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  • Writer's pictureSimon Basten

May 28, 2023: Lazio Cremonese 3-2

A celebration to last throughout the years


Lazio self-inflict a dramatic game on themselves but ultimately win on a day of celebrations for the May 26 tenth anniversary and Radu’s last match at the Olimpico.



Official SS Lazio photo

The season so far

 

The previous season Lazio had struggled in the first year under new manager Maurizio Sarri. In the first half of the campaign they had trouble in defence and conceded many goals. Despite beating Roma and Inter, there were blackouts at Bologna, Verona and Napoli where it was as if the team had never left the changing rooms. But in the end, they managed to qualify for the Europa League, the minimum objective.

 

For the 2022-23 season there were new players: goalkeepers Luis Maximiano (Grenada) and Ivan Provedel (Spezia), defenders Mario Gila (Real Castilla), Alessio Romagnoli (free agent) and Nicolò Casale (Verona), midfielders Marcos Antonio (Shakhtar) and Matias Vecino (free agent) plus forward Matteo Cancellieri (Verona). Leaving Lazio were Pepe Reina, Thomas Strakosha, Luiz Felipe and Lucas Leiva (contracts not renewed), Francesco Acerbi (loan to Inter), Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro (loan to Empoli), Raul Moro (loan to Ternana) and Jovane Cabral (end of loan).

 

At the end of the first half of the season they were third in the company of Inter and Roma and one point behind Milan. Napoli had raced away and had a 12-point lead. Lazio had beaten Inter, Roma, Atalanta and Milan.


They had arrived third in their Europa League group and were forced to play in the Conference League where they later were eliminated in the round of 16 by AZ Alkmaar. In Coppa Italia they had been eliminated in the quarter finals by Juventus.

 

In Serie A the Biancocelesti continued with their good form, beating Roma again, Napoli away and Juventus. They were currently second with a two-point lead over Inter and four above Milan. A win today would give them the certainty of a Champions League qualification.

 

The match: Sunday, May 28, 2023, Stadio Olimpico, Rome


Before the match a number of players who were on the pitch and bench on the famous May 26 2013 Coppa Italia derby final were welcomed and did a lap of honour with the cup. Those present were Federico Marchetti, Albano Bizzari, Hernanes, Stefano Mauri, Antonio Candreva, Miro Klose, Abdoulay Konko, Cristian Brocchi, Giuseppe Biava, Cristian Ledesma, Sergio Floccari, Luca Crecco, Libor Kozak, Lorik Cana, Antonio Manicone (assistant to Vladimir Petković) and obviously Senad Lulic. Stefan Radu also joined his former teammates. Loud cheers for everybody!!!


Official SS Lazio photo

A special jersey was made by Mizuno and sold out almost immediately. The players wore it for this match.


Official SS Lazio photo

Maurizio Sarri left Felipe Anderson on the bench while Pedro started. Adam Marusic had surgery during the week and his season was over, so Manuel Lazzari was the right back. Theoretically Lazio were already in the Champions League following Juventus’ 10-point docking during the week for administrative irregularities. But you never know, so it was important to win to secure second place and mathematically reach the European top competition regardless of point deductions.


The Olimpico was absolutely packed, all tickets were sold, 64,000 fans. Many came for the May 26 celebrations, many for the match, but all came to say goodbye to Stefan Radu in his last home game before retiring.


Lazio scored immediately. In the 4th minute, Luis Alberto sent a great ball to Ciro Immobile who immediately passed to Elseid Hysaj in the box. The Albanian, face to face with Cremonese goalkeeper Mouhamadou Sarr, beat him with a low shot on the far post. 1-0 for Lazio and first goal of the season for Hysaj.


Official SS Lazio photo

At this point Lazio switched off for a while with the exception of a Matias Vecino shot from outside the box in the 16th minute, safely saved by Sarr. Cremonese gained confidence and started attacking. In the 23rd minute a big chance for an equaliser. Matteo Bianchetti sent a great ball into the box for Frank Tsadjout, who shot. Just wide.


The Biancocelesti woke up and Alessio Romagnoli from a corner in the 29th minute managed to get a header in but it was too central and a few minutes later a Luis Alberto curler was safely parried by the Cremonese goalkeeper.


In the 36th minute Pedro went off on the right wing and crossed low, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic anticipated the Cremonese defenders and chipped the ball into the goal. 2-0 for Lazio.


