It is still relatively early in the season, as we have not yet reached the half-way point, so it may be too soon to use the cliché term, “must win”, but the pressure for Lazio to deliver the full 3 points on the road to Chievo Verona at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi was immense, and Maran’s men would be ready. With a shocking defeat to Empoli and a lacklustre performance against a dominant Juventus, a win was mandatory. Lazio continued their dominance in possession and held true to their attacking style and did not disappoint.
After much anticipation, the traditional 4-3-3 formation held true for Pioli with Gonzalez surprisingly getting the start in midfield for suspended Lulic over Anderson or Onazi. After the media suggesting it may be the case for several weeks, Radu joined De Vrij in the centre of defence in favour of Lorik Cana, with Basta and Braafheid lining up on the right and left sides of defence respectively. Lazio at many times looked to have only 3 back with both Braafheid and Basta pushing forward, Braafheid much farther forward than we are used to seeing him, he ironically enough appeared to be comfortable pushing up the field into attack.
The 8th minute saw a scramble in front which was the result of a cross from Candreva on the right, Djordjevic should really have done better in front of Bizzarri but only managed to win a corner kick. Lazio continued to push forward and again Candreva broke down the right hand side with a quick volley from Biglia, Candreva’s cross to Mauri was headed back to Parolo and he blasted the ball just wide, two good chances minutes apart and Lazio continued to press. Again, in the 16th minute a great ball in from Candreva had Chievo looking suspect at the back but Djordjevic was not able to reach the ball. A ball into the box in the 20th minute on a set piece from Chievo proved their best chance, this had signs of Empoli all over it, but as Marchetti smothered the ball Lazio fans could breathe a sigh of relief.
Chievo’s first real chance came in the 27th minute with a blast from Frey just outside of the penalty box, the shot was high and Marchetti had eyes on it all the way, still too much space from the Lazio defence. Minutes later another ball in from Chievo was narrowly missed and it could have easily been a lead for the home side. Lazio quickly bounced back and once again another ball in from Candreva on the right was deflected by Parolo and just missed the bottom corner of Bizzarri’s net. Chievo still began to look increasingly more confident and in the 35th minute had a great chance from a corner kick with a header bouncing down off the grass over the bar, another shaky set piece defensively from Lazio.
The 38th minute saw a great Candreva shot from the right edge of the box, Bizzarri did well to punch it away from harm. The first half ended with a relatively even balance of opportunities on goal from both Chievo and Lazio, a definite edge to Lazio in possession. Lazio would clearly need more in the second half in order to break the scoreless draw, Candreva and the right side looked the most dangerous.
The second half began relatively slow, a set piece from Lazio in the 50th minute provided a slight chance but an offside ended the opportunity, once more Lazio held more of the possession. A 55th minute set play from Chievo into the box was headed away, this was their first chance of the second half. Moments later Cesar had a reckless challenge from behind on Djordjevic and he was booked with a yellow card.
Felipe Anderson was Pioli’s first change as he came in for Candreva in the 61st minute, a shocking substitution given Candreva was the only Lazio player in the first half who proved difficult for Chievo to handle and considering Gonzalez had been basically invisible for the entire match up to this point. Immediately after the substitution Izco had a great chance from in close and blasted it just wide of the near post, a lucky escape for Lazio. In the 72nd minute Parolo placed a ball back into the path of Mauri for the one time volley and Bizzarri made a great save to keep the even score line.
Pioli’s next move was to bring in Keita Balde, he entered the game in the 74th minute for Mauri. His emergence into the game immediately started to create openings and wreaked havoc for Chievo on the left hand side of the pitch. In the 78th minute Chievo had a set piece from outside of the box, Lazio dealt with this rather easily and cleared the ball out. With 10 minutes remaining in regular time, Keita continued to switch sides with Anderson and offered pressure from the right side, Cheivo had him marked and his cross was unable to reach the inside of the box.
Klose was the final change from Pioli and he replaced Djordjevic in the 83rd minute just after Djordjevic had another miss from inside the box, in fairness to him the Chievo defender took away his angle towards goal. Chievo pushed forward in the 85th minute with a cross in from the left hand side, Marchetti confidently grabbed the ball out of the air to end the threat. A brilliant header from De Vrij in the 89th minute was saved from Bizzarri and pushed away, this was the save of the match, perhaps Bizzarri the man of the match with two great saves.
A scoreless draw and a point away from home cannot be considered the worst case scenario but it is not the result Lazio wanted today. Lazio are capable of more and will rue their missed opportunities. Lazio must now move on from this result and regroup, hit the practice pitch, and prepare for Parma away.