Lazio 2-1 Roma: Full-backs give Roma the early advantage but Lazio nick it late on
A game that turned on a red card and penalty decision – Luis Enrique won the early battle, but Eddy Reja’s side came through for him in stoppage time.
Reja chose his usual shape, a cross between a 4-3-1-2 and a 4-2-3-1. Hernanes was the playmaker, Djibril Cisse a left-sided forward, and Alvaro Gonzalez deeper on the right.
Enrique was without Francesco Totti and David Pizarro started on the bench, so Miralem Pjanic played as the number ten in, broadly, a 4-3-1-2.
A victory for Lazio, then – they had the better of the game overall, but great credit should go to Enrique for his bravery throughout the fixture.
Roma went ahead early on, and were more imaginative with their formation, positioning and movement. The 4-3-1-2 is often an extremely static, boxey formation (especially in Italy over the past couple of years) but Enrique’s version of it was attack-minded and fluid, and pushed Roma forward early on.
The main feature was the positive running from both full-backs. Jose Angel moved very high up the pitch down the left, whilst Aleandro Rosi did similar down the right. But it was the cohesion and movement across the team that made this so confusing for Lazio. First, Daniele De Rossi dropped deep, almost into the defence (as he has throughout this season) to make something of a three-man defence, allowing the full-backs to motor forward at will.
Equally crucial was the positioning of the forwards. When Roma didn’t have the ball, Bojan Krkic and Pablo Osvaldo moved wide near to the Lazio full-backs. Then, when the possession was turned over and they moved into centre-forward positions, the full-backs started to track them, narrowing and leaving space for Angel and Rosi to overlap.
This meant Gonzalez and (to less of an extent) Christian Brocchi were forced wide, and Roma could often work the ball across the pitch in the middle – Angel, Fernando Gago, Simone Perrotta and Rosi could outnumber Gonzalez, Cristian Ledesma and Christian Brocchi.
The downside to this attack-minded display was that Roma were vulnerable on the break. De Rossi, whilst playing deep, was watching Hernanes rather than creating an extra man at the back, so when Lazio’s transitions were quick, Djibril Cisse could get 1 v 1 against Simon Kjaer. Lazio would win both centre-forward v centre-back battles in a pure sprint – Cisse is quick, Heinze is slow.
Lazio also got back into the game by being more positive – no longer able to stand off and wait for Roma to attack, they pressed high up the pitch, forced mistakes and won possession in the Roma half. De Rossi still isn’t quite a natural primary holding player and gave Hernanes too much space for long shots, whilst at the back Abdoulay Konko pushed higher up the pitch on the right, often leaving a 3 v 2 situation with Stefan Radu playing more defensively. This meant there were only three defenders being occupied by Osvaldo and Bojan’s drifts, rather than four, and obviously an extra attacking player as Lazio played well in the final stages of the first half.
Lazio turn it around
It’s worth remembering that whilst a lot of interest came from the full-backs getting free, the lack of true width high up the pitch meant that all three goals came through the centre. The first and the last goal were reasonably similar – a chip through from an attacking midfielder to a striker – and the second goal also originated from a straight ball, for Brocchi storming forward. Kjaer brought him down and was off, Hernanes scored the penalty.
11 v 10 then, and Roma had to readjust with Kjaer off. Enrique was once again brave – most would have taken off one of the front three, but he removed Perrotta (who was poor) and moved Pjanic deeper into vaguely a 4-3-2ish system.
Lack of Lazio width
Lazio had already gone more attacking at half-time with Senad Lulic on for Radu, but it’s fair to question why Reja didn’t stretch the game more laterally when he had a man advantage. If anything, Lazio seemed to get narrower and narrower as the game went on, with Hernanes the man expected to drift to the left to provide width. He had a very good game, but why leave it to him? Roma were being extremely aggressive with the use of three attacking players when they had only ten men – it would have made sense to make their midfield work harder with the use of width, forcing them from side to side.
There was the occasional cross and Lazio had some good attempts, but they never quite seemed certain of getting back into the game. Klose’s late goal means Reja will get the praise, but even with a man extra for much of the game, he struggled to overcome Roma.
Can you give more credit to the defeated manager? Enrique got the better of the early stages and readjusted admirably when reduced to ten men. Lazio may have eventually done enough to merit the victory, but with the momentum and an extra player from 50 minutes, it was surprising it took until the 94th to get the second goal.
It was Enrique’s shape that provided more interest individually – at last, a 4-3-1-2 from a big Serie A club with fluidity and movement! With the movement of the forwards an the full-backs, plus De Rossi so deep, it was more like the 4-3-1-2 of, say, Santos than of Milan or Inter in recent years. Enrique needs time, but shouldn’t be criticised following this defeat.