Monday Jun 01, 2020  
  18/09/2015: Report: Dnipro 1-1 Lazio
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Lazio were seconds away from getting their Europa League campaign off to the perfect start, only to be thwarted by a last-gasp equaliser from Yevhen Seleznyov, who gave Dnipro a valuable point in a 1-1 draw. With Saint-Etienne and Rosenborg playing out a stalemate in France, Lazio threw away the opportunity to take a firm hold of Group G.

Dnipro were always going to be formidable opponents having battled their way to the Europa League final four months ago. Despite losing some firepower in attack with Evgen Konoplynaka and Nikola Kalinic moving on, this would be a good test of Lazio's European credentials. Stefano Pioli made a number of his changes to his starting eleven, undoubtedly influenced by certain performances on Sunday and with Napoli at the weekend in mind. It is also likely that the manager had spared specific individuals for Dnipro - Ogenyi Onazi found himself utilised in Europe once again, and it was not a surprise to see Sergej Milinkovic-Savic in line for his full Lazio debut in European competition.

Great debuts seems to be a bit of a trend at Lazio at the moment as Milinkovic-Savic followed Matri and Kishna in making a big impression at Lazio in a relatively short space of time. All three of them needed little time to make a big impression on Dnipro. Lazio fired a warning shot when Matri went close having latched onto a perfectly weighted through ball from Ogenyi Onazi, but Dnipro were wounded in the 34th minute when Ricardo Kishna's cross from a free-kick was nodded home by Milinkovic-Savic. As close-range headers go, it was by no means perfection but it was enough to put Lazio in a commanding position at the break.

Kishna's deliveries were a refreshing change from the usual tactic of having Antonio Candreva hit a shot from wherever the foul was conceded and the second half almost began as the first ended. Another Kishna cross caused more panic in the penalty area and this time, Dnipro's Edmar tried to apply the finish but goalkeeper Boyko was on hand to prevent his side from conceding an embarrassing own-goal.

Lazio continued to create half-chances. Marco Parolo went for a long-distance stunner on yet another free-kick, but his effort caught Milinkovic-Savic before finding the hands of Boyko. With 20 minutes to go, Alessandro Matri had an opportunity to dink the ball over Boyko and defender Papa Gueye but he was pole-axed by the Ukranian goalkeeper and no penalty was given. It would've been harsh as Matri went to ground pretty easily to the dismay of Boyko, but you've seen them given.

Overall, it was a solid performance from Lazio but as the game wore on, the makeshift backline became more and more of a concern, particularly in wide areas. With 10 minutes to go, Dnipro had a great chance when Anderson Pico made light work of Abdoulay Konko and only needed his cross to evade Federico Marchetti to find Seleznyov who would have a sitter to level things up. Fortunately for Lazio, it was too close to Fede and he made a good stop, but the danger had been identified as Lazio looked all at sea at the far post.

Fast forward 10 minutes and add on stoppage time and Lazio face what will surely be the final play of the evening. A corner from Dnipro finds Antonio Candreva who can only clear the ball into the sky, yet decides it is safe enough to move out of the box and get ready for the counter. Unfortunately, the ball ends up with Anderson Pico who gets the better of Santiago Gentiletti. After a few seconds of trying to shepherd the Brazilian and the ball out of play, a cross is clipped towards the far post evading Marco Parolo and Wesley Hoedt who are either asleep or marking the wind, and Seleznyov is on hand to make it 1-1.

Lazio could have come away from the Ukraine with nothing and the defeat would have been shrugged off. Fans would've looked to the Napoli game and argued that it was the priority anyway and that there's no shame in losing to last season's beaten finalists on their home soil. But to drop two points in the fashion Lazio did was criminal. It is bad enough conceding an equalising goal in the final seconds of play, but it makes it harder to take when it's a scenario you've seen played out during the game, and in recent weeks. We saw the balance of the Champions League play-off shift when Stefan de Vrij failed to clear his lines against Leverkusen, and the Chievo tie was over at half-time largely because we left Meggiorini unmarked at the back post to provide what many have already decided will be the assist of the season. To see the same mistakes coming from other personnel suggests lessons are not being learned.

Thankfully, there is not much time to dwell on it with a trip to the San Parolo in less than 72 hours time. Sadly, the Neapolitans had Club Brugge put to bed within 25 minutes, but hopefully that gives them a touch of false confidence and that our painful error spurs us on in Naples. This was a good opportunity that we passed up but as was said in the Udinese reports, the games will keep coming this season. Right now, that's probably a good thing. Forza Lazio!
Author: C
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