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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

July 23, 2020: Lazio Cagliari 2-1

Scudetto gone but Champions League conquered


Milinkovic and Immobile overturn "Cholito's" goal to reach CL dream


Official SS Lazio photo

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 defender 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 8 consecutive games. They were gaining consensus as the favourites for the title.


On December 22 in Riyadh Lazio won the Italian Supercoppa beating Juventus 3-1 and lifting their 5th title.


In Europa League things had not gone so well and Lazio were eliminated in the group stage with Celtic, Cluj and Rennes after 2 wins and 4 defeats. One of the problems, and this would raise its ugly head later on, was that Lazio's new signings were disappointing, so Lazio did not have enough strength in depth.


Anyway, in Serie A Lazio seemed unstoppable, and were only one point behind Juventus, but then disaster struck and the Covid-19 crisis hit the world. On February 29 Lazio beat Bologna 2-0 at home but then would not play again until June 24, in surreal empty stadiums. Lockdown, social distancing, masks, documentation just to go shopping took over, and football and life in general were put on hold.


The league returned on June 24 but Lazio did not seem themselves and lost 3-2 away to Atalanta, despite leading 2-0. Lazio then won the next two (Fiorentina and Torino) but had then collapsed and lost the following three (Milan, Lecce and Sassuolo). There followed a 0-0 away draw at Udinese and a 2-1 away defeat at Juventus, the match which was supposed to be a title clash but obviously no longer was. Lazio were now 4th, the Scudetto dream had totally gone but now even a Champions League slot was at risk.


Lazio needed to win at all costs so as not to throw away what had been a great season until Covid 19.


Cagliari had finished 15th the previous season under Rolando Maran. This year he had been confirmed but then replaced on March 3 by Walter Zenga. The Sardinians were currently in 11th position but were winless in the last six games. This season Radja Nainggolan was back but they had sold Nicolò Barella to Inter. The Rossoblu's top scorer so far was Brazilian Joāo Pedro with 18 league goals but they also had Giovanni Simeone up front (Lazio legend "El Cholo's" son) on 10 league goals.


The match: Thursday, July 23, 2020, Stadio Olimpico, Rome


After only three minutes Cagliari scored with a Joao Pedro free kick but luckily it was indirect so disallowed. Cagliari started stronger and Joao Pedro went close with a header.


Then, gradually, Lazio stirred. In the first twenty minutes Lazio had five shots on goal, all saved by Alessandro Cragno. Lazzari had three shots from outside the area, Luis Alberto had a curler going in and Immobile had a close-range volley from a Jony cross but they were all stopped by the visitor's keeper.


In Italy they have an expression "gol mancato, gol incassato" (goal missed, goal conceded) and that's exactly what happened just before the break. To be fair, however, Cagliari had weathered the storm and already been dangerous with a Simeone header. In the 44th minute they scored, Artur Ionita to Simeone who, just inside the area, turned and tried his luck and found it in a deflection from Luiz Felipe beating Thomas Strakosha. Halftime Lazio 0 Cagliari 1.


A flattering score for Cagliari who had their keeper and a dose of luck to thank, against a home side who at times had shown shades of pre- lockdown moves.


Lazio came on in the second half determined to overturn the score line. In the 47th minute a cross by Jony was headed clear by a defender but fell to Sergej Milinkovic-Savic on the edge of the box, the Serb co-ordinated himself and sent a cracking shot into the top hand corner with the outside of his right foot. A superb goal. Lazio 1 Cagliari 1.


Lazio insisted and Cagliari were overwhelmed and faded. Luis Alberto surged forward and let off a thundering strike but Cragno dived and saved into corner. A few minutes later a long cross by Francesco Acerbi to the far post was put back across goal on the volley by Milinkovic-Savic and brought down by Immobile who turned and shot but again Cragno saved this time with the help of the post.


Lazio were queuing up at this point and definitely deserved to be in front. The goal finally came in the 60th minute on a classic Luis Alberto-Immobile combination. The Andalusian put the Neapolitan one-on-one with the keeper with a lovely through ball and Ciro found the net with a low angled left foot. Lazio 2 Cagliari 1. Well deserved for the Biancocelesti and King Ciro's 31st league goal of the season.


Lazio were dominating and a similar move to the second goal saw Immobile set up Joaquin Correa but the Argentine was not deadly enough and Cragno saved.


Cagliari gained some territory but were never really dangerous again. Final score Lazio 2 Cagliari 1.


Lazio had shown some signs of improvement after the post-lockdown traumas but more importantly were back in Champions League after a thirteen year absence.


The players celebrated with team photos in front of an empty Curva Nord but the fans were not far away and already reaching for their chilled champagne.


Who played for Lazio


Strakosha, Patric, Luiz Felipe, Acerbi, Lazzari (58' Marusic), Milinkovic-Savic, Parolo, Luis Alberto (91' Cataldi), Jony (58' Lukaku), Caicedo (65' Correa), Immobile (91' Adekanye)

Substitutes: Proto, Guerrieri, André Anderson, Armini, Bastos, Falbo, Vavro

Manager: S. Inzaghi


Who played for Cagliari


Cragno, Walukiewicz, Klavan, Lykogiannis (83' Pisacane), Faragò, Nandez, Rog (67' Birsa), Ionita (83' Gagliano), Mattiello (70' Ragatzu), Simeone, Joāo Pedro

Substitutes: Ciocci, Rafael, Ceppitelli, Ladinetti, Lombardi, Marigosu, Paloschi, Pereiro

Manager: Zenga


Referee: Piccinini


Goals: 44' Simeone, 47' Milinkovic-Savic, 60' Immobile


What happened next


Three days later Lazio would win 5-1 away at Verona with an Immobile hat-trick. They then beat Brescia 2-0 at home and lost the last game 1-3 in Napoli. The Biancocelesti finished 4th (on same points as Atalanta 3rd) and Immobile was top Serie A goal scorer with 36 (39 in total).


