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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

December 7, 2019: Lazio Juventus 3-1

Updated: Jan 17

Lazio smash into title race


Lazio come from behind to stun Juventus and join scudetto race



The season so far


The previous season Lazio had finished 8th under Simone Inzaghi. The Biancocelesti however had triumphed in the Coppa Italia. On May 15 they had beaten Atalanta 2-0 to lift the cup for the 7th time.

This year Inzaghi had stayed on with a few changes to the squad. The main players arriving were: Slovak defender Denis Vavro (F.C. Copenhagen), Spanish winger Jony (Malaga), midfielder Manuel Lazzari (SPAL) plus young Dutch forward Bobby Adekanye (former Liverpool).

Leaving Lazio were: Serbian defenders Dušan Basta after five good years (retiring), Brazilian Wallace (Braga), midfielder Milan Badelj (Fiorentina) and Romulo (Genoa - end of loan) plus two Portuguese youngsters Bruno Jordão and Pedro Neto (Wolverhampton). The sale of the latter would later be regretted as he turned out to be a useful winger. The former, despite his promising name, has not made it.

Lazio so far had a wonderful season. After an up and down start (2 wins, 2 defeats and a draw in the first five games) the Biancocelesti had improved. The turning point had been a 3-3 home draw against Atalanta when Lazio came back from 0-3 down in the last 20 minutes. They then won 6 consecutive games (including Milan 2-1 away, after 30 years). They were now in 3rd position on 29 points and gaining consensus as potential title challengers.

In the Europa League things had not gone so well. In their group the Biancocelesti had only won two (Rennes 2-1and Cluj 1-0, both at home) and lost three (Celtic home and away 1-2, both with last gasp winners and Cluj 0-1 away). There was one game left away to Rennes but Lazio were virtually out and seemed to be prioritising the league anyway.

Juventus were reigning champions having won the league under manager Massimiliano Allegri. The Bianconeri had also won the Italian Supercoppa beating Milan 1-0 in Saudi Arabia. Top scorer had been Cristiano Ronaldo with 28 goals (21 in A). The "Old Lady" had won both games against Lazio.

This year they had a new manager, Maurizio Sarri. There had also been some important comings and goings in the squad.

The main new players were keeper Gianluigi Buffon (back from P.S.G), defenders Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax), Danilo (Manchester City), Merih Demiral (Sassuolo), midfielders Adrien Rabiot (free agent), Aaron Ramsey (free agent) while forward Gonzalo Higuain was also back (Chelsea-end of loan).

Leaving were world champion defender Andrea Barzagli (retiring), defenders Joāo Cancelo (Manchester City), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma) and forward Moise Kean (Everton).

So far in Serie A, Juventus had won 11 and drawn 3. They were 2nd on 35 points, behind front runners Inter.

In the Champions League the Bianconeri were through to the next stage with a game to spare. They had won 4 (Atlético Madrid 1-0 at home, Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 at home and Lokomotiv Moscow home and away 2-1) and drawn 1 (Atlético Madrid 2-2 away). The last game was away to Bayer Leverkusen.

So, Juventus favourites today, reigning champions and six points ahead but Lazio were on form and extremely dangerous.

The match: Saturday, December 7, 2019, Stadio Olimpico, Rome


A good crowd of 60,000 turned out for this much awaited game.

Juventus started better than Lazio. The Bianconeri pressed high up the field and took control of the midfield with Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi with Paolo Dybala creative up front.

Lazio were in difficulty with only Senad Lulic and Manuel Lazzari taking any initiative.

Dybala was the first to force the keepers into action when his curling left foot from just inside the box was palmed away by Thomas Strakosha. Then Dybala tried to score directly from a corner but Strakosha punched it away on the line. In the 25th minute Juventus scored, Dybala to Bentancur on the left who squared the ball into CR7 who tapped it from close range. Lazio 0 Juventus 1, a fair result so far.