Lazio mentally stayed in the changing rooms for most of the second half. In the 54th minute, Emanuele Valeri crossed into the Lazio box, Lazzari blocked, Tsadjout got to the ball before Milinkovic-Savic and passed back to Valeri. The Cremonese left back saw Pablo Galdames in a perfect position outside the box on the left, ball to the Chilean, great shot, with a slight deflection, and the Lombards reduced the deficit. Not content with having let Cremonese back into the game, the Biancocelesti then made things worse. In the 57th minute cross into the box by Leonardo Cernicola, Daniel Ciofani could not make contact, Lazzari, all alone, headed the ball back to Ivan Provedel but it was too far from the goalkeeper. It hit the post and went in. Silence in the stadium. Bewilderment, even the commentator for Lazio Style Channel was lost for words. Lazio 2 Cremonese 2.


Sarri tried to come to Lazio’s rescue and in came Felipe Anderson for Pedro in the 60th minute. Cremonese took off Ciofani for Cristian Buonaiuto.


Five minutes later Felipetto from outside the box gave the ball a massive whack that was brilliantly saved by Sarr. In the 71st, a magnificent long pass from Milinkovic-Savic to Immobile but King Ciro sent the ball over the crossbar. Lazio were back in the game even if there was a considerable dose of chaos. In the 75th minute Mattia Zaccagni in the box crossed for Milinkovic-Savic. The big Serb’s header beat Sarr but Alex Ferrari with a spectacular back heel on the line managed to clear. In the 80th minute Luca Pellegrini replaced Hysaj to increase crosses from the left wing.


Cremonese almost made it three in the 82nd minute as Tsadjout shot from outside the box but Provedel saved and Charles Pickel sent the rebound high from a difficult position.


In the 89th minute, corner for Lazio. Luis Alberto crossed a beautiful curling ball that nobody managed to make contact with on the front post, goalkeeper included. The ball was going into the goal but Johan Vasquez managed to keep it out with an arm, on the line Milinkovic-Savic nodded in an easy header, 3-2 for Lazio.


Sarri at this point sent in Toma Basic for Luis Alberto and allowed Radu his final five minutes of active football at the Olimpico. The Romanian replaced Zaccagni and Immobile gave him the captain’s armband.


Nothing happened in the five minutes of injury time with the exception of Sarri getting sent off for dissent.


Lazio won and whatever happened were now in the Champions League, they were in second place and sure of a top four finish. They were also guaranteed a place in the new Supercoppa formula (open now to four teams – scudetto winner and runner up, Coppa Italia winner and finalist). Inter won the Coppa Italia and were third in the league so even if they overtook Lazio the Biancocelesti would  still be in the new format.


There was still one more game to win at Empoli to be sure of second place.


Today Lazio had made it a lot more complicated for themselves. A match is not over until the referee whistles the end. They blanked out and allowed Cremonese to equalise. Moreover, as correctly pointed out by my wife in one of the rare times she came to the stadium, there was too much insistence on playing on the left wing due to the fact that Vecino is not a playmaker and hence the ball was often given to Luis Alberto. But neither the Spaniard nor Zaccagni were in great form so things were made even more complicated.


But, all’s well that ends well.


Radu says goodbye


At the end of the match, Lazio’s 2013 players and the current squad stood in the centre of the pitch and Radu said goodbye to the fans.


“Lazio fans, thank you all for being present on this very important day for me. I have spent more than 15 years at your side. I say "by your side" because on the pitch, when I entered, I had the same soul as you: the soul of the Lazio fan. With this shirt I lived my life as a footballer, in this stadium I experienced unique moments, difficult days and immense joys, like all of you. Lazio are a family and this pitch is like home for me. I thank you because in victory but also in defeat, I never felt alone. On this journey we have always walked together. I am sure that my attachment to the Biancocelesti colours will never end. It will give me the strength to carry on in life with the same determination I've always had on the pitch. I sincerely thank President Lotito and the club because they allowed me to make this great dream come true: being able to say goodbye to football wearing this jersey. You took me in when I was little more than a boy. Here I grew up as a man and as a footballer. I thank my wife Alexandra and my sons Edoardo and Alessia, because I have never felt the absence of their support and their love. Thanks to all my teammates and technical staff over the years who allowed me to have an important role on the pitch and in the changing room. And this for me represents a great honour, even before being a great responsibility. When I wore the Biancoceleste jersey I did so with all my heart and passion. Now I know what it's like to be one of you. I know what it means to belong to the great Lazio family. And bonded with it forever. You can stop playing football but you can't stop being a Lazio fan! Thank you all, your Boss loves you”.



Stefan Radu, 427 appearances (349 in Serie A, 25 in Coppa Italia, 3 in Champions League, 46 in Europa League and four Super Coppa Finals), 8 goals (5 in Serie A, 2 in Coppa Italia and one in Europa League) and six trophies (Coppa Italia 2008-09, 2012-13 and 2018-19, Super Coppa 2009, 2017 and 2019). The player with the most appearances in Lazio history.


Thank you, Stefan.


