It has been two weeks since Lazio suffered opening day disappointment at Sampdoria, a result which left Biancocelisti fans fearing a long, hard season ahead at the Stadio Olimpico. The performance Lazio put in that day at the Luigi Ferraris certainly left coach Edy Reja with a lot to think about. The two week international break certainly ensured the Lazio tactician had plenty of time to mull over his to approach to the game with la Rossoblu, ensuring there would be no knee jerk reactions from the former Napoli boss.
The Lazio ‘tifosi’ finally did have something to cheer about after the Bologna game, a comfortable 3-1 victory for the hosts. An injury to Stefan Floccari forced Reja’s hand, club captain Tommaso Rocchi returning to the starting line-up. In the defeat to Sampdoria Floccari was asked to occupy the Blucerchiati backline, all on his own. In all honesty, it was a move that backfired on Reja as Floccari was often left isolated in attack and struggled to get into the game. Rocchi started the game alongside brilliant Argentine Mauro Zarate, who surprisingly was replaced at half-time by Libor Kozak.
After a disappointing first period, the Lazio players were subjected to jeers at the half-time whistle. The supporters vocally displaying their displeasure at the teams ineptitude is becoming common place at the Stadio Olimpico. Perhaps Reja substituted Zarate at the interval to make a statement to both his players and the supporters. It was a gamble, but in the end, it paid off. Lazio looked more fluid and dangerous after the break, new boy Hernanes almost breaking the deadlock after a mazy run and shot, then coming even closer with a curling free kick.
Bologna played their part in an enthralling second period, the evergreen Marco Di Vaio coming close with a header. You did get the sense a Lazio goal was on the horizon and they finally broke the deadlock on 68 minutes, captain Rocchi teeing up Stefano Mauri for a tap in. A little over 5 minutes later, their roles were reversed, this time Mauri turning the provider laying on Rocchi who left Bologna goalkeeper Emiliano Viviani watching on as he dinked the ball over his head exquisitely. That should have ended the contest, but credit to la Rossoblu, they kept going and were rewarded when former Lazio midfield man Gaby Mudingayi slammed home from the edge of the box to score the first goal of his professional football career. Mudingayi’s goal ensured an interesting and nervy finish to the game for the Lazio faithful. The game appeared to be petering out until injury time when it came alive once again. Bologna almost scored, Daniele Paponi somehow contrived to miss when it was easier to score. Hernanes got his first Lazio goal converting a last gasp penalty that finally secure the points for the Biancocelisti.
The victory was a welcome result for Lazio, after the disappointment of the opening fixture in Genoa. It has been a difficult couple of weeks for everybody associated with the Rome based club. Club president Claudio Lotito appears to be under pressure from the Lazio ‘tifosi’ at the moment. First of all he strangely claimed his team are capable of qualifying for the Champions League this season. Lazio do possess certain players of quality, but doubts remain as to whether this current crop of players has the capacity to get in amongst the real challengers in Serie A this season. Quotes like that do nothing but raise supporter expectation and heap pressure on coach Edy Reja and his players. This early in the season it would have been sensible to play down expectations.
Lotito also took a pot-shot at the clubs supporters claiming they should be more grateful for his contributions. He managed to blow his own trumpet by proclaiming Lazio have won trophies quicker under his leadership than any of his predecessors. A pretty hollow boast in all honesty. Right now Lotito needs to build bridges with the passionate Lazio support, not antagonise them. He should understand that they just want to see a vibrant and competitive Lazio team. It is difficult for them, as it was only 10 years ago when they were Serie A champions and spending megabucks during Sergio Cragnotti’s reign.
In other news Tommaso Rocchi has urged mercurial Argentine Mauro Zarate to put last seasons poor form behind him and really push on and help the team enjoy a profitable campaign. Rocchi joined Lotito in talking up his teams chances proclaiming “On paper there are only four teams stronger than us, but we can have a great season”
Also despite missing out on Manchester City forward Roque Santa Cruz in the summer transfer window, Rumours continue to circulate surrounding the capital club and another move for the Paraguayan, most likely in the January transfer window. If Tommaso Rocchi performs consistently like he did in the Bologna game, then the former Bayern Munich man may not be required at the Olimpico. After a turbulent couple of weeks, the captain provided the supporters of Lazio with the perfect tonic for their troubles.