In the Champions League Round 4, the second-placed Lazio welcomed the Group F strugglers Zenit St. Petersburg at the Stadio Olimpico. Tonight’s match was the reverse fixture of Round 3, where both teams played out a 1-1 draw at the Gazprom Arena three weeks ago.
However, this time, Lazio were the better of the two sides, as two goals from Ciro Immobile and a fantastic long-range effort from Marco Parolo were enough to secure a convincing 3-1 win which takes Lazio four points clear of the third-placed Club Brugge.
Lazio’s head coach Simone Inzaghi opted for a preferred 3-5-2 formation, with Manuel Lazzari and Adam Marušic as wing-backs, and a two-striker partnership of Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa.
In contrast, Zenit counteracted Lazio’s 3-5-2 with an identical set-up, having the Brazilian Malcolm and Andrey Mostovoy both occupying the wing-back roles, whilst Artem Dzyuba and Aleksandr Erokhin were the two recognized strikers.
Lazio immediately started the game on the front foot, pressuring Zenit deep into their defensive third. As a result, it did not take long until Lazio’s attacking impetus was rewarded. Immobile – Lazio’s talisman striker – collected the ball on the edge of 18-yard-box from Lucas Leiva and unleashed a curling shot on the turn which sailed into the corner, leaving Mikhail Kerzhakov no chance.
In the following ten minutes, Zenit failed to respond with any significant threat going forward and were punished for the second time in the game. After losing the ball, the Russians were slow getting back in transition, as Joaquin Correa played a delightful ball into the feet of Parolo, who superbly took the ball under his control and unleashed a wonderful long-range strike from distance which made it 2-0.
Nevertheless, Lazio’s celebrations were cut short, as Zenit immediately pulled one goal back thanks to Artem Dzyuba’s strike in the 25th minute. Yaroslav Rakitskiy played the ball into the penalty area which found Dzyuba, with the Russian striker taking the ball neatly under his control and finishing into the bottom left corner with a precise low shot.
A minute later, Zenit had a glorious opportunity to make it 2-2, as the ball was played into the path of Aleksandr Erokhin who could only fire a shot high over the bar.
The match started to gain some serious momentum as both sides were pushing forward with little protection at the back. Another glorious opportunity was presented in the 28th minute when Luis Alberto found himself one-on-one with the keeper, but his low shot towards the left side of the goal was parried away by Kerzhakov.
The home side looked happy to soak up the pilling pressure from the visitors and looked extremely dangerous on the counterattack. Lazio could have easily put the game to bed even before half-time, with Parolo and Manuel Lazzari wasting two more glorious opportunities just before the break.
At first, Correa played a simple ball into the path of Parolo who only had the goalkeeper to beat, but the Italian’s shot went agonizingly close past the left post. The second chance was presented for Lazzari who’s low shot towards the middle of the goal was saved by Kerzhakov.
However, Lazio finally got the reward they deserved nine minutes into the second half. It was another devastating counterattacking move by the hosts, as Lazzari played the ball into Immobile who was taken down in the box by Wilmar Barrios. The Italian striker made no mistake from the spot, coolly smashing his second of the night past Kerzhakov. It was Immobile’s third goal in this Champions League campaign, and his seventh overall in all competitions.
In the final 20 minutes, Zenit tried their best to get back into the game, but their efforts were mostly denied by Lazio’s solid defensive wall. The hosts were happy to sit back and preserve the lead, with not much intention of going forward. Thus, Zenit enjoyed a longer spell of possession but with little end product.
The final big chance of the game came in the 85th minute when Lazio’s substitute Vedat Muriqi collected a precise pass inside the box, but his shot was hit low towards the middle of the goal, with Kerzhakov making yet another save.
Despite a comprehensive victory in the end, the scoreline could have been much bigger if Lazio had taken all of their chances. Lazio remain second in Group F, with Borussia Dortmund waiting in Round 5 of the competition, whereas Zenit will travel to Belgium to face Club Brugge as both teams will be fighting head-to-head for the Europa League spot.
November 24, 2020 – Champions League 2020-21 Group Stage
LAZIO-ZENIT ST. PETERSBURG 3-1
SCORERS: 3′ Immobile (L), 22′ Parolo (L), 25′ Dzyuba (Z), 55′ Immobile (L, pen.)
|LAZIO (3-5-2): Reina; Patric (60′ Luiz Felipe), Hoedt, Acerbi; Lazzari (68′ Fares), Parolo (60′ Akpa Akpro), Leiva (68′ Cataldi), Luis Alberto, Marusic; Immobile (81′ Muriqi), Correa (Strakosha, Furlanetto, Pereira, Anderson, Armini, Caicedo, Radu) Coach: S. Inzaghi
|ZENIT ST. PETERSBURG (3-5-2): Kerzhakov; Lovren, Rakitskiy, Zhirkov (73′ Azmoun); Malcom, Kuzyaev, Barrios (59′ Driussi), Douglas Santos (72′ Sutormin); Mostovoy (59′ Musaev), Dzyuba, Erokhin (74′ Shamkin) (Vasyutin, Lunev, Musaev, Prokhin) Coach: Semak
REFEREE: Oliver (England)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Acerbi (L), Lovren, Rakitskiy (Z); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 3′