Lazio 3-1 Inter: Zarate high up on the left gives Lazio more attacking thrust

December 4, 2010

The starting line-ups. Motta replaced Stankovic midway through the first half

Mauro Zarate was the star man as Lazio moved joint top of Serie A.

Eddy Reja kept a 4-2-3-1 system, making one change – bringing in Matuzalem for Cristian Ledesma in the centre of midfield.

Rafael Benitez continues to have serious injury problems. Felice Natalino started at right-back, with Ivan Cordoba moving into the centre. Sulley Muntari started on the left.

Although Inter’s system has been widely reported as a 4-3-2-1, in truth it was not particularly different from a 4-2-3-1. Wesley Sneijder and Jonathan Biabiany were the two players supporting Goran Pandev most closely, and in that respect it looked much like a trident attack. Biabiany, however, was defending the right flank whenever Inter lost the ball as Benitez’s side formed two banks of four. The ‘confusion’ was because Muntari was tucked in and deeper on the left, making Inter’s shape lopsided.

Lopsided Lazio

It was a similar situation for Lazio. Their two ‘wingers’ were fielded in completely different roles, similar to the system Brazil used under Dunga. Zarate was high up as a wide forward against Natalino, whilst Stefano Mauri was a lot deeper on the right.

Essentially, it meant the two teams were both more attacking down the same side of the pitch, because Zarate and Biabiany were much more attack-minded than Zauri and Muntari, who cancelled each other out down Lazio’s right. Accordingly, the majority of the action happened down Zarate’s side of the pitch, and he was more of an influence than Biabiany.

Zarate key

Lazio coped much better with the threat of the opposition wide forward. Biabiany was dealt with well by Stefan Radu, and support came from Matuzalem, who helped double up and sometimes tracked Biabiany into central positions. He didn’t have too many other defensive duties, because Inter’s playmaker Sneijder played, as usual, towards the left of the pitch, and therefore was marshalled by Zauri. As a whole, Lazio defended narrow.

Inter were having big problems with Zarate. Part of this was the inexperience of Natalino, the 18-year-old who wasn’t considered anywhere near Inter’s first-team at the start of the season, but Inter also struggled to double up on Zarate – the threat of Hernanes was concerning both of Inter’s central midfielders and therefore neither got out the flanks quickly enough, especially with Lazio’s direct passing to the flanks.

Goals from left

It was Zarate who won the corner that lead to Lazio’s opener – showing great skill to get past his man before his shot was blocked. The corner was eventually converted, slightly fortunately, by Giuseppe Biava.

At the start of the second half, Zarate got the second. Hernanes’ direct diagonal ball over the defence found the Argentine forward in behind the defence, and he calmly lofted the ball past Luca Castellazzi.

Second half

The situation was so bleak that Rafael Benitez chose to switch his full-backs, with Javier Zanetti coming over the right. The move came too late, however, at 2-0 – and Reja simply responded by switching his two wide players, meaning Zarate was again running at Natalino, although he looked less comfortable on the right.

Lazio defended well, with a compact side from front to back that made them difficult to play through. Inter had little cohesion and their front two of Sneidjer and Pandev were both on poor runs in terms of goalscoring – they had two Serie A goals in open play between them in 2010 coming into the game. Still, they combined well for Inter’s goal, with Pandev finishing nicely, but Lazio were the better side and sealed the win with a deflected Hernanes free-kick.

Conclusion

The battle in one area of the pitch won this match. Natalino had problems all game with Zarate – Inter didn’t help the youngster out enough, Zanetti was moved into that position too late, and there must be questions asked about why Davide Santon was only on the bench until the final ten minutes.

Lazio played excellently, however. They were organised in defence and, unlike Inter, had a clear plan when they got the ball – to hit direct balls out to the left, where all three goals originated from. Hernanes pulled the strings in midfield and Zarate’s diagonal runs were a constant danger.

Lazio 3-1 Inter: Zarate high up on the left gives Lazio more attacking thrust

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