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  08/08/2015: Match Report: Juventus 2-0 Lazio
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Juventus' new forward pairing of Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala guided the Bianconeri to a 2-0 victory and the 2015 Supercoppa Italiana, leaving Lazio to prepare for the Champions League play-off with Bayer Leverkusen without the morale-boosting win the fans so desperately craved.

The Supercoppa Italiana is the traditional season opener, but despite the promise of silverware, it is not a game that is taken too seriously and we should bear that in mind. Both Lazio and Juventus undoubtedly had an eye on the prize, but the other eye is almost certainly on the fixtures that lie ahead. Juventus want to arrive in top shape in two weeks time for the defence of their Serie A title while Lazio want to welcome Bayer Leverkusen to the Olimpico feeling somewhere close to 100%. Those are the priorities, after all.

The spectacle was obviously going to suffer as a result of having two teams far from being in optimal condition, and 'optimal condition' is a term that would be equally inappropriate for the quality of both pitch and weather for the purpose of a football game. There was a threat of a typhoon in the lead up to the game and while the rain had not arrived, the wind certainly had. As for the field of play, well, it could have done with some rain. Or maybe some sun. It could have done with something. Both Max Allegri and Stefano Pioli had deemed it unacceptable for a game of this level yesterday, and it did not look like things had improved overnight.

Those of us who did not have to endure the gusts could have done with a different director, as whoever was in charge of the cameras cut away from the action to give us images of the wind ruffling up Max Allegri's pants. To be fair, there were times when mulling over Allegri's choice of trouser would have been a welcome distraction, but the director chose his moments. Badly. Speaking of choosing his moments, Luca Banti decided to end the half after 43:30 on the clock, which tells you something about the game, if the fact I have yet to discuss it has not said enough.

Lazio got the 2015 Supercoppa Italiana underway and we came out of the blocks looking to get long balls forward courtesy of Stefan de Vrij. That tactic lasted roughly two-and-a-half minutes as the ball was moving too unpredictably in the air to make it worthwhile. Lazio then looked to get Santiago Gentiletti playing the ball short, but he got caught out by Juventus' advanced pressing. Luckily, the Old Lady could not capitalise as the ball got blown out of play after what was probably a bad bounce. That was probably Juventus' best chance of the first half. There was one other moment where Lichtsteiner left Biglia and Radu for dead only to find row Z with his cross. That was about it for Juventus' half.

At the other end, Lazio were reduced to the odd moment where the ball was hit at Klose, or when Felipe Anderson and Antonio Candreva got into good positions but ran into a Juventus defender when it would have been wise to fire a shot off on goal. If not to increase our chances of scoring, at least to give the Chinese Laziali that have followed the team for over a week an opportunity to find their voice.

The second half got off to a better start. Danilo Cataldi - who cut an anonymous figure in the first half - started playing as though he got 15 minutes of the hairdryer treatment. He was beginning to make an impact on the Juventus defence, until Juventus went up the other end and Mario Mandzukic found himself through on goal. Marchetti stood tall, and kept the game scoreless, but the Croatian should have made him work harder. It was a warning sign.

With 50 minutes on the clock - and who knows if that was accurate - Cataldi went back into hibernation, and I could have nodded off for a 15-minute power nap. Filip Djordjevic came on for Miroslav Klose on the hour mark while Allegri brought on 32 million euro worth in talent in Paulo Dybala, but it did nothing for the game at first.

But suddenly, out of nowhere, Juventus took the lead. Stephan Lichtsteiner, by far Juventus' most motivated player - as he so often is against Lazio - whipped in a decent ball. Stefan de Vrij inexplicably opted to run away from Mandzukic, leaving the big man with a header that he puts away in his sleep. 1-0 to the Italian Champions, and the onus was now on Lazio to chase the game.

Felipe Anderson took the initiative and managed to tickle Gianluigi Buffon's gloves, but Juventus would double their lead in a matter of minutes. Ogenyi Onazi could only clear a delivery as far as Paul Pogba who squared the ball to Dybala, with the Argentine hitting the roof of the net with an emphatic shot. Very often teams are found guilty of ball-watching, but on this occasion, Lazio were guilty of Pogba-watching. Seven players stopped dead anticipating a shot from the Frenchman - no one had the awareness to close down Dybala - and that secured the Supercoppa for Juventus.

Stefano Pioli reacted by handing Ricardo Kishna and Ravel Morrison their competitive debuts, and although they showed the odd glimpse of the flair they possess, it was Felipe Anderson who threatened to get Lazio back into the game. You sense the more time the Brazilian has to think, the poorer his decisions are. With Lazio two goals down and very much in a battle against the clock, the Brazilian stopped thinking and started doing, and he was a different player.

Felipe Anderson's final ten minutes was a reminder of what this Lazio can do, and despite the disappointment of the result - not least for the Chinese supporters - there are other positives that can be taken from the game. Ogenyi Onazi and Santiago Gentiletti looked much more comfortable today than they did at the end of that season, and *touch wood* we seem to have got through 90 minutes on a tough pitch and in a difficult climate without showing any obvious signs of fatigue or, better still, any obvious signs of injury. We were also by no means outplayed by Juventus, although the ease with which they won the game can be interpreted negatively.

Moving forward, the obvious concern is that certain individuals that received much praise last season turned in performances that would simply be inexcusable when we meet Bayer Leverkusen in a week's time for a spot in the Champions League. Performance levels need to be raised, but Pioli would have known that before a ball was kicked. Lazio need to come back to Rome and work hard now, otherwise this season will be hard work. Forza Lazio!

Author: Cathal Mullan
 
 
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