Lazio took a while to react and Juventus almost made it two when Federico Bernardeschi went round Strakosha but too far towards the byline so he put a cross in to the far post where CR7 headed the ball strongly towards the corner but Strakosha dived low and saved brilliantly.

Lazio then finally stirred and started attacking with more conviction. In the 40th minute the visitors were forced to substitute injured Bentancur with Emre Can. The Biancocelesti equalised just before halftime. Following a corner from the left, the ball came back to Luís Alberto who put in a perfect, cutting cross which was headed in by Luíz Felipe. Lazio 1 Juventus 1 and halftime score. Lazio growing into the game and pleased with the score line.

There were no changes for the second half which started with a scare for Lazio. Strakosha messed up a pass to Francesco Acerbi and the ball went straight to Dybala at the edge of the box, "la Joya" took it a few metres forward a cracked a left foot towards goal but the Albanian keeper redeemed himself by diving to his left and pulling off a fine save.

Lazio from then on had control of the midfield and looked the more dangerous. In the 69th minute came a game changer. Luís Alberto, still inside his own half, put a brilliant ball forward to Lazzari who, although 40 metres out, only had Juan Cuadrado between him and the goal and was brought down by the Colombian. Initially the referee only booked him but then having being called by VAR and checking the pitch TV monitor he changed the colour to red. A correct decision, the foul had been dirty, intentional and Lazzari would have had a clear goal scoring opportunity. Sarri then took off attacking midfielder Bernardeschi and put on defender Danilo.

From now on Lazio, already in the ascendancy, dominated. In the 75th minute the Biancocelesti took the lead with a fantastic goal. Luís Alberto, just over the halfway line but nearer the touchline, floated a through ball into the area where Sergej Milinkovic-Savic sublimely brought it down with his right foot and with his left beat Szczesny with a powerful low shot on the far post. A superbly taken goal. Lazio 2 Juventus 1.

Luís Alberto then went off a minute later and on came Marco Parolo to give Lazio more defensive cover.

In the 79th minute Lazio could have made it three. Ciro Immobile teed up Joaquin Correa who only had Wojciech Szczesny to beat, he went round him but, before he could shoot, was pulled down by the Polish keeper. Penalty to Lazio to close the game. Immobile stepped up but his spot kick was too central and parried by Szczesny, the ball came back to Ciro but again the keeper produced another excellent save to deny the Lazio striker.

Having been given a flicker of hope Juventus then desperately pushed forward but without lucidity and did not have any clear chances. Meanwhile Lazio had acres of space on the counter attack. They made one of these chances count in the 95th and last minute, they found themselves in three against one defender and Lazzari only had Szczesny to beat but managed to hit the keeper, the ball bounced back to Felipe Caicedo who stopped it and hammered a left footed volley into the back of the net. Lazio 3 Juventus 1. Absolute mayhem in the Stadio Olimpico and final whistle.

A fine performance by Lazio who finally managed to defeat the "Old Lady" at home in a league game after sixteen years. A long wait but the present also said Lazio were finally title contenders too.

Who played for Lazio


Substitutes: Proto, Guerrieri, Vavro, Bastos, Jorge Silva, Jony, André Anderson

Manager: S. Inzaghi

Who played for Juventus


Szczesny, Cuadrado, Bonucci, de Ligt, Alex Sandro, Bentancur (40' Can), Pjanic, Matuidi, Bernardeschi (71' Danilo), Ronaldo, Dybala (79' Higuain)

Substitutes: Buffon, Pinsoglio, Rugani, Demiral, De Sciglio, Rabiot, Muratore, Portanova, Pjaca

Manager: Sarri

Referee: Fabbri

Goals: 25' Ronaldo, 45+1 Luiz Felipe, 75' Milinkovic-Savic, 90+5 Caicedo



What happened next


Lazio continued flying until February. Between today's game and February 29, Lazio won another 9 games (including Inter 2-1) and drew 2 (including the derby 1-1). Lazio were 2nd, playing great football and regarded as favourites for the Scudetto. The Biancocelesti had also beaten Juventus 3-1 again, in Riyadh on December 22, to lift their 5th Italian Supercoppa. Then at the beginning of March disaster struck, COVID 19.

