SS Lazio tightened their grip on fourth place in Serie A and all but secured Europa League-football for next season by beating their city rivals AS Roma 3-1 win in a pulsating derby in Rome.
Simone Inzaghi’s got the job as a result of Marcelo Bielsa leaving the club only two days after joining last summer and has subsequently steadied the chaotic club from July to now be one of the most stable squads in Italy. Inzaghi impressed as caretaker last year but he has been sensational this term and will surely lead Lazio to fourth place as well as having taken them into the Coppa Italia final against Juventus. Roma had slight Scudetto hopes before kick-off as a win would have reduced the gap to Juventus to six points following Juve’s draw with Atalanta.
Roma set up with a 4-2-3-1 shape where the back four ahead of Wojciech Szczęsny was Rudiger, Manolas, Fazio and Emerson. The double pivot was Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman with Radja Nainggolan as the number 10 flanked by Mohamed Salah and Stephan El Shaarawy. Up front was the Bosnian sharpshooter Edin Dzeko.
Inzaghi has lost Ciro Immobile before the game and also placed top creator Felipe Anderson on the bench as he set Lazio up in a 3-5-1-1 with Strakosha in goal, Bastos, De Vrij and Wallace as the back three with Dusan Basta and Jordan Lukaku as wing backs. The midfield three was Lucas Biglia, Marco Parolo and Senad Lulic with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as the number 10 and Keita Baldé up front.
From the off, Lazio’s game plan was evident. They packed the midfield as the wing backs dropped deep to form a five-man defensive line with to create a 5-3-1-1 when defending. The four midfielders outnumbered the three Roma midfielders and the positioning of Baldé as the focal point up front meant Lazio would look to counterattack as soon as possession was won. Normally, they targeted the space behind the slower Fazio as Manolas can hold his own pace-wise against Baldé.
Here we see how compact Lazio are when defending. Roma are steered wide and not given any space in central areas where they usually dominate. The pace of Baldé mean they are a constant threat on the counterattack and the tireless running and workrate of players like Dusan Basta, Parolo, Lulic and Milinkovic-Savic means the young striker is never alone in those attacking transitions.
Above we can again see the collective movement from Lazio to force Roma wide where they then can double up with the wing back and the ball-near central midfielder (or occasionally even the ball-near centre-back and the number 10). In a league where man-marking has been a recurring theme this season Inzaghi’s use of a zonal defensive system suffocated Roma and the minimal distances between Lazio’s lines was the key to their strong defensive play.
As mentioned earlier, when Lazio did win the ball they instantly looked to counterattack. Never was this more evident than when Baldé clinched the win with six minutes to go. We see the goal below as a compact Lazio shift over and win the ball. Here, Lulic has moved to left wing back with Milinkovic-Savic dropping to midfield and Felipe Anderson coming in at number 10. Lulic wins the ball, plays a safe first pass and then looks to get in behind. Anderson’s pass to release him is perfect and Lulic cool when awaiting the perfect moment to set up Baldé is remarkable. Great goal.
In the end, Lazio recorded a remarkable 3-1 win against their rivals in a superb derby. Simone Inzaghi’s decision to field a new shape was rewarded with the win and showed his tactical intelligence after previously fielding formations such as 3-5-2, 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1. Whatever the formation, Inzaghi has masterminded wins and a consistent run of form to lead Lazio into European football. On Sunday they earned their biggest league win of the season, and the sky blue half of the city now hopes for another success in the Coppa Italia final against Juve later this month. With Inzaghi in charge, the future looks extremely bright.
Inter’s crisis deepened as they were beaten at San Siro against Napoli. Maurizio Sarri’s men came to Milano and recorded a strong 1-0 win and closed the gap to Roma in second to only one point. Inter, meanwhile, has seen the wheels come off of a promising season and will likely miss out on European football for next term.
Their city rivals didn’t fare much better in their away game at Crotone but managed to grind out a point against an aggressive home side. Marcello Trotta had given Crotone the lead before Gabriel Paletta equalised in the second half. Milan are five points behind Atalanta in fifth, with the two of them going head to head in two weeks. Crotone needed the win as Empoli lost, but they’re still fighting at least.
Empoli lost at home to Sassuolo to bring their productive form to an end. That form had seen them virtually secure their status in the top flight, but il neroverdi proved too strong as goals from Federico Peluso, Alessandro Matri and Alfred Duncan gave Sassuolo a 3-1 win.
Atalanta and Juventus played out a pulsating contest at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia which finished 2-2. Andrea Conti gave Gian Piero Gasperini’s men the lead just before the break but an Leonardo Spinazzola own goal and a late Dani Alves strike turned the game on its head. With only a minute remaining though, Remo Freuler bundled his way through the box and equalised for Atalanta. 2-2 and their first point against Juventus in eight years.
Palermo finally woke up and recorded a 2-0 win over the terribly inconsistent Fiorentina. Unfortunately they’re already dead and buried.
Ivan Juric return at Genoa hasn’t brought the results the club would have wanted. Despite Goran Pandev’s opener against Chievo, Rolando Marán’s men fought back to win 2-1 at the Marassi. Genoa still aren’t totally safe given Crotone’s and Empoli’s recent form.
Torino and Sampdoria went head to head in Turin where Patrick Schick’s beautiful opener seemed likely to give Marco Giampaolo another impressive win. Juan Iturbe wanted something differently though and powered in the equaliser with just under fifteen minutes remaining. 1-1 at the Olimpico.
Roberto Donadoni’s Bologna comfortably destroyed Udinese 4-0 on Sunday. Mattia Destro opened the scoring and Udine could never find a response. Strong win for Donadoni’s men.
Finally, Cagliari emerged victorious from their clash with Zdenek Zeman’s Pescara. The game was decided from the penalty spot as Joao Pedro scored the only goal of the game after previously missing his latest two penalties.
Player of the week
If you score two in the Derby della Capitale you really ought to be player of the week. Congratulations to Baldé Keita.
Coach of the week
Simone Inzaghi once again highlighted his tactical nous and strategical mind in fielding Lazio in a 3-5-1-1 to limit Roma’s central influence and then use Baldé Keita on the counterattack. These were the keys to the soon-to-be famous 3-1 win.
Goal of the week
Patrik Schick with another beauty. Look at this technique.