It takes a strong side to shake off a setback and not lose sight of the real target. Lazio have already shown so far this season that their success is no fluke, but the result of remarkable self-belief.
The Aquile almost threw away a 2-0 lead to Juventus in the Italian Super Cup, but regrouped enough to grab a last-gasp winner. They fought to the bitter end for an 89th-minute Sergej Milinkovic-Savic strike to beat Chievo 2-1, silenced the Milan millionaires and confirmed their love of 3-2 thrillers with Vitesse and Genoa. This is a side that does not give up.
Anyone would be torn to shreds by Napoli when losing basically the entire defence due to injury, but there was no psychological blowback from that 4-1 defeat. They got straight back on their feet and demolished Verona 3-0.
Simone Inzaghi fielded a make-shift defence with Stefan Radu the only experienced player in his back three – Luiz Felipe patrolling the central area (sporting director Igli Tare unearthed him from Brazilian fourth division’s Ituano, whose President is former Middlesbrough star Juninho) and Patric to his right completed the improvised set-up.
With Wallace, Stefan de Vrij and Bastos all injured and likely to stay away for some time, plus the club failing to bring in a suitable replacement for Wesley Hoedt, Inzaghi even had to resort to Mauricio, who we had lost track of, on the bench. He has not played a competitive game since May with Spartak Moscow and last summer he spent his time playing foot-volley with his friends on the beach – he seemed a lost cause somehow. And yet there he was trying to lose those extra stones during a sudden downpour in Verona after the game.
But the night belonged to a certain Patricio Gasbarron aka Patric. This guy, lest we forget, came up from the Barcelona youth system and the very first memory a Lazio fan has of him dates back to when the Eagles were hammered 4-0 at Chievo. Everyone thought that this was not a football player yet – tactics were not taken on board and he was too raw. And yet in a couple of years, he is a totally transformed player.
The Spaniard has developed such a sense of maturity and position, that last Sunday he came back to the ‘scene of the crime’ at the Stadio Bentegodi and won plaudits for his performance. He was tidy and composed in defence, played in the usual set-up, as Lazio showed some awareness of their capabilities.
Obviously, there’s not a better moment to play with a depleted defence than when coming up against the worst attack in the league. And yet it’s performances like these which normally contribute to build up and cement a player’s confidence.
Zulte Waregem in the Europa League might just add up to the continuous growth process for Patric with other back-up choices like Felipe Caicedo and possibly Luis Nani ready to step up to the challenge.
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