S.S. Lazio – Juventus: The Old Lady Steals Victory Thanks To Golden Substitutes (1-2)
In a first half where Lazio was by far the better side, Juventus was lucky to reach the half-time break with 0-0. Eventually Lazio managed to get a goal in the second half from an own goal by the underperforming Emre Can, but a failure to convert the following chances proved costly. After Massimo Allegri fixed his team’s wings, his side turned the game around in the final phase.
Tactical analysis and match report by Rowdy Nossent.
Lazio’s did not win any of their encounters against the top six teams in the Serie A this season. The most recent exhibit was the match against Napoli last week, where the Romans were outclassed both tactically and technically. With the game against Juventus on their hands, Lazio had an immediate second chance to show that they can resist against top teams. In order to keep track of the top four, three points were very welcome.
Juventus did not make a mistake in their last Serie A game, against Chievo Verona. With Napoli losing points against Milan earlier on the day, The Old Lady had the chance to enlarge the lead in the Serie A table. On the other hand, with such a gap, Juve is not in a position in where they are forced to go all out for the win. This means they can modify the risks in their tactical approach.
Simone Inzaghi continued with the formation in which Lazio played the second half against Napoli, namely a 5-1-2-2. There was a place in the team for attacker Joaquín Correa, who made a promising appearance against Napoli, coming in as a substitute. This meant that Jordan Lukaku was left out of the starting eleven and Lulic occupied his usual left wing-back position. Marco Parolo took care of the right wing-back position. With the absence of both center backs Luiz Felipe and Francesco Acerbi – due to injury and a suspension respectively – Inzaghi opted to start with Bastos and Wallace.
Allegri did not make a lot of changes. Federico Bernardeschi was left out of the team and he was replaced by Rodrigo Bentancur and Leonardo Bonucci came in the team for Giorgio Chiellini. Formation-wise this resulted in a 4-2-3-1 with a sort of open left side. In possession it was mostly Alex Sandro who would push forward in this space, but Douglas Costa did pop up into this space too in the first half.
Lazio’s 5-1-2-2 formation in possession against Juventus’ loose 4-4-2 formation in defense.
Juventus’ naivety in buildup
In the first half Juventus was unrecognizable in all aspects of their game. In possession, the away side was very sloppy, something that resulted in dangerous turnovers from Lazio. The Romans had their part in forcing Juventus in making mistakes by pressing very high during goal kick situations, but it could also be largely attributed to Juventus’ naivety.
Despite showing a structural lack of quality in keeping possession, Juventus kept trying to play out from the back and it is obvious that this helped Lazio in getting a grip on the game. This was at least recognized by one player, as Cristiano Ronaldo was constantly encouraging his goalkeeper and defense to play a long ball.
When Juventus did succeed in playing the ball through the first line of pressing, the midfielders were often unable to come up with the right continuation of play. In particular Emre Can was playing nowhere near his potential, as he grossed in losses of possession. Lazio often enforced these turnovers by making ‘pairs’ on the midfield. As it was mostly three-versus-three in central midfield, their pressing came close to a man marking system. When one of Juventus’ midfielders was brought into play, the closest midfielder would immediately step out and press the ball-carrier.
Lazio often tried to force Juventus to play over their left side during goal kick situations by cutting off the options. When this happened Parolo would step out to press Alex Sandro.
Lazio’s 5-1-2-2 formation allowed them to overload the center of the pitch, both in and out of possession. Being positioned close to each other helped them to counterpress in case of a loss of possession. When Lazio did not go for the patient buildup, they were happy to use a long ball to then win the second ball. At times this looked spectacular, but more important was that this method turned out to be effective as well. In this manner Lazio could maintain their domination.
It has to be said that Juventus did not handle this smartly: they kept passing short after winning the ball back on their own half. This was also due a lack of runners behind Lazio’s defense, as this made it almost impossible to turn defense into attack by quick forward passing during transitions.
Basically all of Juventus’ ball progression came through the fullbacks. This is at least in part a reflection of Lazio’s pressing.
