Lazio: Marchetti, Zauri, Diakite, Dias, Lulic, Matuzalem, Ledesma, Gonzalez ('81 Konko), Sculli ('80 hernanes) , Cisse, Rocchi ('67 Kozak).
Vaslui: Cerniauskas, Milanov, Farkas, Balaur, Milisvljevic, Pavlocic, Wesley, Zmeu ('87 Costin), Adailton, Sanmartean, Temwanjera ('77 Yero Bello).
Finally time for the first game in Europa League, and in front of the home crowd Lazio were ready to continue the season with another impressive result. Coach Edy Reja decided to make plenty of changes, in the squad as well as formation, and what looked like becoming a comfortable win in the end felt like a great loss - despite fighting back from one goal behind.
The first half saw a pretty relaxed but energetic Lazio, with Cisse as the driving force. The Frenchman displayed a great performance in front of the home fans all through the 90 minutes, and at large portions of the game Cisse showed the level of fitness and football that supporters all over the world have been hoping to see. The Romanians looked like having respect for the home team and not without reason. Mostly throughout the half things looked solid for the Romans, with Lazio creating chances but unfortunately not having the edge to tap the balls in. Mainly, it was Cisse who created chances, backed up by a stable central midfield, and my guess is that some wondered why Rocchi did not manage to get his centennial goal, while others wondered if Klose would have made the difference. In the 12th minute Gonzalez went close, a few minutes later Rocchi was assisted by Cisse, but Cerniauskas in the Vaslui goal managed to save both attempts miraculously.
One thing that was a little worrying though, was that the absence of Mauri was felt a little so much for the home team. In a more ideal situation, without the switch to a more 4-4-2-like formation by Edy Reja for this game, Cisse should have been able to come to more chances set up by another player. With an all through hard working Sculli on one side, and an as all through hard working Gonzales on the other, the creativity from the midfield went missing. Ledesma and Matuzalem covered the centre well and at times they managed to find their team mates in good positions, but there was no one around to serve the attackers as frequently as Mauri could have done. Ledesma has not yet reached his peak with his passing this season and Matuzalem tried but managed to overdo many situations rather than being effective.
Eventually Lazio being superior paid off. Rocchi was brought down inside the area, but instead of the skipper taking care of the penalty himself, Cisse nicely slotted home the penalty. After having been denied by the Vaslui defence on a few occasions, the Romanians finally capitalized and Lazio was sitting comfortably in the lead. The defenders, where three quarters played in new positions as Zauri, Diakite, Dias and Lulic were chosen by Reja, had little to do and apart from some typical stress of not being used to the position, if having played at all, there was little that gave the team and the supporters to be worried about. Marchetti in goal had very little to do, but to pick down a few crosses. In other words; the team had played well, the lead was there, the Romanians did not look like having what was needed to turn this game and the gamble with a new formation and eight players in either new positions or playing their first competitive game of the season, looked like paying off.
The second half started in a confident manner as well, and without any substitutions the flow of the game continued in a similar style as the first. Cisse had a chance early on, as did Sculli, without doubling the lead of the team.
Then came a period of complete blackout for Lazio. Two of the players Lazio should have been warned about in the opposition to cause problems for the team, Sanmartean and Wesley, plus the one player that was blamed for the goals in the away game to Milan, Luciano Zauri, changed the outcome of the game. The Romanian midfielder found Wesley in the penalty area after a miss by Zauri the away team had equalized the Lazio lead. Only three minutes matters became even worse, as the experienced Italian right back fouled as the last defender and consequently were shown the red card and Vaslui was awarded a penalty. From having been in total control Lazio were now trailing, and minutes ’59 to ’63 had made the difference in this game.
The last 30 minutes saw Lazio doing everything in their power to turn the game around. With 20 minutes left Sculli got a second goal for his side after having been set up the protagonist of the game, Djibril Cisse, but despite adding Konko and Hernanes late in the game Lazio never managed to get a decider. Kozak went closest in the dying minutes of the game, but as the match clock hit ’94 the second draw in two games became a reality.
There will be many fingers pointing at Reja’s choice to play so many players off the bench, of changing the formation and of poor coaching overall, especially considering the decision to keep Zauri in the starting eleven. Fingers will also be pointed at the lack of being effective in the second consecutive game, as Lazio could and should have killed this game with a few goals before half time. Regarding the players, it is hard to praise anyone after this disappointing result and Zauri will have to take a major part of the individual blame, but Cisse had an almost brilliant game, Gonzalez showed he needs to be considered as a starter, Lulic gave hope regarding the left back and Diakite looked a little more stable than usual. The team will have to take the positives with them and move on as there are many games left in Europa League to make up for this loss of points.
For Reja, it is time to step up and show he can manage the team well enough to guarantee a win in games where Lazio are superior.
Player Ratings (today by Eivind Ytreland and Juan Botello)
Man of the match: Djibril Cissé
Great game from Cissé. Was a constant threat against the Vaslui defence, showed his great speed and work rate. Scored the first goal on a penalty before assisting Sculli on the second.
Flop of the match: Luciano Zauri
Again Zauri is the man to blame for the lost points. Was not able to mark his man of the first goal before getting a straight red card and making a penalty that turned in to Vaslui's second. Surely Reja has to do some thinking now...
Honorable mention: El Tata Gonzalez was on fire today. Participated constantly on the offense, gave solid help to the defense and ran like no one else did this night!
Full Highlights: Lazio-Vaslui 2-2 video link
Picture Gallery : http://lazioland.com/GallerySub.htm?AlbumId=458