Lazio wasted a golden opportunity to bridge the gap between themselves and Serie A league leaders Milan after a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Catania on Sunday. The Rossoneri were held by the same scoreline at Sampdoria the previous evening, and the Biancocelesti tifosi were hoping their team could apply some pressure on the league leaders. But it wasn’t to be, and despite a decent performance, the Aquile were frustrated by a mixture of dogged defending by their opponents, and their own wasteful finishing.
It was the home team who began the game the brighter, creating a number of early openings. The Brazilian Hernanes wasted a good early chance for Lazio, and Sergio Floccari also saw an effort saved in spectacular fashion by Mariano Andujar in the Catania goal.
The Sicilians appeared reluctant to impose themselves, allowing Lazio to dominate the early possession, and were content to sit back and counter when an opportunity arose, which was wasn’t very often during the opening stages.
The Aquile piled on the pressure and Edy Reja’s men were unlucky to have a goal chalked off midway through the first half when Giuseppe Biava was adjudged to be offside after he had turned in a Cristian Ledesma free-kick.
Stefano Mauri also nearly put Lazio in front but as the first half wore on, Catania, having weathered the storm, gradually grew in confidence and their players began to emerge from their collective shell. Sure enough, they got the goal they were looking for just two minutes shy of half-time. Fernando Muslera kept out a long-distance effort, but from Cristian Llama’s subsequent corner, Matias Silvestre rose to head home. It was certainly a wicked delivery by Llama but Biava will be disappointed at how easily Silvestre got above him to score.
It was a goal that silenced the Stadio Olimpico, and the home supporters were clearly stunned by what they had witnessed as their team had been well on top. To their relief, however, Lazio drew level almost immediately. Hernanes, who it is fair to say has had an indifferent few weeks, blasted the equaliser with a ferocious shot that Andujar got fingertips to but couldn’t keep out.
The hosts must have headed for the changing rooms wondering how they were not way ahead of Catania after practically dominating the opening stages. Despite the disappointment of conceding barely a minute after taking a shock lead, the Sicilians would probably have admitted themselves that they were lucky to still be in the game.
Lazio began the second half in similar fashion to that of the first, with crisp passing and movement as Mauro Zarate pulled the strings. He produced one moment of magic, bobbing and weaving past several opposition players before seeing his shot saved by Andujar. The mercurial Argentine seemed certain to be the man to put his team back in front but he sent two further efforts narrowly and agonisingly wide of the Catania goal.
In the end, Aquile just could not break their opponents down, and though credit must go to the Sicilians for their stubborn resistance, the hosts paid the price for their lack of ruthlessness in the final third, something Zarate touched on when speaking after the game.
“We create many chances but are accomplishing little in front of goal. The side must continue as we have been in recent weeks as we have definitely found the right attitude,” the striker commented.
The tricky Argentine’s performance was a positive for Lazio as he had been a little off-colour in recent weeks. But he looked up for Sunday’s game and came close on numerous occasions, showing his willingness to weave the magic we all know he is certainly capable of.
Ultimately it was two points very much lost and the Aquile face a tough couple of weeks ahead. Next up for Edy Reja’s men is a cautiously rejuvenated Inter – 5-2 winners over Parma – at the Stadio Olimpico, followed by a trip to Turin to face Juventus. It’s a fortnight of football which will test the Lazio players and their character to the limit – a nerve-wracking but fascinating prospect.