Match of the Week: Lazio-Milan 4-1

A thundering performance by Azzurri’s forward Ciro Immobile – who scored three goals and served one assist – lead Lazio to an astounding 4-1 victory against Milan today at Stadio Olimpico in Rome. Conversely, the Rossoneri miserably failed their first real test of the season.

Immobile’s exploit, which produced four goals in the space of 10 minutes between the two halves of the game, exploded with the sudden violence of a cloudburst, just like the one that only a few hours earlier had hit the Italian Capital and put the match at risk of being cancelled.

Easy enough to say that probably for coach Vincenzo Montella’s side it would had been better if the game was indeed postponed. To continue with the weather metaphor, clouds will now start to gather over Milan’s new course, as the team totally vanished in front of their first tough contender of the year. On the other hand, the sun is shining for the Eagles – as 7 points in 3 games rightly put president Claudio Lotito’s boys among the potential candidates for a Champions League spot for next season.

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Lazio’s trainer Simone Inzaghi didn’t make any change versus his winning line up from two weeks ago against Chievo, and the choice proved to be the right one. Montella lined up a four-man defense, made former Lazio midfielder Luca Biglia make his seasonal debut, and decided to count once again on young starlet Patrick Cutrone as center forward – much to the disappointment of dearly paid new joiners Andre Silva and Nikola Kalinic.

The spotlight was obviously on the Argentinian Biglia, who was still training under Inzaghi no more than two months ago, and whose former supporters didn’t lose a single chance to hoot at. Biglia didn’t make any difference in a midfield where the best man today ironically ended up being Riccardo Montolivo – exactly the one that Biglia was supposed to replace in the Rossoneri lineup. Milan’s former captain realized a gol della bandiera for his side after Hurricane Immobile had hit three times already, and delivered an assist for Luis Alberto’s fourth goal.

The Nazionale striker’s scoring fest began 38 minutes into the game with the conversion of a penalty kick that Luiz Alberto had gained. Immobile doubled up just four minutes later with a beautiful volley to make the best out of a cross from the right-side by Nenad Lulic. His timing and execution were perfect, but Milan’s center back and new captain Leonardo Bonucci guiltily left him free to shoot – highlighting once more the difficulties he experiences when playing in a four-men defense.

Half time came as a much-needed relief for a shocked Milan squad, yet the second half followed exactly the same trend. Another cross by Lulic, this time from the left side, was received in Milan’s area by Marco Parolo. The Azzurri’s midfielder moved past Rossoneri’s center backs and delivered a ball that Immobile only needed to push past a helpless Gianluigi Donnarumma, to complete his first hat trick in his Lazio career.

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Immobile completed his perfect day two minutes later, when he dashed past Milan’s confused defenders and offered Spaniard Luis Alberto the chance to score his first goal with the Biancocelesti jersey.

At that point, Montella desperately tried to save his face by sending in Hakan Calhanoglu and Nikola Kalinic, to replace insufficient Patrick Cutrone and Fabio Borini. The move did produce some results, as a free kick from the Turkish winger immediately propitiated Montolivo’s goal.

But that was the only thrill in Rossoneri’s afternoon. On the contrary, it was Lazio to come close to score once again multiple times, including with a long range shot from midfield by Immobile, that sparked Bonucci’s anger at his opponent’s supposed lack of respect.

Lazio triumphantly left Stadio Olimpico with a victory that puts them ahead of Milan in the standings, and two points behind leading Inter, Juventus and Napoli. For Montella’s squad, it was a wake-up call that needed to happen sooner or later after an enthusiastic Summer. The new Milan is still a work in progress, and today’s lineup featured seven new players versus last season. However, the way Rossoneri melted down when facing the first difficulties does raise a few concerns.

Both teams will make an away Europa League debut next Thursday. Lazio will play in Arhnem against Dutch side Vitesse, whereas the Devils will pay visit to Austria Wien in Vienna. Time for a confirmation, and for a quick redeem.

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