10 January 2007

Dubai Cup midterm report

Lazio 3-1 Olympique Marseille

Although weak on defense, a strong offensive push lifted Lazio over Marseille to advance to the final of the Dubai Cup against Portuguese side Benfica on Wednesday. The game started on rather even terms, but Lazio was able to pull ahead after applying pressure and earning a corner kick. The cross was misplayed by the Marseille keeper and fell right at the feet of Stefano Mauri, who buried the ball in the back of the net to put Lazio in the lead.

Lazio's only miscue of the match allowed Marseille to level at 1-1, when midfielder Samir Nasri lofted a free kick from about 40 meters out on the far sideline over the entire defense and Marco Ballotta. Play proceeded equally until the end of the first half, with both sides finding a few chances. Marseille was generally able to control the midfield, driven by the play of Franck Ribéry.

The second half brought lineup changes and subsequent differences in the gameplay. Ribéry exited after the intermission, and Marseille's midfield abilities collapsed. Lazio was able to pass the ball much more freely in the center of the pitch and generate chances toward the front. Zauri moved to the right back position after Behrami (who was playing out of his normal spot to fill in for the missing Oddo) also went to the bench at the break. Zauri showed his versatility and kept play moving from the back. Cribari, Stendardo, and later Siviglia held nicely in the back row and supported Marco Ballotta, who didn't seem to be fielding the ball cleanly but gave up no critical rebounds.

Midway through the second half Delio Rossi pulled Pandev and Rocchi and Stephen Makinwa took the pitch. Within a minute of his entry he was running free down the left center. He nearly mishandled the ball, but was able to regain control for a shot. His odd timing actually fooled the keeper and allowed him to slot the ball home. The biancocelesti continued to look for a clinching goal, and the defense of l'OM crumbled, blatantly fouling Pasquale Foggia in the box. A penalty was rewarded as Foggia writhed on the pitch (selling the foul quite well, even though he didn't need to). The only question was who would take it? Oddo didn't start, the two strikers were already benched...perhaps Mauri would go to the spot. No, Foggia himself rose from the turf and angled the ball home for the decisive win.

In the final moments of the game, Massimo Mutarelli fouled a Marseille player, who tripped in the path of Siviglia. Sebastiano lost his footing and fell knees-first on the downed man, and drew a red card. It was an unfortunate sequence of events, but it did not hurt Lazio at the time and shouldn't have too large of an effect on the final.

Final Preview

Lazio (5th place, Serie A)
Benfica (3rd place, Bwin LIGA)
20:45 local / 17:45 CET / 11:45 AM EST
Wednesday, 10 January
Al Ahli Club Stadium, Dubai, UAE

US TV: GolTV (live)

Lazio will attempt to be crowned champions of the inaugural Dubai Cup on Wednesday as they face Portuguese side Benfica in a battle of Eagles. As Águias are tournament-tested, having just recently participated in the group stage of Champions League and falling short in a tough group which saw Manchester United and Celtic advance. Lazio will be reinforced with its full squad, as Oddo and Peruzzi will have arrived from their ceremonial national team duties in Italy. Lazio must play its own brand of football to prevail in this matchup, staying strong at the rear and running quickly down the wings to generate opportunities. Benfica weathered a 0-0 tie with Bayern Munich in their first game and went to penalty kicks to settle the match, so they will be slightly less fresh. It also shows that if Lazio can crack the Benfica defense they may be able to hold out for a low-scoring win.

We can expect a more regular first team line up for Lazio:


Prediction: 1-0 Lazio, or perhaps a draw that leads to a crapshoot from the penalty spot.

1 comment:

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