FC Zurich: Guatelli, Philippe Koch, Béda, Teixeira, Magnin, Nikci, Margairaz, Aegerter, Djuric (75’ Rodriguez), Chikhaoui (63’ Mehmedi), Alphonse.
Lazio: Marchetti, Lulic, Diakite, Dias, Radu, Cana (46’ Rocchi), Matuzalem, Gonzalez (72’ Ledesma), Hernanes, Sculli, Cisse (79’ Kozak).
Lazio travelled to Zurich, Switzerland, in order to give the Europa League adventure a much needed injection. So far a draw against Vaslui and a loss against Sporting Lisbon were the results achieved and if the biancocelesti were to give the international football a chance to survive to the knock-out stage, FC Zurich needed to be conquered.
The first half was a starch contrast to the latest 45 minutes that the team had played. If the derby had ended with the energy on the high, this half was more like the Lazio that we learnt to fear in the very first part of the season. Reja, praised by fans at Formello on Monday, were following the game from the stands and for long periods it looked as if the team was there with him. Lopez replaced him on the bench, and the team behaved very lost during the first 45 minutes under the assistant coach.
With an attempt to put pressure on the Swiss, Lazio packed the midfield with five players, and a sixth being added through Lulic on the right. Unfortunately, the players did not seem hungry enough and the lone striker Cisse received very few good balls to do anything with. Most parts of the half was a stalemate, with poor quality football displayed in the cold Swiss night, and everything worth mentioning happened during one minute. After 22 minutes, on a corner created by a Cisse cross, Sculli managed to find the back of the net after some assistance by Dias. Lazio were in lead despite underperforming, and in effect the team showed not focused enough to win this game.
After only 20 seconds Zurich had leveled the Lazio lead, and the goal came off a beautiful finish by Nikci who found the far right corner of Marchetti with a powerful shot. Lazio totally lost balance after going up, and the home team made the most of the situation by leveling the lead straight after. The rest of the half saw very few chances being created, and with a struggling Cana on the Lazio midfield the visitors never managed to keep possession and numerical advantage that was sought for. Marchetti was forced to make a save on a Magnin free kick after 36’, while Gonzalez set up Cisse who missed yet another chance.
The second half started as dull as the first. Rocchi, who had been given the armband from Radu who had capped the team in the first half, entered and continued his search for the 100th goal in the Lazio shirt. With the substitution of a midfielder for a forward the directions were to grab the three points from the game, and with one eye on Sporting Lisbon leading against Vaslui a win would mean a good position for the remaining three games if the objective of the team is to advance to the next round.
With a little more than 30 minutes left of the game Lazio stepped up the tempo and started attacking Guatelli in the Zurich goal on a regular. On 56’ Sculli and Cisse linked up but failed to finish it off, 58’ saw Hernanes with a shot straight at goal and one minute later Matuzalem fired a blasting shot that narrowly missed goal. Apart from an Alphonse attempt just after that, the result of a huge mistake by Radu when trying to bring the ball forward from defense, Marchetti had little to do and for all Laziali seeing the ball roll just outside the upright came as a relief when the attacker came one on one with the goalkeeper.
Cisse, who has been far from the goal machine he was brought in during the summer to be, got one more chance before being substituted without managing to end his goal draught. Guatelli was growing into a wall and managed to save chances from Hernanes, Gonzalez and Rocchi before Kozak was brought in during the last ten minutes. Matuzalem had a strong second half in the midfield now that more concentration could be put in that part of the field, and kept feeding the attacking line with nice passes to build on. The Czech, who last year saved Lazio on a few occasions with his late goals, went close on two attempts, with a header in 88’ being miraculously saved by Guatelli in the Zurich goal. In the dying minutes of the game Lazio only managed to get close to creating a final golden opportunity, and the Swiss goalkeeper somehow managed to keep Lazio at only one goal.
The result is a disappointing one for Lazio, but with the Portuguese beating the Romanians Lazio are tied with two teams on two points and has a fairly good chance and advancing with some important clashes a head. The group stage now enters its second half, and if Lazio are seriously attempting to do something in this tournament it is time Coach Reja manages to balance a team for the competition ready to deliver when some of the key players are rested. The aim was set at reaching the final of the Europa League and with some experienced players brought in over the summer many had high hopes for this season’s participation, but at this level more is needed to win games than creating chances for only 30 minutes.
Pictures : http://lazioland.com/GallerySub.htm?AlbumId=472
Man of the Match:
Dominated the midfield with great passes and vision. Also tested the goalkeeper on a few occasions.
Flop of the Match:
Playing on his own up front the French striker was unable to have an impact on today’s result. Was not involved in the game and struggled to find himself in good positions.
Sculli’s game tonight might not have been flawless, but again he shows up on the right place when it is needed. Sculli is now the top scorer for Lazio in the Europa League group stage.