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  02/12/2014: Match Report: Lazio 3-0 Varese
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Pioli surprisingly fielded a stronger team than expected playing Lulic coming off of his one game suspension and Djordjevic up front in favour of Klose. De Vrij was in the center of defence with Cana, flanked by both Konko and Lulic on the right and left hand sides of defence respectively, Ederson started on the left side of midfield in front of Lulic. Ledesma and Onazi rounded out the midfield with Ederson, Felipe Anderson and Keita joined Djordjevic up front in their more familiar attacking roles. Berisha was handed the start in goal.

Lazio were ready to go from the onset of this match and quickly looked to take the tempo to Varese and apply pressure. It was Varese, however, with the best chance in the 4th minute with some scrappy play from the Lazio back four. A minute later, off the ensuing corner kick, Berisha did well to save a header, Ledesma blocked to rebound off the line, poor marking from a set piece, a bullet dodged. A Felipe Anderson shot from outside the box moments later proved a tough task for the Varese keeper to stop but he managed to steer the ball away. Felipe Anderson looked to be Lazio’s biggest threat early on in the match and in the 12th minute made his way into the box and had his shot blocked. Keita, Ederson and Anderson had good movement on the left hand side and pressured the defence with quick passes and movements into space.

Lazio had most of the possession during the first half and pushed forward with much more regularity than Varese, they still seemed to lack in the final quadrant of the field and although creating chances, none were of high quality. When Varese did move forward on the counter attack they did so with pace and always looked dangerous. In the 24th minute Konko was able to put Lazio ahead with some poor defending from Varese, a clearance came directly back to him and his shot on net took a slight deflection off a Varese defender's shin, it was enough to change direction and fool the keeper, 1-0 Lazio. Minutes later Djordjevic doubled up the lead for Lazio with a blast from just outside of the six yard box into the roof of the net, Keita played a beautiful ball into his path. After a few early scares, Lazio were up 2-0 in the 26th minute.

In the 27th minute Onazi fouled a Varese player on the counter attack, on the ensuing free kick Varese played it into the box and a header went just wide, a trailing attacker just missed a tap in at the far post, marking on set pieces is clearly a concern, these opportunities should not be granted to opponents regardless of the score line or opponent quality level. Lazio continued to pressure and possession for Varese was slim, a counter attack for Varese in the 34th minute saw a break and as a result Felipe Anderson was charged with a reckless foul, the resulting free kick was cleared from harm and lead to a goal kick.

In the 40th minute Keita had a great shot from outside of the box cleared by the Varese keeper out for a corner kick. Lulic found himself in front of goal off the corner kick but fired it directly into the goalies hands. The final play of the half was a Keita cross that was cleared out for yet another Lazio corner kick, with nothing resulting from corner. The first half ended with a 2-0 score, Lazio were definitely the stronger team of the half with most of the possession, Varese held their own and even developed chances off counter attacks and set plays that could have been goals, something for Lazio to take note of and work on.

The second half saw Lazio’s first change with Braafhied coming in for Ederson on the left side of midfield. Interestingly, Braafheid and Lulic did not switch positions and Braafheid stayed in the midfield in the more attacking role, a role reversal in positions for the two players, perhaps a sign of change for Sunday. Lazio began the second half pressing, movements forward were well managed by Varese as they continually had 7 or 8 players at the top of the box, tactically, Varese was clearly starting to park the bus. The first ten minutes of the second half yielded little opportunity for either Lazio or Varese, Lazio looked content to hold their lead, slow the pace of the game down and allow the clock to tick.

It took until the 60th minute when a quality chance was had by Lazio, Felipe Anderson streaked down the right hand side and blasted a shot which was saved by the keeper. Minutes later, a header from Konko up close was saved by the Varese keeper, perhaps better should have been made by Konko with this opportunity. A counter attack in the 67th minute saw a shot just over the bar from the Varese attacking players left foot, once again they have made their opportunities look dangerous, a bit too much space granted for my liking by the Lazio defence, if this is Cassano finishing on Sunday it is a goal. The 70th minute saw some more scrappy play by the Lazio defence in their own box and Varese almost broke through before Braafheid could clear.

A few moments later Felipe Anderson pressed forward and managed to take yet another shot from outside of the box that went just wide, Anderson was Lazio’s most aggressive threat moving forward and picked up the slack well from a resting Candreva, Anderson is clearly developing and has come a long way. Pioli made his second move in the 72nd minute and Gonzalez came on for Lulic, Braafheid would move to his more familiar position of left back in Lulic’s absence. Pioli’s final change saw Mauri come on for Djordjevic in the 77th minute, Mauri moved to the right hand side with Anderson moving into the centre of attack, yet another game with Keita and Anderson constantly shifting with each other between the left and right hand sides.

The 80th minute saw a beautiful shot from Anderson from outside of the box and it was 3-0 for Lazio. You had to feel like he would eventually be rewarded, sent in with pace and movement from his right foot, a possible slight deflection off the Varese defenders backside, nonetheless well taken by Anderson, the man of the match in my opinion. The 88th minute handed Lazio another opportunity on goal with a great cross in from Braafheid on the left hand side, Mauri did not make the most of the cross and Varese cleared away. The final whistle would blow to mark a 3-0 Lazio win.

This is hopefully the type of performance needed by Lazio to turn momentum back in their favour, a win on Sunday in Parma will make this a reality. The reward for this win will be Torino in the round of 16 of the Coppa Italia, with things tight in Serie A, a strong Coppa Italia may be a channel by which Lazio can reach European football once again, so this is a competition worthy of all our attention.

Author: Michael Petricca
 
 
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