The world and consequently football locked down for several months. The league then restarted in July in empty stadiums. The pandemic took away the Biancocelesti’s hopes. The Lazio that returned after lockdown were no longer the seemingly unstoppable machine they had been up to late February. The fast and furious fixture list penalised Lazio's limited numbered squad which was also struck by injury.

The Biancocelesti won 5, drew 1 and lost 6 and ended up 4th. The consolations were qualifying for the Champions League after a thirteen-year absence and having Ciro Immobile win the European Golden Boot with 36 league goals (39 in total).

Juventus won the Scudetto again. After lockdown their deeper squad enabled them to play the close-range games with fresher players and they clinched their 36th title ahead of Inter. Top scorer was Ronaldo with 37 goals (31 in A).

Juventus were knocked out of the Champions League by Olympique Lyonnais on away goals (2-2). In Coppa Italia the Bianconeri were beaten finalists (Napoli on penalties), so no double.

The three teams leaving the big time were Lecce, SPAL and Brescia (the Estensi and the Rondinelle have not been back since).


Lazio 2019-2020

Competition

Played

Won

Drawn

Lost

Goals scored

Serie A

38

24

6

8

79

Coppa Italia

2

1

-

1

4

Europa League

6

2

-

4

6

Super Coppa

1

1

-

-

3

Total

47

28

6

13

92

Top five appearances

Player

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Europa League

Super Coppa

45

36

2

6

1

44

37

2

4

1

44

38

1

4

1

43

37

1

4

1

41

36

-

4

1

Top five goal scorers

Player

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Europa League

Super Coppa

Ciro Immobile

39

36

1

2

-

10

9

-

1

-

9

9

-

-

-

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

8

7

-

1

-

Luis Alberto

7

6

-

-

1

Let’s talk about: Maurizio Sarri


Official SS Lazio photo

Maurizio Sarri was born in Naples, on January 10,1959. He was born in Naples as his father, who was Tuscan, was temporarily working there. Maurizio Sarri was brought up in Castro (Bergamo) and Figline Valdarno (Florence), hence his strong Tuscan accent.

In his youth he played amateur football, reaching Serie D, while working as a bank clerk (also with jobs in London, Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg). His football career was limited and cut short by injuries.

His career as a manager started in 1990 at Stia at Tuscan amateur level and continued with Faellese, Cavriglia, Antella, Valdema and Tegoleto.

In 2000 he took over at Sansovino (Monte San Savino -Arezzo). In three years, he took the Arancioble up two divisions from Eccellenza to C2 and won the Coppa Italia Serie D (2003).

In 2003 he joined Sangiovannese (San Giovanni Valdarno) in C2 and won promotion to C1 and then finished 8th.

In 2005 he joined Pescara in Serie B. The Delfini finished 11th.

In 2006 he returned to Tuscany and joined Arezzo in Serie B, taking over from Antonio Conte in October, but was sacked in March. The Amaranto were eventually relegated.

In July 2007 he joined Avellino in Serie B but left in August after one defeat in Coppa Italia.

In December 2007 he took over at Verona in C1 but was replaced in February, after one draw and five defeats.

In September 2008 he joined Perugia in Serie D but was replaced in February, after 5 wins, 8 draws and 5 defeats.

In March 2010 he joined Grosseto in serie B. The "Torelli Maremmani" (The Bulls of Maremma) finished 7th.

In 2010-11 he finally completed a full season, at Alessandria in Serie D. The "Orso Grigio" (The Grey Bear) finished 3rd but were then relegated for sporting violations (fraud).

In July 2011 he joined Sorrento in Serie D but was replaced in December, despite 7 wins, 6 draws and 3 defeats. The Coastal Rossoneri eventually finished 4th but lost in the playoffs.

