Saturday Oct 21, 2017  
     
 
  01/10/2015: Report: Lazio 3-2 Saint-Etienne
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You won't remember this game long enough to tell the grandkids, but if you could, you would probably recall it as that game where Lazio played very badly yet won. Lazio dealt Saint-Etienne a 3-2 defeat tonight, but the home side were very much helped out by the referee who wrongly reduced the visitors to nine men.

Lazio simply did not turn up this evening, which probably seems weird given we scored three goals. Saint-Etienne started the brighter, pressing with intent and needed only minutes to open the scoring. The first corner of the game was whipped in towards the near post and the French attackers showed much more desire to get on the ball than Lazio did. After a couple of deflections, the ball found its way to Moustapha Sarr who directed his body onto the ball to get it over the line. Lazio had it all to do from the very beginning.

In fairness, Lazio did come close to equalising almost immediately as a Wesley Hoedt header from a Lucas Biglia cross was clawed off the line by Stéphane Ruffier, but Saint-Etienne's second corner of the game evaded the Lazio defence and was eventually nodded onto the crossbar, so it was difficult to take any solace from that one good opportunity. It seemed to be that anything Lazio did, Saint-Etienne could do better.

This was an open game, however, and Saint-Etienne paid the price for not tightening things up a little after the opener. Ogenyi Onazi initiated a move with a perfectly-weighted ball to Felipe Anderson down the right wing. The Brazilian breezed along the touchline and lingered, waiting for Stefano Mauri in support. Anderson's pass clipped the back of Mauri's heel into the path of Onazi, and the Nigerian international showed lightning quick reactions to control the ball and find a gap for his shot into the bottom left corner. 1-1, and you felt now was the time for Lazio to kick on.

For five minutes or so, Lazio did look the better side but as the half wore on, Saint-Etienne looked more likely to take the lead. That was until Robert Beric was handed his marching orders for... uhm... Mauricio heading his elbow. The unpredictable centre-back attempt to head the ball clear but his nose caught the Slovenian striker's elbow. Mauricio fell to the ground as blood poured from his nose and the referee - seemingly influence by the gore - decided the elbow was deliberate and sent Beric off. A terrible decision that undoubtedly impacted on the game. Mauricio spent the remainder of the half staggering on and off the pitch to get his nose repaired and it was no surprise to not see him emerge from the tunnel for the second period as Santiago Gentiletti came on.

Lazio got the second half off to a flier. Wesley Hoedt scored a very fine debut goal by centre-back standards, applying a cool finish with the outside of his left boot after Stéphane Ruffier failed to punch clear a Lazio free-kick. With a one-goal lead and a one-man advantage, it was hard to see anything but three points for Lazio, but Christophe Galtier was able to get his team back into the game with a couple of pacy substitutes.

Stefano Pioli identified game management as an area that needed improvement this season, but Lazio's ability to see out games is going in the wrong direction. Lazio should've been in command and poised to score a third but instead, the Biancocelesti switched off. Jean-Christophe Bahebeck - reportedly a target for Lazio this summer - forced Etrit Berisha into a good save having got the better of Dusan Basta. That effort rattled Lazio and panic set in. Wesley Hoedt and Lucas Biglia each had a moment where they passed to a Saint-Etienne player on the edge of the penalty box. Uncharacteristic errors from them, but errors that were characteristic on the night.

Moustapha Sarr saw red with less than 15 minutes to go for a second bookable offence and Lazio took advantage, scoring a third when Keita Balde Diao's cross was parried to Lucas Biglia, whose shot was deflected into the back of the Saint-Etienne net. With a two-goal lead and a two-man advantage, that should have been it, but it was cancelled out rather quickly by Kévin Monnet-Paquet, who beat Basta in an aerial duel and lobbed Etrit Berisha in the Lazio goal. An excellent goal in truth, but Lazio were risking embarrassment. Saint-Etienne were on top.

Thankfully, Lazio did see out the game, but it took until the final seconds for the Roman side to look like they were in control. Simply not good enough from Pioli's men, and if Frosinone were watching, this would give them real encouragement for Sunday. They'll know that if they go down at any point during the game, it's not over, and that's not the message we want to be sending out to our opponents.

At the end of the day, the result is all that matters, but there is much work to be done on the training ground over the next few days. Forza Lazio!

Player Ratings: Berisha (5.5), Basta (5.5), Mauricio (6.0), Hoedt (6.5), Radu (6.0); Onazi (7.0), Biglia (6.5); Felipe Anderson (6.5), Milinkovic-Savic (6.0), Keita (6.0); Mauri (6.0). Subs: Gentiletti (6.5), Matri (6.5), Cataldi (n/a).
Author: Cathal Mullan
 
 
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