Lazio: Marchetti, Konko, Zauri, Biava, Lulic, Ledesma, Matuzalem, Gonzalez, Hernanes, Candreva (46’ Kozak, 83’ Scaloni), Klose.
Cesena: Antoniolo, Comotto, Rodriguez, Lauro, Ceccarelli, Santana (70’ Guana), Colucci, Parolo, Pudil 64’ Del Nero), Iaquinta (59’ Rennella), Mutu.
Ahead of the Thursday game against Cesena most of the talking had been evolving around the miserable weather conditions in Rome stopping the team from training at Formello, and the enormous list of injured players stopping Reja from choosing his preferred Lazio. On the pitch the supporters were sent through hell and heaven, in that order, and in the end a ten men strong Lazio fought back to turn the game around and advance to third position, leapfrogging Udinese and moving closer to Milan and Juventus at the very top.
The first half could have been more fun that it came to be. Had Klose not missed a clear sitter after just four minutes the game would have gotten to a perfect start, but despite the miss Lazio looked like being in better shape than expected after having missed multiple training sessions and took charge of the game early on. In minute 14 the problem with placing players in the wrong position on the pitch made it count for Cesena. Hernanes lost the ball in a bad position, and as Cesena attacked the lack of quality in a backline consisting of Lulic and Zauri became evident. The visitors took the lead through a Mutu tap in after new signing Iaquinta had outsprinted Biava and Zauri forgot he was playing in central defense this evening and left the Romanian unmarked.
Lazio could have taken back the command in the following minute, but the usually so secure German striker managed to miss an even better chance than the one created early on as Ledesma found him with a perfect pass behind the Cesena backline. The home team was dominating the game, but did not manage to get themselves on the score sheet and out of nowhere the battle got even tougher; Konko fouled Mutu inside the penalty area and referee Romeo not only pointed at the penalty spot, but he also handed the defender a red card. 35 minutes into the game the Seahorses had doubled the lead through Iaquinta’s first goal, and Cesena 15th, in the league this season. The Biancocelesti looked like a beaten team, with only 10 men on the pitch and as many as eight players unavailable for selection, the possibility to turn things around did not look promising. Gonzalez on the right had already been running a lot, Hernanes did not look in best of shape, Candreva was nowhere to be found and Klose had already missed two great chances. Matuzalem and Ledesma, two of the best players on the pitch this evening, were fighting on the midfield and at the same time looking dangerously angry.
The Mister did not have much to experiment with on the pitch, but in half time he did what he could. Ledesma was moved down to the centre of the defense, a role the Argentinean managed very well in the second half, else the guys were given instructions to attack and give what they had to give in trying to shake Cesena. Kozak, just returning from injury, was brought on for Candreva and even if not many believed in Lazio turning the game around the first team of Rome showed how ten hearts can do unexpected things. When the second half started Lazio looked like a new team, the changing of positions and tasks on the pitch paid off early enough for Lazio to create that magic atmosphere between the players and the fans that leaves the opponents looking lost. Gonzalez and Lulic ran their lungs out this evening and are two heroes that deserve being praised on a day like today. The comeback started with, Klose, who worked well all evening, assisted Hernanes and the Brazilian slotted home a beautiful 2-1 goal after 53 minutes. The Bosnian then got 2-2 only seven minutes later, and the scoring of the evening ended with a Kozak goal within ten minutes of Lazio’s first goal.
The rest of the game saw Lazio falling back and the fatigue kicking in, but the ten boys on the pitch did what was hoped for from the beginning of the game and collected the three points at the end. Many might complain about the way Lazio won this game, meaning that the second to last team of the table having been up by a two goal margin in half time, but in hard times like the current a win with the lack of personnel and alternatives should be seen as a massive achievement. With one week left until the next game, a much needed break before the Europa League encounter with Atletico Madrid, the players will have an easier time and the coach a little less of pressure in preparing for the future tasks. Healing the bodies and working on putting together a better defending back four will have to be priority, the situation looks alarming at the back and with the red card on Konko added to the one picked up by Diakite against Genoa – plus injuries on Dias and Stankevicius. These worries will have to wait until tomorrow though, tonight the happiness should be allowed to be enjoyed to the fullest.