Atalanta: Frezzolini, Bellini, Stendardo, Manfredini, Peluso, Schelloto (80’ Carrozza), Cigarini, Carmona (51’ Minotti), Bonaventura (65’ Gabbiadini), Moralez, Denis.
Lazio: Bizzarri, Konko, Diakite, Scaloni, Garrido (21’ Zauri), Gonzalez, Cana, Lulic (89’ Onazi), Mauri, Candreva, Kozak (65’ Klose).
After a depressive run of five straight games without a win Lazio sent a last message to the fans and other teams that the fight for third spot is still not over. As Napoli was thumped by Bologna and Udinese had no problem in beating a nine man Genoa, it is now the last round that will decide the final outcome.
Yet another game saw a new composition in the back line, but the Konko-Diakite-Scaloni-Garrido, the latter replaced by Zauri halfway through the first half, managed to keep a clean sheet together with Bizzarri in goal. Also the defensive midfield couple in the 4-2-3-1 was new, Cana and Gonzalez displayed a solid game and the attacking players, with Lulic returning, managed to give Lazio the lead in the first half through a Kozak shot.
Else, it was Atalanta that started the game better off than Lazio. After 17 minutes Atalanta should have been rewarded a penalty when Denis went down against Diakite, but the referee waved the game on. Despite the advantage in possession Atalanta could not get themselves in clear scoring opportunities, and towards the end of the half Lazio grew into the game. Gonzalez hit the crossbar after 25 minutes, and ten minutes later Kozak’s shot was deflected into the goal. Lazio walked off with a 1-0 lead and a solid performance carried out by the players.
In the second half, and as numerous times before this season, Lazio aimed at defending the lead rather than attacking for a second goal. The tension around Bizzarri grew and on a couple of occasions Atalanta looked like having built the attack that would finally break the Lazio defense. Both Moralez and Denis threatened, but neither was successful this day.
With 25 minutes left of the game a sought after return of the German Bomber became a reality, and with Lulic having started today’s game, two of the most influential players of the earlier stages of the season were again on the pitch. Somehow Lazio felt more comfortable, and less anxious, than in the last five games and despite many of the players not having been played regularly in recent times the defensive wall did not crack down at the second half pressure.
Around ten minutes from time Lazio loanee Stendardo picked up a red card, reducing Atalanta to ten men. Lazio allowed the home team to own the ball after this as well, but managed to keep possession for longer periods as the minutes passed. In the 90th minute the game was sealed, as Cana advanced from outside the Atalanta penalty area and fired a well directed and hard shot in the left hand corner of Frezzolini.
Apart from the win, the return of Klose and Lulic, the clean sheet and the two goals, also another inclusion can make Laziali smile today. In the 89th minute Lulic was substituted with Primavera player Onazi, and the Nigerian showed some nice moves in the few minutes on the pitch.
In the last round of the season, when Inter visit Olimpico, Udinese travel to Catania and Napoli finish at home to Siena, all three clubs have the theoretical chance of finishing third. Udinese will grab the final Champions League spot with a win or a draw, no matter what the other two teams do, while a Catania win would let Lazio advance if they would win against Inter, while Napoli would make it if Lazio failed to win, while Udinese lost. Tonight the Milano derby could put Inter level with Napoli, opening up for a possible inclusion of the Nerazzuri in the run for third.
In other words, Serie A is as alive as it possible could be. And Lazio is still in the race for a third spot finish.