No surprises on Thursday evening: as per pre-match expectations, favorites Lazio earned their ticket for the Coppa Italia semi-finals, beating Torino at the end of a multi-faceted 90 minutes. Indeed, the Biancocelesti were once again the stars of “a tale of two halves”, a cliché-phrase in the world of sports news, but one which describes very accurately what transpired at the Stadio Olimpico of Rome yesterday.
Simply put, Delio Rossi’s team used the two sets of 45 minutes to make a perfect recital of their current season: weaknesses on one side (difficulties in playmaking and lack of concentration at the back), strengths on the other (lethal short-passing & counterattacking abilities). And unfortunately for relegation-battlers Torino (who until half-time had virtually played the perfect game), one of those sets proved to be fatal.
Despite what the first half scoreline may tell you, Lazio immediately made a strong start to the match. The Biancocelesti were more motivated, and Delio Rossi’s decision to field a three-striker formation only reinforced that impression. The Granata defense however, tactically well in-place, were very determined at nipping the home team’s initiatives right in the bud: Lazio controlled ball possession but couldn’t get close enough to give Calderoni any worries.
Speaking of Calderoni in fact, the only exciting highlight for the Biancocelesti was a clumsy control by the Toro keeper, nearly allowing Foggia (Lazio’s most active player thus far) to put his team in the lead. Midway through the half, Torino began to appear on the other end of the pitch: Corini and Rosina showed glimpses of what made them such exciting prospects not so long ago, and they were shortly joined by Rolando Bianchi. The great Reggina scorer from the 2006–07 season had his header saved by Muslera, but the Uruguyan keeper could do very little a few minutes later, when another good Rosina cross found the winning header of Cesare Natali. 1-0 Torino, against the run of play.
In the second period, Rossi quickly made some substitutions: out Foggia, enter Goran Pandev. And the Macedonian striker didn’t take very long to make an impact. Just 4 minutes into the half, Lazio had the equaliser: Mauri made the play & the pass (and what a lovely pass that was), Pandev provided the finish. 1-1.
Stefano Mauri wasn’t content on being only a provider however. A short while later, the Biancocelesti midfielder armed a powerful left-footed effort from outside the box, finally putting his team in the lead. 2-1 Lazio, and definitely not the same team that had played the first half.
As time passed, the Pandev-Rocchi-Zarate trio continued to pick up speed, showcasing agility and easiness to find their way into the area. Meanwhile Mauri continued to fulfill his playmaking duties, coming close to scoring the killer goal and seeing his efforts denied only by the woodwork (a fate also shared by his teammate Ousmane Dabo).
There was virtually only one team on the field at this point, and Walter Novellino’s substitutions (Barone & Amoruso on for Corini & Vailatti) did little to change that fact. Actually, the Biancocelesti put the icing on their cake in the first minute of stoppage time, making it 3-1 through Tommaso Rocchi.
Lazio’s next Coppa Italia stop will be in March, facing off against either Napoli or Juventus.
|GOALSCORERS: 29’ Natali (T), 49’ Pandev (L), 55’ Mauri (L), 91’ Rocchi (L).
| LAZIO (4-3-3): Muslera – De Silvestri (73’ Lichtsteiner ), Siviglia, Cribari, Kolarov – Brocchi (84’ Dabo ), Ledesma, Mauri – Foggia (46’ Pandev), Zarate, Rocchi. (bench: Carrizo, Diakité, Firmani, S.Inzaghi). Coach: D.Rossi.
| TORINO (4-4-2): Calderoni – Colombo, Natali, Dellafiore, Ogbonna – Abate, Corini (61’ Barone ), Dzemaili, Diana (36′ Vailatti, 65’ Amoruso) – Rosina, Bianchi. (bench: Fontana, Di Loreto, Saumel, Stellone). Coach: Novellino.