If Lazio’s victory over Inter was a statement of intent, their win at Genoa confirmed they have everything they need to be in the Scudetto race, and not just for a few weeks.
The Grifone proved a tricky opponent, and things could have gone differently if the Biancocelesti hadn’t put in the amount of focus that the task required.
Both Lazio’s mentality and maturity were put to the test during a match that presented very different difficulties to the ones they faced (and overcame) a week earlier against the Serie A giants.
— ForzaItalianFootball (@SerieAFFC) February 23, 2020
Genoa are certainly going through a tough season and are likely to be involved in the relegation battle until the very end. However, things began to change when Davide Nicola was appointed in late December – the Italian coach has a penchant for miraculous escape, as he already proved during his spell at Crotone, and it didn’t take long before his Genoa side started to look revitalised.
In fact, the Rossoblu were in the midst of a four-game unbeaten streak before tasting defeat against Lazio, including a 2-2 away draw against Atalanta.
It was no coincidence, and Simone Inzaghi’s side could see first-hand, as Genoa were able to force them back in the second part of the first half .as well as mounting a final assault after converting a penalty. Last but not least, the Ligurian side were the first to score two goals against the Biancocelesti since November.
Along this slippery road, not only Lazio had a perfect approach to both halves, but they were also able to masterfully handle some crucial moments of the game. After taking the lead, the visitors simply did what they can do best, relying on their technical midfielders to move the ball, make their opponents run and prevent them from piling pressure on the three-man defence.
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto provide a combination of quality and physicality that no other side in Italy can boast – other than that, their wide array of skills makes them the real brain and engine of the team, as they can decide whether Lazio need to keep possession, put pressure to their rivals or hit them with quick counter-attacks, depending on a specific moment.
Lazio did sit back at times, but the main threat from Genoa came through set pieces, something which highlights the good displays by Patric and Denis Vavro, who in spite of their lack of playing time, demonstrated the whole team’s unity of purpose, notably in a match that forced the Biancocelesti to cope without their defensive keystone Francesco Acerbi for the first time this season.
Although Lazio won by a one-goal margin, the victory was never really called into question. When Genoa’s Francesco Cassata made it 2-1 just before the hour, it looked like the hosts had enough time to pull off a memorable comeback.
However, this never happened as Lazio knew exactly what to do. They scored a third and had several chances to put away a fourth but, even in a frantic final few minutes, marked by Domenico Criscito’s late penalty, the Biancocelesti players never showed any sign that the match was out of control.
This ability to handle tense moments will be precious in the coming months – should they keep the same awareness, confidence and form, it is hard to see anyone stopping Lazio.