Two goals from Ciro Immobile in a first-half blitz helped Lazio book a Coppa Italia quarter-final spot with a 4-1 win over Serie C side Novara at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday.
The Italy striker, who wore the captain’s armband in the absence of regular skipper Senad Lulic, struck twice and further goals from Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic ensured the game was over as a contest before the break.
Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi picked an attack-minded line-up featuring the three goalscorers and striker Felipe Caicedo, and his team flew out of the blocks as Alberto’s low finish opened the scoring after just 12 minutes.
Immobile then doubled their advantage eight minutes later, firing in the rebound after his initial effort from the penalty spot was saved, before adding Lazio’s third with a tap-in from Jordan Lukaku’s cross. Further punishment was inflicted when Milinkovic-Savic curled a free-kick into the top corner with the last kick of the first half.
Former Lazio youth player Umberto Eusepi pulled one back from the penalty spot for Novara early in the second half after a Luiz Felipe handball, but it proved to be nothing more than a consolation.
The result means the Biancocelesti will meet either Inter or Benevento in the quarter-finals, with the two clubs set to face off at San Siro on Sunday evening.
Lazio wheel out the heavy artillery
Reading the Lazio team sheet an hour before kick-off may well have sent a cold shiver down the spine of Novara coach William Viali. Any question about whether this game would be used as an opportunity to give minutes to fringe players or promising young talents was put to bed – this was a team looking to give themselves a confidence boost ahead of league games against Napoli and Juventus.
La Gazzetta dello Sport described Simone Inzaghi’s tinkered formation, in which he has recently deployed two attacking midfielders behind a striker to help the team rediscover their sparkle before the winter break, as a ‘fantasy Lazio’. If that was fantasy Lazio, this was demolition Lazio.
Both Milinkovic-Savic and Alberto were picked in midfield to support a front two of Immobile and Caicedo and the quartet stretched and twisted the visiting defence from the off. Inzaghi was rewarded with the confident win he was seeking ahead of more significant challenges, with three of his chosen front four getting on the scoresheet in a rampant, shackles-off performance.
It was Lazio’s attacking prowess that took them so close to a Champions League place last season but their forward threat has been dampened this term, with just 28 goals coming from their opening 19 Serie A games, 18 fewer than they had mustered by the same stage last season.
Inzaghi now appears to have found a structure that can get the best out of one of Italy’s finest attacking arsenals – we will soon find out if it is enough to shoot down Serie A’s top two teams.