Club Focus – Lazio – L’Aquila brings Lazio luck

An eagle was soaring around the Stadio Olimpico before kick off on Wednesday night. L’Aquila, the symbol of Lazio, was aiming to bring good fortune to the Biancocelesti in their encounter with Milan. The eagle certainly played his part in this fixture, as Lazio snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat against the Rossoneri.
The Romans survived an early Milan onslaught as Massimiliano Allegri’s men piled on the pressure. Zlatan Ibrahimović and Andrea Pirlo both came close in a Milan dominated opening 30 minutes. Had it not been for Fernando Muslera in the Lazio goal, the Rossoneri would have been out of sight by half-time. Under pressure Swede Ibrahimović twice stung the palms of the Uruguayan in an entertaining first period. Andrea Pirlo also saw a free kick saved by the inspired Muslera. The hosts did have their moments before the break – a Hernanes free-kick forcing a good save from Christian Abbiati in the Milan goal, with Stefano Mauri also being denied in what was a goalkeeper’s first-half.

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Milan finally broke through just after the hour, the big Swede rounding the in-form Muslera and tapping into an empty net. His goal silenced a lively home crowd and the weight being lifted off of Ibrahimović’s shoulders should inspire better displays from the big man, who possesses undoubted brilliance. Sergio Floccari surprisingly started for the Biancocelesti, pushing in-form club captain Tommaso Rocchi to the substitute’s bench. Joining Rocchi on the bench was troubled Argentine Mauro Zárate. It has been a difficult few weeks for Zárate as rumours circulated about his seemingly faltering relationship with Coach Edy Reja. In the end, Reja had to turn to both Rocchi and Zárate as Lazio searched for an equaliser, as Mauri and the disappointing Pasquale Foggia departed for the two forwards. Before the changes, Floccari had looked a little isolated in attack. The introduction of Rocchi and Zárate ensured he would get more support.
The changes worked as Lazio finally forced through an equaliser – a brilliant run and cross from Hernanes leaving Floccari with the simplest of finishes. Both Lazio and Milan almost stole all three points as Gianluca Zambrotta rattled the woodwork with a fierce drive for the Rossoneri, and Hernanes forced a smart save from Abbiati as la Biancocelesti looked for a winner of their own. In the end, a draw was a fair reflection on the game as a whole. Both teams had periods where they seemed to be in control of proceedings. Had Milan perhaps been more clinical in the opening half an hour then they would have gone back to the country’s second city with maximum points, but an inspired Fernando Muslera in the Lazio goal ensured that did not happen.
Credit must also go to the hosts for sticking to the task. Going a goal down to a Milan side boasting the likes of Ronaldinho and Ibrahimović could easily have resulted in a capitulation, but it did not. Credit must go to the players and Coach for the character they showed. It was this character that Reja talked about after the game, praising his team proclaiming that they certainly did not deserve to lose against Milan. It means Lazio head into this weekend’s encounter against fellow high flyers Chievo full of confidence. The Flying Donkeys have made an impressive start to the season, highlighted by Wednesday’s 1-3 victory at Napoli. It will certainly be a difficult game at the Bentegodi as Stefano Pioli’s team are playing well at the moment and should pose a real threat to the Biancocelesti.
Edy Reja will again have to think about his striking options going in to this game. Sergio Floccari, whilst looking isolated at times during the Milan game, grabbed himself the valuable equaliser. The team, it must be said, looked more capable when both Tommaso Rocchi and Mauro Zárate joined Floccari in attack. Hernanes will be seeking to build on the bright start to life he has made in the capital. He has looked sensational at times and will be a valuable asset to Lazio, both at the weekend and throughout the season. The Brazilian, signed from São Paolo in the summer, has settled in extremely well and looks capable of linking with la Biancocelesti’s attackers, which is a real positive.
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