Saturday Nov 18, 2017  
     
 
  14/09/2015: Report: Lazio 2-0 Udinese
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A certain Danish brewing company don't do debuts, but if they did, they'd probably be something like Alessandro Matri's for Lazio. The new 'bomber', on loan from AC Milan, bagged himself a brace and left Laziali singing in the rain with a 2-0 win and three invaluable points.

Much of the discussion before the game centred on Lazio. Having lost 3-0 to Leverkusen and then 4-0 at the hands of Chievo Verona, there was a feeling that a crisis might be simmering and that the Zebrette could bring it to boiling point. After all, Udinese had shown themselves to be an unpredictable beast in the 180 minutes that had elapsed this season, condemning Juventus to a rare home defeat before gifting Palermo an unlikely away win. Laziali did not know what to expect from Lazio or Udinese, but having succumbed to a 1-0 defeat at the Olimpico last season despite dominating for 90 minutes, Laziali could be forgiven for expecting the worse. As it turned out, this was a rather routine affair.

Stefano Pioli had experimented with various systems in training over the last fortnight, but in the end, he settled for the 4-2-3-1, which was to be expected. It took a month or two for the fluid 4-3-3 to pay off for us last season and with a plethora of injuries and several new additions so far this season, it was no real surprise to see the players struggle with the favoured formation in Verona. Pioli was always likely to opt for a 4-2-3-1 in this game as the system is a little more rigid and easier for players to adapt to, as the midfield have clearly defined roles, offering the defence additional protection.

The danger with the 4-2-3-1, however, is that it can be difficult to retain possession in the centre of the park, forcing you to go long with passes, which can make it difficult to break down your opponents. Lazio found this to be exactly the case in the first half and chances were limited to the odd potshot from Antonio Candreva. It was a good tactic on a pitch where the ball is zipping off the grass with all the surface water, as it made life difficult for Orestis Karnezis in the Udinese goal, but when you need three points, you need more about you in attack.

Conditions improved for the second half and Lazio grew into the game as a result. Lazio now had the confidence to play the ball along the ground and try and cause problems with their pace, but the final ball was lacking and some guile was needed. After 10 minutes, Pioli rolled the dice - Felipe Anderson and Alessandro Matri came on for Senad Lulic and Antonio Candreva. No change in system, merely a change in personnel in a bid to begin creating some decent opportunities with little more than a half-hour to go.

The substitutes had an undesired effect on the game at first as Udinese began to control possession and their good spell culminated in Ali Adnan having a golden opportunity to give the away side the lead as he snuck in unmarked at the back post and had all the time in the world to get a shot on target, before duly finding the Curva Sud. Fortunately for Lazio, Udinese had their own struggles with the final ball and Felipe Anderson was about to come up with a solution for the home side.

In the 64th minute, Anderson turned the Udinese defence inside out before squaring the ball for Alessandro Matri, who somehow managed to squeeze the ball past both defender and goalkeeper from close range to open Lazio's account and his own account at Lazio. Cue celebrations and the adulation of the home support, and Lazio were on their way.

Less than 10 minutes later, Matri had doubled his tally. Keita Balde Diao's shot had been parried into the path of Panagiotis Kone, but as the Udinese midfielder was bringing the ball under control, he was mugged by Lazio's number 17 who poached the ball for himself and fired home between the legs of the Greek goalkeeper. The jury remains out on Matri's signing but there can be no doubt that Lazio have acquired a thief. Matri has built his reputation on coming off the bench and making an impact, stealing points, stealing wins and as we found out in June, he can even steal trophies. This was no exception.

Although the scoreline suggests it was quite straight-forward for Lazio, Udinese did have opportunities to get back into the game after both goals. Kone could've cancelled out Matri's opener almost immediately and Rodrigo Aguirre was almost left through on goal when Federico Marchetti wimped out of intercepting a long ball. Lazio most definitely deserved the win, but despite changes in defence and an overall solid debut from 21 year-old Wesley Hoedt, Lazio are still conceding chances too readily.

It is a win that gets us back on track and allays fears for the timebeing at least, but games are coming thick and fast this season and with it, opportunities are coming and going. In the next 7 days, Lazio will travel to Ukraine to take on last year's Europa League finalists Dnipro before taking the trip to last year's Europa League semi-finalists, Napoli. These games will reveal much more about Lazio as neither Dnipro or Napoli are the force of last season and they are there for the taking. It might be unreasonable to expect Lazio to emerge with two wins, but it is reasonable to expect Lazio to be well in both games and they must demonstrate that to suggest they have turned the corner. This win is encouraging, but ultimately, one man was the difference between Lazio and a side who, on this evidence, will be fighting for their lives in this division. Forza Lazio!

Player Ratings: Marchetti (6.5); Basta (6.0), Mauricio (7.0), Hoedt (6.0), Radu (7.0); Parolo (7.0), Cataldi (6.5); Candreva (6.5), Mauri (6.5), Lulic (6.5); Keita (7.0). Subs: Felipe Anderson (7.0), Matri (7.5), Milinkovic-Savic (n/a).
Author: Cathal Mullan
 
 
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