Many were probably wondering what was going on in Maurizio Sarri‘s head when the starting lineups for Lazio vs Udinese were announced. Vedat Muriqi, Pepe Reina, and Lucas Leiva were given chances from the first minute, and it felt like the manager was gambling with Lazio’s biggest chance for a trophy this season – had he completely forgotten about the previous fixture against the Bianconeri which ended 4-4 at the Stadio Olimpico?
It was a swinging first half where Lazio had plenty of the ball, as much as 65% to be exact, but the players did not create too much danger. The best and really only dangerous situation in the first half was when Luis Alberto hit a perfect corner and Muriqi jumped high to meet it. Although he made good contact, nodding the ball towards the bottom left corner, Marco Silvestri made a top-class save. On the other hand, not much happened for Udinese except for an Isaac Success attempt that was skillfully blocked by a covering Adam Marusic.
The second half started similar to the first, with Lazio doing well to keep possession. Unfortunately, it was Udinese who had the first rich goal chance after a poor defensive play. It was once again Success making his way through the Lazio backline, but Reina made a nice leg save. Then it was the Biancocelesti’s turn. Substitute Raul Moro managed to find himself in a pocket of space before placing a perfect pass to Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. While his effort was saved by Silvestri, the rebound came cannoning back off of him towards the young Spaniard; although he got his shot away, two Udinese defenders threw themselves in front of the goal to block the shot. As a result, the full-time whistle blew with the scoreline tied at 0-0.
In extra time, it was a more hesitant display from both teams. While Udinese’s Tolgay Arslan had a free-kick that deflected off of Felipe Anderson to hit the outer crossbar in the first half of extra time, it was Lazio who finally found the breakthrough at the start of the second half of extra time. Cataldi hit a perfect ball behind the Bianconeri backline that Ciro Immobile met before chipping Silvestri to find the back of the net and decide the match.
Up next for Lazio in the Quarter-Finals of the Coppa Italia is AC Milan, most likely followed by the winner of Roma vs Inter in the Semi-Finals. Against the Rossoneri, hopefully Sarri notes the importance of playing the club’s top players to try and achieve a trophy in his first season in Rome.