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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

April 11, 2021: Verona Lazio 0-1

Milinkovic-Savic disguises himself as Caicedo


An injury time goal in the "Caicedo zone" by the big Serb gives Lazio late win




Source Lazio Wiki

The season so far


The world and football were still very much affected by the Covid-19. Matches were being played in empty stadiums but as they say the show must go on.

 

Lazio had finished 4th the previous season. Until February Lazio were unstoppable and considered the favourites for the Scudetto but then the pandemic changed everything.

 

Lazio had confirmed Simone Inzaghi as manager after the previous year's Champions League qualification. This season, Lazio were not the almost perfect machine they had been up until lockdown, but they were now showing signs of improvement.

 

The first match of the season they were defeated by Atalanta. They had then improved and won 15, drawn 8 and lost 8, so were on 53 points. They had destroyed city rivals Roma 3-0, beaten Napoli 2-0 but lost against Inter, Juventus and Milan. They came into this match in 6th position, five points off 4th placed Atalanta in the last Champions League position, and three consecutive wins. The last was a 2-1 home win against Spezia.

 

Lazio had made some changes to the squad in the summer but the majority of the new players were proving to be disappointing. The new arrivals were veteran goalkeeper Pepe Reina (Milan), defenders Wesley Hoedt (Southampton-back on loan), Mohamed Fares (Spal), midfielders Jean Daniel Akpa Akpro (Salernitana), Andreas Pereira (Manchester United - loan), Gonzalo Escalante (free agent -Eibar) plus striker Vedat Muriqi (Fenerbahçe). In January Lazio added defender Matteo Mustachio (Milan) to their books.

 

These new players were to various degrees underperforming and not adding quality and the depth of choice Inzaghi had hoped for. On a more positive note Ciro Immobile was still firing away and already had 14 league goals.


Leaving Lazio had been goalkeeper Guido Guerrieri (Salernitana), defenders Jordan Lukaku (Antwerp), Wallace (Yeni Malatyaspor), Bastos (Al-Ain), midfielders André Anderson (Salernitana-loan), Milan Badelj (Genoa), Jony (Osasuna- loan with option to buy) and striker Bobby Adekanye (Cadiz-loan). In January there had been further departures: defenders Durmisi (Salernitana-loan), Denis Vavro (Huesca-loan) and goalkeeper Silvio Proto had retired.

 

In the Champions League they got through the group stage unbeaten with 2 wins (Borussia Dortmund and Zenit St. Petersburg both 3-1) and 4 draws (Zenit, Borussia D and twice with Brugges). The bad news was that they had then drawn Bayern Munich in the next round and been well beaten , 2-6 on aggregate (1-4, 1-2).

 

In the Coppa Italia Lazio were knocked out 2-3 by Atalanta in the quarter finals in January.

 

Hellas Verona had finished 9th the previous season, under manager Ivan Jurić. The Gialloblu had drawn 0-0 away but lost 1-5 at home to Lazio. Top scorer was Samuel Di Carmine with 8 goals, all in A.

 

This season the Croatian manager had stayed on but the Scaligeri had been extremely busy on the transfer market. Between signings and loans almost thirty players had arrived. The main ones were: defenders, Federico Ceccherini (Fiorentina-on loan), Federico Dimarco (Inter-on loan), midfielders Marco Benassi (Fiorentina-on loan), Adrien Tameze (Nice), Antonin Barak (Udinese), Ivan Ilić (Manchester City-on loan) plus forwards Ebrima Colley (Atalanta-on loan) and Nikola Kalinić (Atlético Madrid).

 

A lot of players were obviously also leaving. Those worthy of note were defenders Alan Empereur (Palmeiras-on loan), Marash Kumbulla (Roma), Amir Rrahmani (Napoli-end of loan), midfielders Sofyan Amrabat (Fiorentina-end of loan), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta-end of loan), Valerio Verre (Sampdoria-end of loan) plus forwards Giampaolo Pazzini (retiring), Mariusz Stępiński (Lecce-on loan) and Fabio Borini (Fatih Karagümrük).

 

A lot of comings and goings but the Veronesi were holding their own again in Serie A. They were currently 8th, on 41 points. The "Mastini" (The Mastiffs) had won 11 (including Lazio 2-1 away), drawn 8 (including Juventus 1-1 home and away and Milan 2-2 away) and lost 10. Their most recent game was a 2-0 away win at Cagliari.

 

In Coppa Italia they were eliminated by Cagliari 1-2 away in November.

 

Not an easy game for Lazio today. Verona were a well organised and difficult team to play, in addition they were carefree in mid-table, too far from the European places but already safe.

 

The match: Sunday, April 11, 2021, Stadio Bentegodi, Verona


A grey afternoon and no spectators was the usual depressing sight of the period.

 

Simone Inzaghi had stayed in Rome struck down with Covid -19 himself. Lazio were also without Manuel Lazzari and Joaquín Correa.

