Tuesday Nov 21, 2017  
     
 
  Match |Lazio vs Napoli (0-1)
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Lazio vs Napoli (0-1)
Match Date: 18-01-2015
City: Rome
Stadium Olimpico
Referee Rizzoli
Media Gallery
Match Preview
A thunderous strike from Gonzalo Higuain left Etrit Berisha embarrassed at his near post and sent Napoli on their way to a comfortable one-nil victory in a game Lazio dominated from start to finish.

Our worst fear - that Lazio would miss the presences of Felipe Anderson, Stefano Mauri, Stefan De Vrij and Senad Lulic - was truly realised. The lack of options available to Stefano Pioli put the Lazio manager on the tactical backfoot, and it enabled Rafa Benitez to implement a gameplan straight from Andrea's Stramaccioni's handbook 'How to come away from the Stadio Olimpico with three points'.

If the Lazio players have nightmares tonight, they will be having flashbacks of our September defeat to Udinese for today's game was almost a carbon copy. Like Udinese, Napoli parked the bus and looked to break quickly from the back and took the only real chance to come their way. And as was the case in September, Lazio spent most of the game chasing an equaliser to no avail.

That said, we can take heart from the fact that Napoli are evidently a class or two above the Zebrette and we posed more of a threat today. Although we are not privy to dressing room conversations, I thought it was clear that Pioli had instructed the boys to stretch Napoli at every available opportunity. Keita Balde Diao and Antonio Candreva were refusing opportunities to deliver the ball early into the danger area, preferring instead to cut inside or play the reverse ball over the top and the Lazio midfielders were more reliant on long balls than usual.

Ledesma in particular offered a number of probing passes - although they were dealt with more often than not - and Luis Pedro Cavanda and Dusan Basta were happy to sacrifice some runs in favour of spreading the play.
This conjured up some opportunities in the first half that would not have been possible in September. Cavanda had a golden opportunity to score, missing from close range as the ball bobbled up just enough to make it awkward for him, and Parolo hit the crossbar with a header that caught Rafael sleeping.

Candreva also hit the post, but from an offside position. Any time Lazio got bodies into the opposition box, Napoli panicked just enough to give us a half chance, but the opportunities were not falling for Djordjevic. His goal tally for the season is impressive, yes, but his general play leaves a lot to be desired and as the half-whistle was blown, the game appeared to be crying out for a certain Miroslav Klose.

Pioli knew it and brought the World Cup winner on, but at the expense of Ledesma, and this brought about a change in system. Pioli spent much of the first half calling for more players to push forward - and Lazio certainly needed to get more men in the box - but Lazio now struggled to work the ball into the danger area. Miroslav Klose cut an anonymous figure - in a game where Lazio racked up 779 touches of the football, the German only saw it on 12 occasions - and his partner in crime was even less effective than he was in the opening 45 minutes.

Keita and Candreva continued to pose questions and the shifts they put in were admirable, but ultimately, more questions could be asked of their actual ability as they were short on ideas today. Lazio needed them to step it up and they were found wanting.

The one player who was a real threat was Luis Pedro Cavanda. He had Callejón in his pocket for the entirety of the game and you could visibly see the panic in the Napoli defence every time he received the football. It is somewhat ironic that both he and Lorik Cana - the two players that Lazio are looking to keep out of the starting eleven by entering the transfer market - were as good as anyone out there today. Lorik Cana's father said a couple of weeks ago that his son would show his real worth if player on the right-hand side of defence, and it would take a brave man to argue against him off the back of this performance.

Lazio brought on Danilo Cataldi and Bruno Pereirinha with approximately 10 minutes of regular time to go, and that did seem to improve our fortunes for a minute or two, but Napoli's experience of being in these situations told. They wound down the clock masterfully - snails travel faster than Higuain did as he was being substituted, and Rafael spent a few minutes rolling around in his box after he was injured by the Roman air.

It is not all doom-and-gloom for Lazio. The performance level was high and this was the first game all season where Lazio kept up the intensity for 90 minutes, but too many players have been visiting Paideia in recent weeks. It is that simple.

Or is it? Questions could also be asked of the squad's mentality - the type of questions Alasdair Mackenzie asked during the week. Throwing away points against Inter and Roma and failing to find a way back into games against Milan, Juventus and Napoli makes you wonder if Lazio have enough between the ears to finish among these teams after 38 games.

Half-a-season in, and we now know Lazio have the potential to return to Europe under the guidance of Stefano Pioli. Same again, and we can look forward to Europa League matches next season. But with a bit of improvement, you sense that Champions League place is not beyond us.

Writer: Cathal Mullan
 
  Match Summary
 
Lazio VS Napoli
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