After a tough 2-1 loss to Porto in the First Leg of the UEFA Europa League Play-Offs, Maurizio Sarri’s men travelled to the Dacia Arena to take on Udinese.
The last time the two sides met was back in December 2021, where neutrals were treated to an eight-goal thriller including two red cards in which the match ended 4-4 between the two sides. Two months later, they met again both fighting for the three points with different goals in mind.
Udinese needed the points to continue fighting their relegation battle while Lazio needed the three points to continue their push for a top-four finish; a victory would have seen the Biancocelesti leapfrog Atalanta for that fifth-place spot and leave them just two points away from Juventus, who sit in fourth.
However, they failed to take their chances and ultimately settled on a 1-1 draw.
Referee Luca Massimi blew his whistle to kick off the match. Lazio started off horribly; a cross sent into the box found Nehuén Pérez and his header set up an unmarked Gerard Deulofeu for an easy finish, giving Udinese the lead just five minutes into the match.
Lazio was already going into the match without their star man and birthday boy Ciro Immobile, midfield maestro Luis Alberto, defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva, and defensive rock Francesco Acerbi, and things got worse just less than twenty minutes later when Pedro was subbed off due to an ankle injury. He was replaced by Lazio’s new signing from Sporting Lisbon, Jovane Cabral; this meant that Cabral played as the striker and Felipe Anderson moved to the right-wing where the Spaniard was playing.
Following this substitution, Lazio seemed to find their rhythm as they were moving the ball very quickly and were playing many dangerous through balls over the top of the Udinese backline. The way Sarri’s men were changing the momentum of the game surely meant they deserved an equalizer and their efforts were rewarded just before halftime.
A freekick was sent into the box by Danilo Cataldi found the head of Mattia Zaccagni, and his flick-on header sent the ball to the back post where it was headed into the back of the net by Felipe Anderson. This was a well-deserved goal for Lazio and saw the score levelled at 1-1 after the first forty-five minutes.
The second half began with Lazio having all the momentum due to their equalizer just before halftime. Unfortunately, the Biancocelesti could not convert this momentum into a goal as they were able to create many chances with brilliant individual displays from Zaccagni, Felipe Anderson, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic but were unable to finish them.
Jovane Cabral did show a lot of promise playing the striker role. However, as is usual with Lazio, their shaky defense failed to clear the ball and gave away possession in their defensive third many times which could have led to a goal had Udinese taken their chances as well. Nahuel Molina had an amazing chance to win the game right at the end for Udinese, but thankfully, his long-range effort struck the bar.
This 1-1 draw was definitely a frustrating one for Sarri, the players, and all Lazio fans, as games like these are meant to be won no matter what. An important two points were dropped which could prove to be crucial by the end of the season in Lazio’s chase for a UEFA Champions League spot.
Lazio now have a tough week ahead of them as they will face Porto in the Second Leg of the UEFA Europa League Play-Offs before facing Scudetto contenders Napoli three days later on Sunday. These two games will make a huge difference in what the picture will look like for the rest of Lazio’s season.