 

The home side meanwhile were missing defender Matteo Lovato but had more or less their best team out.

 

The first real chance fell to Lazio. In the 4th minute a Mohamed Fares cross from the left was flicked on by a Lucas Leiva header and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic then volleyed a right foot that shaved the post.

 

Ciro Immobile then went extremely close when his long range, cross goal shot came back off the post.

 

Verona responded in the 35th minute with a good through ball by Dimarco which found Darko Lazovic inside the area on the right but his low curling shot on the far post did not turn enough and went about a metre wide. Half time Verona 0 Lazio 0.

 

A blocked game so far with few goal scoring opportunities. Verona proved very able at blocking Lazio’s initiatives. Federico Dimarco followed Milinkovic-Savic everywhere and Miguel Veloso played very deep in protection of the defence. The Gialloblu however did not often manage to be dangerous themselves.

 

The second half started with what could have been the goal of the season. Felipe Caicedo received the ball with his back to the goal about 35 metres out, he turned, beat two opponents and burst towards the area where he went past another defender and with a low right foot beat Marco Silvestri. A fantastic goal but VAR called the referee, who went to the monitor to have a check, and he saw an irregularly high elbow by the Ecuadorian when he was sprinting away from Giangiacomo Magnani towards the area. He also got booked, a real pity also because he would now miss the next game.

 

Lazio attacked more, Fares had a shot over the bar and Immobile could have done better on a few potential chances but in general it was difficult to break Verona down.

 

Both sides made all five substitutions over the last twenty minutes or so but the game looked to be heading for a goalless draw.

 

Lazio however still pushed forward. In the second minute of injury time Stefan Radu pumped yet another hopeful high cross into the hosts' area but this time Milinkovic-Savic rose higher than the defenders and headed into the left corner. The "sergeant's" seventh goal of the season gave Lazio the three points and their fourth consecutive win. Verona 0 Lazio 1.

 

Not a vintage performance by Lazio but they had tried harder to win the game than Verona and had been rewarded in the dying seconds.

 

The Biancocelesti's position in the table did not change as the top eight teams all won.

 

Verona meanwhile dropped to 9th, overtaken by Sassuolo.

 

Who played for Verona


Silvestri, Dawidowicz, Magnani, Dimarco (76' Ceccherini), Faraoni, Miguel Veloso (68' Ilic), Sturaro, Lazovic, Barak (85' Salcedo), Zaccagni (76' Bessa), Lasagna (86' Kalinic)

Substitutes: Berardi, Pandur, Ruegg, Gunter, Udogie, Tameze, Colley

Manager: Juric (Paro on bench today)

 

Who played for Lazio


Reina, Marusic, Acerbi, Radu, Akpa Akpro (83' Parolo), Milinkovic-Savic, Leiva (83' Escalante), Luis Alberto (75' Pereira), Fares (75' Lulic), Immobile, Caicedo (68' Muriqi)

Substitutes: Strakosha, Alia, Armini, Hoedt, Musacchio, Patric, Cataldi,

Manager: S. Inzaghi (Farris on bench today)

 

Referee: Chiffi


Goals: 92' Milinkovic-Savic



 

What happened next


Lazio finished 6th in Serie A. A week later they beat Lecce 5-3 at home but, despite some more good wins (including Milan 3-0), they also lost the decisive games against Napoli (5-2) and Roma (2-0) plus defeats at Fiorentina (2-0) and Sassuolo (2-0). They qualified for the Europa League with 21 wins, 5 draws and 12 defeats. Top scorer was Immobile with 25 (20 in the league).

 

Verona finished 10th. They did not win again and in the last 8 games drew 4 and lost 4. Top scorer was Barak with 7 league goals.

 

Inter won the Scudetto for their 19th title. Relegation was the sad verdict for Parma, Benevento and Crotone (none have been back up since).


Lazio 2020-21

Competition

Played

Won

Drawn

Lost

Goals scored

Serie A

38

21

5

12

61

Coppa Italia

2

1

-

1

4

Champions League

8

2

4

2

13

Total

48

24

9

15

78

Top five appearances

Player

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Champions League

Marusic

46

36

2

8

​Acerbi

42

32

2

8

Akpa-Akbro

42

32

2

8

Immobile

41

35

1

5

Milinkovic-Savic

41

32

2

7

Top five goal scorers

Player

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Champions League

Immobile

25

20

-

5

Correa

11

8

-

3

Luis Alberto

9

9

-

-

Caicedo

9

8

-

1

Milinkovic-Savic

8

8

-

-


Let's talk about Vedat Muriqi


Source Lazio Wiki

Vedat Muriqi was born in Prizren in Kosovo, on April 24, 1994. At the time it was a Yugoslavian province with a majority Albanian population. Muriqi is Kosovarian but has Albanian and Turkish citizenship.

 

His first club was local Liria in the Superliga Kosovës. He joined when he was nine and made his first team debut in 2011. He played 10 league games and scored 3 goals for his hometown club.

