It’s amazing what a win can do. The narrative surrounding Lazio took a swift U-turn after a tremendous 2-0 victory over Napoli contradicted all the supposed truths about Simone Inzaghi’s side this season.
A team incapable of keeping clean sheets, that had mustered just two all season ahead of Sunday’s clash at the Stadio Olimpico, managed to keep out the team with the fourth-highest goal tally in Serie A.
A team incapable of hitting top form when relying on squad depth managed to achieve this victory without key men like Lucas Leiva, Francesco Acerbi and Joaquin Correa – the latter two pulling out on the day of the match.
A playmaker incapable of rediscovering his magical form of previous seasons scored the decisive goal, as Luis Alberto netted Lazio’s second with a sweeping finish into the corner.
It was exactly the tonic Simone Inzaghi and his side needed.
After a challenging start to the season, they are now one good result away from going into the winter break with their season objectives on track.
There has been no excuse for some of the Biancocelesti’s recent results, particularly the home defeats to Udinese and Verona and a draw at Benevento.
But the impressive win over the Partenopei, coming courtesy of a majestic Ciro Immobile header and Alberto’s finish, has left them just three point outside the top four.
Sealing a place in the Champions League last 16 was a momentous achievement for the Roman club on their first appearance in the competition for 13 years.
Doing so amid a Covid-19 outbreak that made several key players unavailable, as well as a string of injuries, made their progress all the more commendable.
But their league form suffered as a result, of that there is little doubt. Tired minds and legs will be relieved of a little time off when the winter break begins before Christmas.
Before then, they aim to become the first team to beat AC Milan all season. It is a momentous task, but one that Inzaghi’s side could relish on this evidence.
With Immobile looking unstoppable, scoring seven goals in his last eight league games, and the defence finally keeping it tight under pressure, the Aquile will head to San Siro with their tails up.
Inzaghi’s side have saved their best this season for the big occasions. They blew Borussia Dortmund away with a 3-1 win in Rome back in October, beat Zenit by the same margin, and now defeated Napoli.
On top of that, they recorded 1-1 draws away to Dortmund in Europe and against Inter Milan and Juventus in the league. Their slip-ups this season haven’t – so far – come against the established big name sides.
Stefano Pioli knows a thing or two about Lazio, having taken them to the brink of the Champions League himself back in 2015. Will his past come back to haunt him?