Wednesday Mar 29, 2017  
     
 
  07/03/2013: Match Report: Stuttgart - Lazio
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Stuttgart: Ulreich; Sakai, Tasci, Rudiger, Boka; Kvist (55’ Harnik), Gentner; Okazaki, Maxim (40’ Hajnal), Traoré; Macheda (90’ Holzhauer).

Lazio: Marchetti; Pereirinha, Cana, Ciani, Radu; Candreva, Onazi, Hernanes (72’ Gonzalez), Lulic; Ederson (64’ Ledesma); Kozak (84’ Floccari).

Stuttgart welcomed Lazio to Mercedes-Benz Arena in the first game of the round of last 16. The home team fielded what on paper was the best possible eleven players, where important pieces such as Cacau and Ibisevic were non-eligible. Petkovic opted for squad rotation and had no less than five new players on the pitch compared to the team that started away to Milan at the weekend; changes that paid off this evening.

In the absence of Ledesma and Mauri it was Radu that wore the captain’s armband and the Romanian together with Cana, Ciani and Pereirinha formed a new back line. Rather than the 4-1-4-1 that we have come accustomed to Ederson was inserted in a rare start for Lazio to support Kozak up front and Lazio opted for striking the opposition on the counter. Onazi was played centrally on the midfield and in beforehand all fans who has been hoping for a few new faces got their wish fulfilled, while others were given enough to worry about without any natural defensive midfielder on the pitch.

Stuttgart showed to be the dangerous side in the first 15 minutes and created a couple of corners and had first a shot through Traore to threaten Lazio with and a little later Marchetti was forced to make a qualified save on Okazaki’s header as the defenders were all missing on a Gentner cross.

Lazio opened the scoring though and this through a clinical finish by Ederson at 20’. As Stuttgart failed to clear a poor Pereirinha pass inside the area the ball fell to Ederson who beat Ulreich and that valuable away goal was already collected. This through the player all Lazio supporters are hoping can stay fit and healthy and have the sort of impact that he has when playing during a longer run.

The game went very much into a standby after the opener and if anything the lack of quality from both sides was what caught my eyes. Lazio struggled to stay disciplined and controlled in midfield and at the back the game could have turned into a horror show had it not been for the weak display by the Germans. Apart from Gentner, who was the best player on the pitch during the first 45 minutes in competition with Ederson, no one looked good enough to threaten Lazio on their own.

At 40’ this game could have been over, while only a minute later Stuttgart could have drawn the game. First Candreva showed the class that made headlines at the start of the season with a nice challenge and run down the left flank, beating two defenders in the process, followed by a perfect cross towards the second post. There Ederson met the ball well and did everything by the book by first heading the ball to the ground, but unfortunately the ball bounced over a beaten Ulreich.

In answer to this Stuttgart nearly equalised in the next minute. Gentner sent a perfect ball inside the area and confusion between Ciani and Cana allowed Okazaki to get to a one on one with Marchetti. Luckily for Lazio Okazaki could not keep the ball inside the posts and the half ended 1-0 for the Italian visitors.

Ten minutes into the second and not much had happened in a game that lacked all ingredients of becoming a classic. At that point the second of the reserves fielded today, Onazi, decided to go on a run after stealing the ball in the centre of the park. Traore was easily beaten and with no other defenders approaching the 20-year old Nigerian international headed for goal. Onazi advanced all the way and beat Ulreich easily as the goalie came towards him, scoring his first goal in the senior squad and celebrating in front of the traveling supporters.

Stuttgart did get their chances, mainly through Okazaki just as in the first half, but either Marchetti stood in the way or the Japanese striker missed the goal. Fact is, Candreva should have killed the tie at 74’ as he got served perfectly by Gonzalez and Kozak but Lazio’s representative in Gli Azzuri hit nothing but row Z.

At 82’ Stuttgart tried yet another time to threaten Lazio and Tasci did get a decent chance to head home a goal and give this two legged game some life, but in the end Marchetti saved easily. Shortly after Lulic could have ended the game completely, but the Bosnian was denied by Ulreich.

With a 2-0 win Lazio extended their run of unbeaten games in Europa League to eleven and will take this game back to Rome feeling comfortable. It is worth remembering Stuttgart have been better away than home this campaign, but if the Germans cannot deliver more than this Lazio will have no problem getting through.

Lazio will now focus fully on Fiorentina on Sunday night, before reverting back to Stuttgart in a weeks time.
Author: Cathal Mullan
 
 
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