A sparkling, ruthless Lazio side forced Juventus to suffer their first seasonal league loss as they prevailed 3-1 in a Stadio Olimpico showdown on Saturday night. Goals by Luiz Felipe, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and Felipe Caicedo cemented the Biancocelesti’s third place in the table, while Maurizio Sarri’s squad missed a chance to regain the top spot in the league after Inter’s goalless draw against Roma.
It doesn’t happen very often for Juventus to have a two-game non-winning streak in Serie A, especially in the recent years where they have been literally dominating domestically. But Lazio are a special opponent for the Old Lady, having been the only club which got the better of them twice in the past three seasons.
Two years ago, the Biancocelesti had pulled a stunning 1-2 away win at the Allianz Stadium, once again forcing Madama to suffer their first seasonal defeat. Simone Inzaghi played the same trick on Saturday, well-supported by a sumptuous performance on the part of Spanish winger Luis Alberto – who dispensed top-class assists and passes like there was no tomorrow – to wrap Lazio’s first home win against Juventus in 16 years (!)
With an open winning streak now featuring seven Serie A games, it must be difficult for President Claudio Lotito’s side to hide their ambitions as they comfortably sit third in the table, just three points behind the Bianconeri and five behind capolista Inter – a situation that even prompted coach Maurizio Sarri to claim that Lazio are a true contender for the Scudetto, on top of Antonio Conte’s Nerazzurri and his own Bianconeri.
Juventus’ Tuscan coach reshuffled his cards again after last week’s disappointing draw against Sassuolo, this time deploying Paulo Dybala as a starter instead of Gonzalo Higuain. Blaise Matuidi retook his spot in the midfield line, relegating Emre Can to the bench.
After a courageous start from Lazio – with Matthijs De Ligt blocking an early shooting attempt by Ciro Immobile – the visitors took control of the operations as Dybala tested Laziali goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha with an early curl, which the Biancocelesti number one pushed away diving to his right.
La Joya tried to surprise the Albanian goalkeeper again one minute later from the right corner spot, firing the ball directly at the goal, but Strakosha pushed his attempt back with the help of his own crossbar. In the 15th minute, it took all of Federico Bernardeschi’s current ineffectiveness to fail to convert a left-side cross by Cristiano Ronaldo, missing the target from point-blank range on the far post.
Juventus kept pressuring and in the 25th minute Rodrigo Bentancur’s pass from the right was tricky enough to bounce across the opponent defensive line and find Cristiano Ronaldo’s finish from point-blank range. The Portuguese couldn’t miss that one and pulled out his second straight marking after having gone goalless for the full month of November.
The Uruguayan midfielder – the most positive note in a dreadful night for Sarri – continued to impress for most of the first half, but was eventually forced to call it quit in the 40th minute due to a ligament strain which will keep him out for at least 10 days. Maurizio Sarri is hoping to have him back for when the Bianconeri face Lazio again – on December 22 in Riyadh for the Italian Supercup game.
Strakosha kept Lazio afloat again as he deflected a header by CR7 right on the goal line, consequence of another cross from the right flank, this time by Federico Bernardeschi. Then, just before half time, the unexpected happened as Luis Alberto whipped the ball into the opponent area with a perfect cross which found Luiz Felipe’s header conversion – the Brazilian anticipating Leonardo Bonucci and Alex Sandro to wrap his second personal goal at Lazio and level for the home side.
Luis Alberto put an additional stamp on the game in the occasion that basically switched its momentum: In the 69th minute, he served Manuel Lazzari across the midfield line, forcing Juan Cuadrado to crash on him to interrupt Lazio’s number 29’s counterattack. Referee Michael Fabbri initially waved a yellow card at the Colombian, but then checked a VAR replay and ultimately decided to send him off.
The Spanish winger continued to be an authentic scourge for Maurizio Sarri’s visitors. It was him, once again, to propitiate Lazio’s second goal as he served Sergej Milinkovic-Savic with a brilliant, cutting 30-meter pass in the 74th minute. The Serbian seized the ball with his right foot and used his left one to put it past Wojciech Szczesny and bring Lazio ahead at 2-1.
When Ciro Immobile launched Joaquin Correa a few minutes later, catching Juventus’ defense once again terribly unprepared, the Polish goalkeeper could but push him down, awarding a crystal-cleat penalty to Simone Inzaghi’s side. Szczesny however hypnotized the Italian top scorer as he deflected his two efforts in a row from the spot, saving not only his penalty shot but also his subsequent attempted tap in.
Quite unfortunate for the current Serie A top scorer, which missed the chance to hit the target for an all-time-best 10th game in a row.
Sarri sent in Gonzalo Higuain, pulling out an exhausted Paulo Dybala, but this time his change produced no effect as Simone Inzaghi, on the other hand, covered himself up by adding midfielder Danilo Cataldi in place of his bomber Immobile. Lazio’s coach eventually pulled out Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, giving space to Felipe Caicedo during the five-minute stoppage time added by referee Fabbri.
A wise choice on the part of Inzaghi Junior, as the Ecuador international made it three for the home side during the last clock round. Wojciech Szczesny saved Manuel Lazzari’s shot at the end of Lazio’s umpteenth counterattack, but Caicedo was quick to fire the ball into the untended goal to make it three for Lazio and wrap an unexpected, thrilling win on the part of the Roman Aquile.
December 7, 2019 – Serie A 2019-2020 Round 15
SCORERS: 25′ Cristiano Ronaldo (J), 46′ Luiz Felipe (L), 75′ Milinkovic-Savic (L), 95′ Caicedo (L)
|LAZIO (3-5-2): Strakosha; Luiz Felipe, Acerbi, S. Radu; Lazzari, Milinkovic-Savic (91′ Caicedo), Lucas Leiva, Luis Alberto (76′ Parolo), Lulic; Correa, Immobile (Proto, Guerrieri, Vavro, Bastos, Silva, Cataldi, Jony, André Anderson) Coach: S. Inzaghi|
|JUVENTUS (4-3-1-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, De Ligt, Alex Sandro; Bentancur (41′ Emre Can), Pjanic, Matuidi; Bernardeschi (71′ Danilo); Cristiano Ronaldo, Dybala (79′ Higuain) (Buffon, Pinsoglio, Rugani, Demiral, De Sciglio, Rabiot, Muratore, Portanova, Pjaca) Coach: Sarri|
REFEREE: Mr. Fabbri from Ravenna
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Luis Alberto, Lazzari, Lucas Leiva (L), Pjanic, Dybala, Szczesny (J); Red Card: Cuadrado (J); Extra Time: 1st Half 2′, 2nd Half ‘