Andrea Pirlo was right. His decision to give Cristiano Ronaldo some time to rest ahead of next Tuesday’s Champions League game with Porto might have appeared chancy, but Juventus still managed to best Lazio 3-1 on Saturday night despite not counting on their talismanic striker.
In CR7’s absence, it was Alvaro Morata to steal the stage with a killer brace that wrapped Juve’s second win in a row after Adrien Rabiot had equalized Joaquin Correa’s delusive lead for the Biancocelesti.
The young Juve coach couldn’t be happier than that as his side overcame a tricky opponent despite a maimed defensive line and a few questionable decisions from referee Davide Massa, who disallowed two clear penalties for the Bianconeri before finally giving one. That’s a feat that will surely deprive Juventus’ haters of some material for their most classical cliché: “Referees favor Juve.”
With Leonardo Bonucci, Matthijs De Ligt, and Giorgio Chiellini all unavailable, Pirlo chose Danilo and Merih Demiral as center backs, flanked by Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro on the two sides. Federico Bernardeschi won a starting spot as left-wing back following his brilliant performance against Spezia, with Federico Chiesa deployed on the other side.
With Cristiano Ronaldo sitting on the bench, Alvaro Morata took place next to Dejan Kulusevski on the front line – it was the first cap for him as a starter since quite some time.
Simone Inzaghi also had his share of problems at the back, where Stefan Radu and Luiz Felipe were missing. The coach’s solution to that was deploying midfielder Adam Marusic as a left center-back in his usual back three. Joaquin Correa and Ciro Immobile were the Biancocelesti two strikers.
Demiral had the non-easy task of replacing the likes of Bonucci and De Ligt and one could indeed feel the difference, as his defense from Joaquin Correa was rather poor and led to Lazio’s opener – tough Dejan Kulusevski is also to blame for the way he lost the ball to the Argentine.
Correa’s dribbling skills made short work of the Turkish defender and were followed by a deadly shot to which Wojciech Szczesny had no answer. Lazio were ahead just 14 minutes after kick off.
Juventus should have had a chance to draw level but referee Davide Massa incredibly failed to notice a colossal Wesley Hoedt handball in the box. The Bianconeri had all the right to demand a penalty but the referee waved play on and didn’t even check the VAR.
And so, it was up to Adrien Rabiot to bring the score at 1-1 before half time, conjuring a tight angle screamer that caught Pepe Reina by surprise on the near post.
The Bianconeri‘s approach to the second half was ultra-aggressive and the game momentum quickly turned in their favor. Reina was superb in denying Federico Chiesa on 49 minutes, pushing back his effort after the youngster had managed to sneak between two Biancocelesti defenders.
But Reina continued to struggle to cover his near post and the 36-year-old turned out to be the one to blame again in the occasion of Juventus’ second. Federico Chiesa released Alvaro Morata and the former Real Madrid man found again the right corner into Lazio’s net.
Before that, Morata had seen his claim for a penalty waved off despite being held in the box by Marusic and Sergej Milinkovic Savic had come close to making it two for Lazio – only to see his header crash into the woodwork.
On the one hour mark, Juventus inflicted a mortal wound to Lazio’s hopes. Milinkovic Savic tripped Aaron Ramsey in the box and this time Massa could not but point to the penalty spot. Morata finished the job with a fine conversion, sealing his comeback as a starter with a brace.
The remaining minutes were punctuated by a flurry of substitutions. For Juventus, Cristiano Ronaldo made his entrance to the pitch in the 70th minute, followed by Arthur and then by Weston McKennie. Simone Inzaghi, on the other hand, went all-in on 82 minutes by adding three (!) more strikers in Vedat Muriqi, Felipe Caicedo, and Andreas Pereira – leaving Correa on the pitch.
Still, all that Lazio could produce was a Mohamed Fares shot during stoppage time that hit the side netting. It was the third loss out of the last four games for the Biancocelesti, who are now six points far from the Champions League for next season.
With his side already virtually eliminated from this season’s European campaign, Simone Inzaghi will have much to think about.
March 6, 2021 – Serie A 2020-2021 Round 26
SCORERS: 4′ Correa (L), 39′ Rabiot (J); 57′ Morata (J), 60′ Morata (J, pen.)
|JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado (69′ Arthur), Demiral, Alex Sandro, Bernardeschi; Danilo, Rabiot; Kulusevski (92′ Di Pardo), Ramsey (69′ McKennie), Chiesa (82′ Bonucci); Morata (69′ Cristiano Ronaldo) (Pinsoglio, Buffon, Dragusin, Fagioli, Peeters, Aké, De Marino) Coach: Pirlo
|LAZIO (3-5-2): Reina; Marusic (81′ A. Pereira), Hoedt, Acerbi; Lulic (55′ Patric), Milinkovic-Savic, Lucas Leiva (55′ Escalante), Luis Alberto (81′ Caicedo), Fares; Correa, Immobile (81′ Muriqi) (Strakosha, G. Pereira, Parolo, Cataldi, Musacchio, Shehu, Akpa Akpro) Coach: S. Inzaghi
REFEREE: Mr. Massa from Imperia
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Acerbi (L)