Heading into Lazio’s game against Hellas Verona on Saturday night, the omens weren’t good.
The Biancocelesti’s brutal run of seven games in 21 days had already started to show as they almost threw away the lead against 10-man Club Brugge on Tuesday, just days after squeezing to victory over Spezia in Serie A.
Before kick-off, the theme of Lazio’s tiredness came to the fore again as Mohamed Fares told the club’s in-house channel that “it’s very tiring playing every three days” before Simone Inzaghi was seen criticising his players for not warming up with enough intensity.
But that intervention wasn’t enough, as his side struggled to trouble a resolute Verona defence throughout the first half.
A lack of intensity plagued Lazio’s performance until the desperate final throws of the game, when players bombed forward in search of an equaliser and finally tested Marco Silvestri in the visiting goal.
Their home record is now a real concern, with the Biancocelesti losing half of their six league matches at the Stadio Olimpico so far this season and winning just one – their worst record for 11 years.
But it was individual errors that cost them in the end. Manuel Lazzari diverted a volley that was going wide into his own net for the opener, before Stefan Radu’s ill-judged back pass put the winner on a plate for Adrien Tameze.
Lazio have now conceded 19 goals in 11 games this season, their worst record since 1992/93.
While Inzaghi’s team are making history in Europe, as they await the draw for their first Champions League knockout tie in 20 years next week, it is coming at a cost domestically – something that must be addressed soon if they hope to return to that competition next year.
Tameze stars in new role
There was little doubt who deserved the man of the match award on Saturday. Match-winner Adrien Tameze was the standout performer on the park, and the most remarkable thing about his display was that it came in an entirely new position.
The 26-year-old is a central midfielder but was deployed by Ivan Juric as a striker for the trip to Rome, something of a surprise after a week of debate over whether Samuel Di Carmine or Andrea Favilli would start.
Judging by this performance, it won’t be the last time the midfielder is pushed on. He was a handful from the start and forced a save from Pepe Reina with a backheel flick in the first half before sending Mattia Zaccagni clean through on goal after winning a header against the towering Wesley Hoedt.
His goal came from intuition, as he pounced on Radu’s error, but he still had some work to do and showed the composure to take the ball around Reina before tucking it in.
It was an impressive display that might worry some of the natural strikers in Verona’s squad, none of whom have been particularly impressive this season: Favilli is their top-scoring striker with just two goals.
It was the latest example of Juric’s tactical intelligence as the Croatian oversees another eye-catching season from his Gialloblu side, despite losing several key players over the summer.
None of the current Verona squad were even born the last time that the club recorded a Serie A away win against Lazio, in December 1984.
But this team could make more history before the season is out. Their victory lifted them above the Aquile in the standings, and they will have no intention of surrendering their lofty spot without a fight.