So a season of what might have been but with the satisfaction of top European football the following season and King Ciro as European Golden Boot.


Cagliari lost at home 0-1 to Udinese a few days later but then surprised Juventus 2-0, before losing the last match 0-3 to Milan. "Casteddu" finished 14th, after 11 wins, 12 draws and 15 defeats. Top scorers were Joao Pedro with 18 (19 in total) and Simeone with 12.


The Scudetto was won by Maurizio Sarri's (and CR7's) Juventus. Going down to B level were SPAL, Brescia and Lecce


Lazio 2019-2020

Competition

Played

Won

Drawn

Lost

Goals Scored

Serie A

38

24

6

8

79

Coppa Italia

2

1

0

1

4

Europa League

6

2

-

4

6

Super Coppa

1

1

-

-

3

Total

47

28

6

13

92

Top five appearances (complete statistics)

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 (complete statistics)

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 Jordan Lukaku


Official SS Lazio photo

Jordan Zacharie Lukaku Menama Mokelenge was born in Antwerp, Belgium, on July 25, 1994. He is Belgian of Congolese origins. His father played for Zaire but then moved to Belgium. Jordan's brother Romelu is also a footballer (Anderlecht, Chelsea, W.B.A, Everton, Manchester United, Chelsea and Inter).


Jordan started his youth career with Wintam, Boom, Lierse and from 2006-13 Anderlecht.


In 2011 he joined Anderlecht's first team and made his debut on March 12, 2012 against Zulte Waregem. He played 6 games that season and the "Paars-Wit" won the league.


The following year he was in the squad and was often on the bench but never actually played. The Brussels team won the double, league and Supercup.


In 2013 he joined K.V.Oostende in Belgium's top league. In his first year he played 16 league games and 3 in the cup. The "Kustboys" finished 9th and won a Europa League playoff.


At this point Oostende definitely bought Lukaku and in his second year he played 29 league games (including playoffs) and one in the domestic cup. The Reds finished 10th.


In 2015-16 he scored his first professional goal against Westerlo. He had a good season playing 34 league games (including playoffs) with 3 goals. His performances brought him to the attention of some foreign clubs.


In 2016 he signed for Lazio. In Rome he played under Simone Inzaghi and in his first season played 16 league games and 4 in Coppa Italia. The Biancocelesti had a decent season and came 5th, qualifying for the Europa League. They also reached the final of Coppa Italia but were beaten by Juventus 2-0.


In 2017-18 he had his most consistent season. He played 30 league games with 1 goal (Crotone), 4 in Coppa Italia, 9 in UEL and the Italian Supercoppa. In the Supercoppa final against Juventus he set up the 3-2 winner in injury time. In the league Lazio finished 5th again.


In 2018-19 he was hampered by injuries and only played 7 league games and 1 in Coppa Italia. Lazio finished 8th but triumphed in the Coppa Italia beating Atalanta 2-0.


In 2019-20 he played slightly more but was again limited by physical problems. He made 13 league appearances and Lazio finished 4th (Champions League after 13 years) and won the Italian Supercoppa beating Juventus 3-1 in Riyadh.


In 2020 he was loaned back to Belgium, to Royal Antwerp. He played 22 league games (including playoffs), 2 in the Belgian cup and 5 in the UEL. So after two difficult years he finally played with some continuity.


In 2021-22 he returned to Lazio, now under Maurizio Sarri. He never played and in January 2022 was loaned to Vicenza in Serie B. He played 9 league games (including playouts) but the Biancorossi were relegated.


In 2022-23 he moved to Spain and joined Ponferradina (Castiglia and León) in the Segunda (second tier). He played 7 league games and 1 in the Copa del Rey for "La Ponfe” but in February he terminated his contract and became a free agent. Ponferradina were then relegated.


Lukaku has represented Belgium at all age levels. U15's (2 games), U16's (6 games), U18's (3 games), U19's (7 games), U21's (12 games) and so far has won 8 full Belgium caps but not since 2017.


He is a defender and usually plays at left back. He can also be used as a left midfielder. At 1.77 and 83 kilos he is strong physically but unfortunately prone to injury. When fit he is extremely good going forward and has a good cross.


At Lazio he played a total of 86 games with one goal. He had the quality to do more but was hindered by several injuries. In Rome however he won a Coppa Italia (2019) and two Supercups (2017, 2019).


In the first Supercoppa triumph he was a protagonist as he set up the winning goal. In the final against Juventus the Biancocelesti had given up a two goal lead and the game was heading towards extra time when Lukaku made a brilliant run down the left, before cutting in along the by-line, and squared the ball back for young Alessandro Murgia, who beat Buffon for the 3-2 winner. Along with a good run and perfect cross for an Immobile winner in Florence, that unstoppable burst by Lukaku gliding past Mattia De Sciglio is the image that has stayed in all Laziali's minds. A combination of power, speed balance and a perfect assist which will forever be part of Lazio history.


Lazio Career

Season

Total appearances (goals)

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Europa League

Super Coppa

2016-17

20

16

4

-

-

2017-18

44 (1)

30 (1)

4

9

1

2018-19

8

7

1

-

-

2019-20

13

13

-

-

-

Total

85 (1)

66 (1)

9

9

1

Sources


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