Away at the San Paolo stadium to face off against Napoli, the first round of the second half of the Serie A TIM season for Lazio resulted in a 2-1 loss.
Lazio started with the usual 3-5-1-1 formation consisting of Thomas Strakosha in goal; Luiz Felipe, Francesco Acerbi, and Stefan Radu in defense; Senad Lulic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Lucas Leiva, Marco Parolo, and Jordan Lukaku in midfield; and Luis Alberto and Ciro Immobile in the attack.
Napoli started with a 4-4-2 formation, with Alex Meret in goal; Kevin Malcuit, Raul Albiol, Nikola Maksimovic, and Mario Rui in defense; Jose Callejon, Fabian Ruiz, Amadou Diawara, and Piotr Zielinski in midfield, and Dries Mertens and Arkadiusz Milik in the attack.
Goals from Callejon (34′ – a low and hard striker into the bottom right corner from around 10 yards out after a Lucas Leiva giveaway) and Milik (37′ – a lovely left-footed free kick that had power, pace, dip, and finesse into the top right of the goal) in the first half left Simone Inzaghi’s side hoping for a miracle.
Entering half time two goals down, Inzaghi made the substitution of bringing on Joaquin Correa for Lukaku. This resulted in a formation change of an attacking trident of the Argentine, Luis Alberto, and Immobile, whilst Lulic moving to the left flank, and Parolo playing on the right. A better performance in the second half, Lazio come out strong to dominate play which resulted in a goal from Immobile (65′). This was his first goal at the San Paolo and only his third against Napoli; the goal also snapped his four-match goal drought to take him to 11 goals on the season – 2-1 was the scoreline.
However, just five minutes later, Acerbi was sent off (70′), totally squandering any chance of a comeback. Already on a yellow, he tackled Callejon who went down screaming in pain which ensued a second yellow, and consequently a red. Just when things were going well for Lazio, the task of making a comeback got that much harder. That red card for Acerbi ended the Italian’s consecutive match streak run, in addition to putting Lazio in trouble for next weeks clash against Juventus… There will be a huge void to fill at the back being without their top central defender. Inzaghi then substituted Milinkovic-Savic for Patric to cope with the loss – a decision that would be of much regret as Luis Alberto should have been the man to make way; Lazio had no aerial threat in the final 20′.
After this, Napoli had a few chances after substituting in Simone Verdi and Adam Ounas, but the scoreline was kept as is thanks to blocked shots, the posts, and Strakosha.
This scoreline was the same as the first leg of the season, where the Biancocelesti also fell to a 2-1 defeat at the Stadio Olimpico. Inzaghi and his side were coming for revenge to take all three points Sunday, but Carlo Ancelotti’s tactics shut them down.
Without Senegalese center-back Kalidou Koulibaly (red card), Italian attacker Lorenzo Insigne (red card), Brazilian midfielder Allan (yellow card suspension), and Slovakian midfielder Marek Hamsik (injury), many people – including myself – thought that this would be Lazio’s chance to finally defeat the Campanian side; the last time they defeated Napoli was back on May 15th, 2015. However, missed chances and a mental lapse in concentration led to defeat.
An action-packed game, both keepers of Meret and Strakosha were kept busy, making great saves throughout the match to keep their teams in the match. Looking at the attacking threats, Milik and Milinkovic Savic were terrific, being the providers of most of the chances for their sides.
An injury to Luiz Felipe early on in the match (28′) was surely a blow to Inzaghi as his tactics now had to be changed and his substitutions thought much better of. Nothing on Bastos, however, who came into the match and played a good physical match.
Lazio now sits in fifth place (potentially sixth if Milan obtains victory), whilst Napoli remains in second, trying to close the gap between themselves and Juventus.