In 2012 Sarri joined Empoli in Serie B and this was to be the turning point in his career. He stayed three seasons with a 4th place (lost playoff final to Livorno 1-2 on aggregate), 2nd place (promotion to A) and then 15th in Serie A. The Azzurri's season included home wins against Lazio and Napoli plus away draws to Milan, Napoli, Fiorentina and Roma. His players included future Lazio, Elseid Hysaj and Matías Vecino.

Empoli's entertaining style of football earned him a call from Napoli and in 2015 he joined the Partenopei. He stayed three years. In the first Napoli finished 2nd (CL), then 3rd (CL- in the current competition they reached last 16) and finally 2nd again. A good three years, playing excellent football.

In 2018 he went to London and joined Chelsea in the Premier League. The Blues finished 3rd in the league, lost the Charity Shield to Manchester City 0-2 and the League Cup final, again to the Citizens but on penalties after a 0-0 draw. It was in the Europa League that the Pensioners found glory. They eliminated PAOK (Greece), MOL Fehérvár (Hungary) and Bate Borisov (Bielorussia) in the group stage, then Malmö (5-1), Dinamo Kiev (8-0), Slavia Prague (5-3), Eintracht Frankfurt (2-2, then on penalties) and in the final trounced Arsenal 4-1 in Baku. One of his players was future Lazio, Pedro (who scored 4 goals in EL, including final). The English coined the term "Sarri ball" to describe his style of play.

In 2019 Sarri returned to Italy and joined Juventus. In the season interrupted by Covid 19 the Bianconeri won the Scudetto in August. The level of play was not always pretty but with Ronaldo and Dybala up front they won their 36th title. They however lost both the Italian Supercoppa final (Lazio 1-3) and the Coppa Italia final (Napoli on penalties). In Champions League the Zebras were unbeaten in the group stage (W5, D1) but then lost to Olympique Lyonnais on away goals in the last 16.

Sarri then took a year off as Juventus went for Andrea Pirlo as manager.

Sarri reappeared in 2021-22 when he joined Lazio. In his first year the Biancocelesti finished 5th. The highlights were beating Spezia 6-1, Inter 3-1 at home, Fiorentina 3-0 away but especially beating Roma 3-2. In Europa League, Lazio qualified as second in a group with Galatasaray, Lokomotiv Moscow and Olympique Marseille (W2, D3, L1) but then went out to Porto 3-4 in the playoffs to reach the last 16. In Coppa Italia the Biancocelesti crashed out to Milan 0-4 in the quarter finals.

In 2022-23 he stayed at Lazio and the Biancocelesti had an excellent season finishing 2nd behind Napoli. Their best results were beating Inter 3-1, Milan 4-0, Juventus 2-1 at home and Fiorentina 4-0, Atalanta 2-0, Napoli 1-0 away. Lazio also won both derbies after many years, both 1-0. In Europe things went differently and Lazio were knocked out in the group stage of Europa League and then by AZ Alkmaar in the Conference League. In Coppa Italia Lazio went out to Juventus 0-1 away in the quarterfinals. There was the sensation however that they were concentrating mainly on the league, not having much depth in the squad.

This year Sarri has gone into his third season in Rome.

Sarri also known as "Il Comandante" (The Commander/Leader) has his own philosophy of football, "Sarrismo". He plays with 4-3-3 and his game is based on zonal marking with a high defence. The priority is a fast and precise ball control with a myriad of synchronized exchanges to disorientate the opposition. He is a believer in technology to improve his methods and is known to use drones to film his team’s movements. So far in his career his style of play has worked best with Napoli who, despite not winning any trophies, played an excellent and entertaining brand of football.

At Lazio he is well liked. He has got Lazio into Champions League with a 2nd place finish and has won 3 derbies out of 5 (only losing 1). His teams have shown flashes of Sarrismo but still have to find more consistency. It must be said that he has not been helped by the club who rarely buy the players Sarri himself would like.


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