The absence of star striker Ciro Immobile was obvious in Lazio’s tense 2-0 loss to Juventus earlier tonight.
Coach Maurizio Sarri was forced to deploy Spanish winger Pedro as a false nine in the match, bringing in Mattia Zaccagni to fill in the vacant spot on the wing. Whilst there were some positive signs, it was clear that the squad needs a consistent and natural goal scorer like Immobile.
- Lazio (4-3-3): Pepe Reina; Manuel Lazzari, Luiz Felipe, Francesco Acerbi, Elseid Hysaj; Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Danilo Cataldi, Luis Alberto; Felipe Anderson, Pedro, Mattia Zaccagni.
- Juventus (4-4-2): Wojciech Szczesny; Danilo, Leonardo Bonucci, Matthijs De Ligt, Luca Pellegrini; Juan Cuadrado, Weston McKennie, Manuel Locatelli, Adrien Rabiot; Alvaro Morata, Federico Chiesa.
There was a tense and quiet start to the match in the Stadio Olimpico this evening, with neither side having any particularly convincing chances in the early stages. Lazio came closest to taking an advantage first, with Pedro just missing out in the 10th minute.
In the 19th minute, Cataldi’s clumsy challenge on Morata saw referee Marco Di Bello run over to the VAR monitor; after a brief look, he pointed to the spot, awarding Juventus the penalty. Bonucci confidently converted the spot kick past a diving Reina, giving the Bianconeri a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute.
Lazio tried to respond well but their chances left something to be desired, with everything but the final few kicks going right. Juventus went into the half time break with a fragile 1-0 lead and Lazio seemed confident of their chances, with multiple opportunities being wasted in the initial 45 minutes.
In the second half, the Bianconeri had a few early chances but failed to doubled their advantage, with the Roman club’s defence proving sufficient. The Turin based side hunkered down well and Lazio’s attacks were mostly muted, frustrating coach Sarri on the sidelines.
In the 65th minute Sarri made his first change of the match, switching out winger Zaccagni for backup striker Vedat Muriqi. 10 minutes later the 62-year-old Italian coach made another change, taking off Felipe Anderson and replacing him with Raul Moro.
In the 78th minute Lazio had an incredibly close chance; a crossed ball was met by a leaping Milinkovic-Savic, whose headed pass was a little too high for Muriqi to reach.
Disaster struck in the 80th minute – Reina was caught off guard outside his box by Chiesa and his sliding challenge to try and recover the ball saw him foul the Italian winger, leading to Juventus’ second penalty of the match. He was booked for the challenge and Bonucci made no mistake from the spot, doubling Juventus’ advantage and making it 2-0 from 12 yards out.
A minute after the Bianconeri’s second goal, Sarri made his third substitution, replacing Cataldi with Toma Basic. In the 91st minute both coaches Sarri and Massimiliano Allegri were booked after a heated exchange on the sidelines, with Rabiot down on the floor injured.
After five minutes of added time, referee Di Bello blew the whistle, ending Lazio’s tense and painful 2-0 loss to Juventus. With this loss, the Biancocelesti’s unbeaten Serie A run at the Stadio Olimpico came to an end. They sit in fifth place in the table wth 21 points, four points behind Atalanta in fourth place.