazio’s attempt at winning the Europa League has most likely come to an end as early as in the first knock-out stage, despite having a full game left to play in a tie consisting of two games. After another disastrous defensive display, a not well coordinated midfield and not enough balls to work with for the attackers, Lazio lost the first leg against Atletico Madrid in a shameful way.
Things started well though, with the home team keeping players tight together and not letting the Spanish visitors get the space needed in order to threaten Marchetti in goal. With a filled Curva supporting the players on the pitch the feeling was that Lazio could get the result needed in the first game to keep the series alive for at least another week, and when Klose knocked in a rebound from Courtois on a well taken Candreva shot the feeling grew. As many times before though, the home team fell apart after taking the lead.
Us who follow Lazio on a regular basis have come to get used to Reja’s men falling back as soon as the lead has been taken, and tonight was another example of that. Atletico Madrid were invited into the game as the home team left enough space for the skilled midfielders of the opposition to start dictating the game. Knowing a goal would turn the whole match series around Simeone instructed his players to leave the defensive mindedness and go for a slightly more attacking game. Between minutes 27 and 37 the game more or less came to an end, as the visitors managed to open Lazio’s goal twice. On both occasions the Lazio defenders, Konko, Biava, Diakite and Zauri, showed how poor the backline becomes without Dias and Radu, and let the Spaniards get to chances that easily could have been avoided. On the first goal Falcao easily headed the ball to Adrian who had an open goal, while on the second Diego found Falcao with a ball cutting through the whole Lazio penalty area and the Colombian had only to put the ball behind Marchetti. Lazio never managed to get back into the first half, and after going down 2-1 at home in a tie of this sort an incredible turnaround, like the one against Cesena in the league a week ago, was needed. Unfortunately for Lazio though, Atletico Madrid have a defense not cracking under the slightest of pressure.
In the second half Lazio tried to push the Spanish side back and they managed to do so, but without creating any lethal chances. The opponents showed why the goal conceded earlier this evening was the first since the arrival of Simeone as coach, as they managed to keep Lazio with the ball but without scoring chances. As Lazio pushed further and further ahead the space needed for Atletico Madrid to get a third and devastating goal became more and more imminent. 18 minutes into the second half the game came to an abrupt stop for the Biancocelesti, as Radamel Falcao got his second goal – and most likely finished the tie between the two capital cities.
Lazio never managed to get back into the game, despite having the major portion of the possession all through the second half. The Spanish side’s defenders showed organization and devotion to a game plan and idea decided upon in beforehand, and there was never any threat to what in the end turned out to be a fairly easy journey to Rome for the visitors. In situations like this the lack of ideas when given the chance to dictate the game becomes evident for Lazio, but with the limited squad and even more limited number of quality players there is not much that can be done to turn things around.
Lazio can now concentrate on finishing as high up as possible in the current season, in order to get a spot in one of the two European competitions next year. One has to wonder though; what is the point of fighting for a place in Europe, if the required demands of being able to succeed in Europe are never created. A below average squad, compared to other European teams, will never be able to deliver better results than the one witnessed tonight.
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