By counterpressing aggressively and winning the ball on Juventus’ half, Lazio created situations of chaos in their opponent’s organization. From the ensuing chances, Luis Alberto, Marco Parolo and Immobile were close to the opening goal, but Szczęsny showed why he earned the trust of Allegri as the first choice goalkeeper. His performance was one of the few positives, as Juventus did not have a single shot in the first half, something that had not occurred for fifteen seasons before this game!
Juventus shifts attention to left flank in open second half
In order to get something out of this game, it was clear that Juventus had to step up their game in terms of quality and accuracy in possession. Allegri tried to achieve this by putting Douglas Costa on the left flank, where he played in tandem with Alex Sandro. Juventus were now focusing on overloading – and thus attacking – this left side to create some chances. This probably aimed to exploit the fact that Marco Parolo is not a genuine defender and it seemed to pay off well from a Juventus point of view, if it wasn’t for the poor quality of the crosses, especially from Douglas Costa. Basically, every promising attack from the left flank was followed up by a poor cross, which unsurprisingly upset Cristiano Ronaldo.
Despite the absence of an end product – and thereby chances – Juventus started to develop somewhat more of a grip on the game. This was directly correlated with the fact that they now managed to keep possession more than in the first half. However, there was still a fair number of turnovers from both sides, which resulted in quite an open game in the second half.
Lazio opened the score in the sixtieth minute, ironically in a period where Juventus seemed the better team. Emre Can topped off his disappointing performance by scoring an own goal off a Lazio corner. Up to this game Juventus had conceded only three set piece goals, the least of all Serie A teams. This clearly was not your typical Juventus game up until this point.
After the goal, thing only seemed to get worse, as Juventus lost all of the control they built up during the first fifteen minutes of the second half. First Immobile missed a massive goal scoring opportunity and a few moments later Luis Alberto missed the goal by a whisker. These misses eventually turned out to be very costly for Lazio.
Lazio were very direct in their passing, but they did succeed in getting their attackers involved.
Allegri’s golden substitutes
Massimo Allegri refused to be a spectator of his team’s inability to get back into the game. After the 1-0, he immediately subbed off Blaise Matuidi for Federico Bernardeschi, who from that moment played on the left wing. In the seventieth minute Douglas Costa – who also did not reach his usual level – left the pitch, to be replaced by João Cancelo, who was now going to play on the right wing.
Allegri has proven to have a good hand in substituting in the past and he was going reinforce that reputation. Four minutes after coming on, Bernardeschi left his opponent behind with a clever move and his cross found the incoming Paulo Dybala. The goalkeeper saved, but in the rebound it was João Cancelo who finished very calmly to level the score.
From this point on, it was only Juventus that could make a claim for the victory. Lazio were pushed back and Juventus managed to bring the right players into play, with Paulo Dybala particularly involved in possession in combination with Bernardeschi. Eventually it all worked out for Juventus.
Bernardeschi popped up again in enemy territory on the left flank and when he tried to reach João Cancelo, the latter was pulled back from behind by Lulic. The referee could do nothing else than give Juventus a penalty, which was converted by Cristiano Ronaldo: 1-2 in the 88th minute.
Cancelo even had the chance to make it three for his team, but he failed. Lazio’s final chance to take something from this game came in the final second of the game. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic had a free kick to take on the 18-yard line, which he put over the goal.
Lazio learned from their pressing mistakes against Napoli, where they kept their wing-backs close to the opposition wingers. Against Juventus they had the courage to have their wing-backs step out much higher. As a result, Lazio won a high number of turnovers, although they failed to score from those. One of the few things Lazio had to do better was to convert the chances they had. This lack of conversion proved costly in the end, as Juventus gained trust from their equalizer and overpowered them in the end.
Massimo Allegri had a massive impact on this game with his proactive substitute policy. This is not the first time the manager turns a game around by bringing in the types of players that best suit the circumstances of the game. However, it has to be mentioned that Juventus’ manner of play in the first half was extremely ineffective and that they were very lucky to come away with a 0-0 scoreline at half-time.
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