Champions League Day 6 – The Bernabéu Verdict is Harsh: Lazio Forced to Wave Europe Bye Bye

UEFA Champions League logoLike KwSport adequately put it, this match could be titled “M like ‘Madrid’, but not like ‘Miracle’“. Up to the first 30-40 minutes of play, any Lazio/Serie A fan watching the match unfold at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium, must have been sinking really low in his/her sofa. The Biancocelesti were not only down by 3 goals, they were being schooled by an absolutely ruthless Merengues team who took everything away from their opponents, and gave back nothing in return. Then the late goal by Goran Pandev in the 2nd restored some dignity in the Italian team, especially because Lazio came repeatedly very close to a second tally (and even missed a goal from the spot). Out of the Champions League? Yes. Out of the UEFA Cup? Yes. With a little dignity left? Somewhat.

Champions League day 6 - Real Madrid 3-1 Lazio

Lazio started this match with a clear objective in mind: victory at all costs. Unfortunately for them, those costs proved to be… well… very costly. Playing offensive soccer vs. a Real Madrid team which, like many times this year, made their defensive set-up a veritable weak spot … well that’s a good idea. However, you also have to be careful that your chosen playing mentality will not turn against you (especially in Lazio’s case, because the Biancoceleste defense isn’t exactly the team’s forte either).

Who was going to dominate this game became rapidly clear in this match. In fact, it only took 13 minutes before the Blancos came marching in high in numbers on the left flank, which allowed Brazilian striker Julio Baptista to get to the edge of the box and place a very carefully aimed shot low onto the far corner of Marco Ballotta’s goal. The 1-0 Real Madrid score turned into 2-0 two minutes later, when a Robinho set piece delivery turned into a perfect assist for Raúl (completely forgotten by Ledesma who ought to have been marking him), and the Madrid captain had little trouble in beating Ballotta for the second time.

To find Real Madrid’s goal nº3 we had to wait a little longer this time, but it didn’t really matter because up to that point, there was only team on the field really. Executing a perfect wing switch, from left to right, the ball was sent deep to Ruud Van Nistelrooy, who instead of shooting directly unselfishly waited for Robinho & the easy 3-0 tap-in. This was becoming a decidedly very expensive meal for Lazio.

After the break, Delio Rossi tried to instill some energy into his now demoralized troops, but with little effect. Everything about this game (ball possession, passing, technical displays) was still 99% Real’s. Sergio Ramos was being absolutely devastating with his forward lateral runs, showing not only speed but also technique (try to see the lovely heel touch to save the ball from a throw-in, at some point in the half), while Guti and Julio Baptista were being allowed to walk absolutely everywhere in midfield, with little more than a few timid Biancocelesti players to stop them.

Eventually, after Ballotta saved goal nº4 on Robben (great dive in the 54th) and Tommaso Rocchi came close to a bicycle kick tally (saved by Casillas), Lazio finally got on the scoresheet through Goran Pandev: following a great through ball by Massimo Mutarelli to Rocchi, the Biancoceleste captain was clear into space and tried to chip Iker Casillas with a lofted shot. It seemed the ball was destined to go wide, but a tackling effort of Pandev deflected it into goal. Not without causing some bodily injury to the Macedonian striker though, as his slide’s momentum made him collide with the post. 3-1.

The remaining 10 minutes were (contrary to the first 80) all Lazio’s. The Biancocelesti came very close to goal nº2 with Rocchi not once (shot blocked by Cannavaro) but twice (penalty kick saved by Casillas). On that last occasion, the ref had pointed to spot after a handball by Pepe inside the box, but the Lazio captain couldn’t transform the min. 92 spot-kick. A shame for the Biancocelesti, who with this defeat will be exiting not only the Champions League but also the UEFA Cup. The small consolation is that in those final 10 minutes, Rossi’s team showed what they were really capable of. “Consistency, thy name isn’t Lazio” unfortunately.


S.S. Lazio
[Match Highlights]
Real Madrid C.F.
GOALSCORERS: 13’ J.Baptista (R), 15’ Raúl (R), 36’ Robinho (R), 81’ Pandev (L)
REAL MADRID (4-3-3): Casillas – Sergio Ramos, Pepe, F.Cannavaro, Marcelo – Sneijder (46’ Guti), Diarra, J.Baptista – Raúl, Van Nistelrooy (73’ Higuaín), Robinho (46’ Robben). (bench: Dudek, M.Torres, Gago, Saviola). Coach: Schuster.
LAZIO (4-3-1-2): Ballotta – Scaloni, Siviglia, Cribari, De Silvestri – Mudingayi, Ledesma (46’ Baronio), Mutarelli – Meghni (62’ Manfredini) – Pandev (83’ Makinwa), Rocchi. (bench: Muslera, Stendardo, Kolarov, Mauri). Coach: D.Rossi


Posted in Lazio, UEFA Champions League |

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