Who played for Lazio


Provedel, Lazzari, Casale, Romagnoli, Hysaj (80' Pellegrini), Milinkovic-Savic, Vecino, Luis Alberto (90' Basic), Pedro (60' Felipe Anderson), Immobile, Zaccagni (90' Radu).

Substitutes: Maximiano, Adamonis, Patric, Gila, Ruggeri, Marcos Antonio, Bertini, Cancellieri, Gonzalez.

Manager: Sarri


Who played for Cremonese


Sarr, Bianchetti, Ferrari, Lochoshvili (77' Vasquez), Sernicola, Pickel, Meité, Valeri (68' Quagliata), Galdames (68' Castagnetti), Ciofani (59' Bonaiuto), Tsadjout.

Substitutes: Carnesecchi, Saro, Aiwu, Ghiglione, Afena-Gyan, Chiriches, Acella, Okereke.

Manager: Ballardini


Referee: Giua


Goals: 4’ Hysaj, 37’ Milinkovic-Savic, 54` Galdames, 58` Lazzari (og), 89' Milinkovic-Savic

Official SS Lazio photo

What happened next


In the next game Lazio won at Empoli and finished second behind Napoli. To note is that Lazio had only come second three times before, 1936-37, 1994-95 and 1998-99, so this year’s result was a positive rarity in Lazio's history.


The player with most appearances was Felipe Anderson (50) but Ivan Provedel the player with most minutes (4361). Top scorer was Ciro Immobile with 14 goals.


One of the more positive things of the season was the 21 clean sheets. The defensive issue of the previous year was gone.


Lazio 2022-23

Competition

Played

Won

Drawn

Lost

Goals scored

Serie A

38

22

8

8

60

Coppa Italia

2

1

-

1

1

Europa League

6

2

2

2

9

Conference League

4

1

1

2

3

Total

50

26

11

13

73

Top five appearances (complete statistics)

Player

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Europa League

Conference League

50

38

2

6

4

47

36

2

6

3

46

36

2

5

3

45

38

-

6

1

45

35

2

5

3

Top five goal scorers (complete statistics)

Player

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Europa League

Conference League

14

12

-

1

1

Felipe Anderson

12

9

1

1

1

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

11

9

-

2

-

Mattia Zaccagni

10

10

-

-

-

Pedro

8

5

-

2

1

Let's talk about Elseid Hysaj


Elseid Hysaj was born on February 2, 1994 in Scutari in Albania.

 

In 2004, his father, Gezim, started working as a bricklayer on the house owned by sports agent Marco Piccioli. Papà Hysaj took the opportunity to point out that his son was good at football but being only ten years of age, he could not have a trial for any team. “Come back to me in four years’ time”, Piccioli told Gezim. And this is exactly what he did. Four years later he got in touch with the agent who kept his word. Hysaj impressed the Fiorentina scouts but for bureaucratic reasons they could not sign him. So Empoli did, paying the club he was playing for, Vllazina, €50,000.

 

Hysaj worked himself up the ladder and in October 2012 debuted in Serie B and in his first year as a professional he immediately made the starting eleven under Maurizio Sarri. In 2013-14 Empoli were promoted to Serie A and he debuted in the top tier on August 30 2014 in a defeat at Udine. He made 109 appearances with one goal with Empoli and in 2015 he followed Sarri and signed for Napoli. He immediately became a regular. When Carlo Ancelotti replaced Sarri in 2018 he started to play less due to problems with the manager. Ancelotti preferred to play with Giovanni Di Lorenzo and when he was not available, Kevin Malcuit. When Rino Gattuso arrived, Hysaj was used more but he still found it hard to make the first eleven.

 

When his contract with Napoli ended in the summer of 2021, after 222 appearances with one goal, he signed for Lazio. He was a specific request by Lazio’s new manager Sarri, who knew he could count on one of his faithful players to show the rest of the squad how he wanted Lazio to play. Hysaj’s first year was not so good, but then again, the whole team  struggled. He blossomed in his second year and was one of the fundamental players in Lazio’s historical second place finish. In his third year he has been maimed by injuries and not been able to make a difference.

 

At international level, Hysaj has 83 caps for Albania, and in 2016 became their youngest captain ever. He played in Euro 2016 and in the two nations league (2020-21 and 2022-23).

 

Hysaj is a good right back who can also play on the left. At Lazio he has done both. So far, he has reached 112 appearances for the Biancocelesti with 2 goals.


Lazio Career

Season

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Champions League

Europa League

Conference League

Super Coppa

2021-22

38 (1)

29 (1)

2

-

7

​-

-

2022-23

43 (1)

34 (1)

1

-

6

2

-

2023-24

29

20

3

5

-

-

1

Total

110 (2)

83 (2)

6

5

13

2

1

Sources




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