 

In January 2013 he moved to Albania and joined Teuta, from Durazzo. He stayed one year with the "Djemtë e detit" (Boys of the sea) and played 23 games with 3 goals.

 

In January 2014 he stayed in Albania but joined Besa Kavajë. He played 13 games and scored 3 goals.

 

In the summer of 2014, he started his Turkish adventure. He joined Giresunspor in the 1 Lig (2nd tier). He stayed with the Black Sea club for two seasons, playing a total of 69 games with 23 goals.

 

In 2016 he moved up to the Süperlig and joined Gençlerbirliği in Ankara. He stayed one full season and the "Ankara Rüzgāri" (Wind of Ankara) finished 8th. He played 40 games (33 in league) with 6 goals (3 in league). The following year he stayed on but then left in January after playing 15 games (13 in league) with 4 goals (2 in league). Gençlerbirliği were eventually relegated in 17th place.

 

In January 2018 he joined Çaykur Rizespor in the second tier. The team from Rize, on the Black Sea towards the border with Georgia, won promotion. Muriqi played 16 league games with 8 goals for the Karadeniz Atmacasi (The Black Sea Sparrowhawks).

 

The next season he stayed on and did even better, scoring 17 goals in 34 league games. The Blue and Greens finished 11th.

 

In 2019 he moved to Istanbul and joined Fenerbahçe. He did well for the "Sari Kanaryalar” (Yellow Canaries), scoring 15 goals in 32 league games and 2 goals in 4 domestic cup games. Fener however had a poor season finishing 7th, under Ersun Yanal.

 

In 2020 he made a surprise move to Lazio who were looking for a backup for star striker Ciro Immobile. Even more surprising was the amount paid for him (20 million Euros) by Claudio Lotito, not known for his big spending. The manager was Simone Inzaghi and Lazio had a decent season finishing 6th but not reaching the levels of the previous year. Muriqi had his chances, playing 27 league games with 1 goal (Atalanta), 2 games in Coppa Italia with 1 goal (Atalanta again) and 5 games in the Champions League. He was a disappointment however with few goals and generally poor performances.

 

He stayed on the following season probably more due to the investment made than in recognition of his sporting abilities. The new manager was Maurizio Sarri with a completely new style of play. Muriqi played 11 league games, 1 in Coppa Italia and 3 in the Europa League before leaving in January. Lazio had the chance to get back some of the money spent on him and loaned him to Mallorca in La Liga with the option to buy him in the summer.

 

In Spain he did better. The manager was first Luis Garcia and then, from March, Mexican Javier Aguirre and Muriqi played 16 league games with 5 goals (Cadiz, Betis, Atlético Madrid, Alavés, Rayo Vallecano) plus 1 game in the Copa del Rey. The "Piratas", the same nickname as Muriqi himself, finished 9th. Fortunately, for Lazio, the islanders then decided to sign him permanently.

 

In the 2022-23 season he therefore stayed on the Balearic island with the "Bermellones" (The Ruby Reds/Vermillions) and totalled 37 appearances with 16 goals.

In 2023-The manager is still Aguirre and this season Muriqi has played (21) games and scored (5) goals. In the autumn he suffered an injury and was out of action for two months but he returned in mid-January.

 

At international level he has won 53 caps for Kosovo and is their leading goal scorer with 26 goals. He even scored 4 goals in one game in a friendly against San Marino and has been captain three times. In 2013-14 he also played 7 games for Albania U21's with 1 goal.

 

Muriqi is a centre-forward. He is 1.94 and 92 kilos, so a physical player. He is left-footed and reasonably technical despite his height. His main asset predictably is his heading skills and he is also a reliable penalty taker.

 

Lazio saw almost nothing of his talent. He was basically a failure in Rome. He only scored two goals but also contributed very little to the team game. Even in the air he seemed to have difficulty and had no elasticity in his jump off the ground. In his defence, Lazio’s play did not cater to his characteristics, with few crosses or high balls but one expected a lot more from him in Rome, especially after what Lotito paid for him.

 

Recently interviewed by the Gazzetta dell Sport, Muriqi explained:"I knew that Immobile was there with his Golden Shoe, plus Correa and Caicedo, but I thought that by spending all that money they would bet on me. And I wasn't wrong. Simone Inzaghi made me play whenever he could, but I didn't perform. No excuses, no-one else's responsibility, just my fault. In football it happens, and when it happens, you have to make room for someone else. I had a thigh problem, and my pregnant wife remained in Turkey, I felt alone and settling in was complicated. I did not fee, on and off the pitch".


In Spain he is proving to be a decent player and there is no way he can really be as bad as he was with Lazio.


Lazio Career

Season

Total appearances (goals)

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Champions League

Europa League

2020-21

34 (2)

27 (1)

2 (1)

5

-

2021-22

15

11

1

-

3

Total

49 (2)

38 (1)

3 (1)

5

3

Sources





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