Lazio and Milan played out their third consecutive goalless Coppa Italia semi-final match, so it all goes down to the second leg at San Siro, but who comes out of this feeling more positive about their chances? It’s hard to say.
The Biancocelesti went in during an injury crisis that almost has them use Lucas Leiva at centre-back. This would’ve meant either having the Brazilian one-on-one with on-form Krzysztof Piatek or the unthinkable scenario of Simone Inzaghi moving to four at the back. The Coach preferred to start Bastos on one leg, forgive Patric for last week’s substitution tantrum and hope for the best. Surprisingly, it worked like a dream.
Piatek had scored in every start for the Rossoneri, but was reduced to one shot on target, deflected wide by Bastos.
Lazio, from the very start of the game, played with a lot of aggression and intent, pressing Milan relentlessly. By attacking the game, rather than sitting back and letting them keep possession, Lazio gave their opponents less time to think and plan offensive moves, leading to a lot of rushed final ball attempts from the Diavolo. Piatek was therefore starved of service, Milan having to launch long balls down the field and playing aimless through passes because Inzaghi’s side were just not giving them the time they wanted on the ball.
In the second half, the service for Piatek was better, but aggressive defending and pressure from the likes of Bastos, who had a surprisingly good game, and Francesco Acerbi meant that the Pole’s chances were few and far between.
Lazio can thank good fortune in some regard, too. When Franck Kessie came off with a muscular injury in the first half, Hakan Calhanoglu came on. Kessie was looking like one of Milan’s best players and has been instrumental in the midfield under the side’s recent resurgence. Calhanoglu, however, seemed pre-occupied in his thoughts, his wife currently expecting to go into labour at any moment, the Turk misplacing passes throughout the match and not providing Piatek with the balls that he needed.
Lucas Paqueta, although he was Milan’s best player on the night and surprisingly impressive when tracking back to defend, was also being closed down promptly and it was this lack of time on the ball for Gattuso’s midfielders and wingers that ended up neutralising Piatek.
Lazio’s approach to the game from kick-off minimised the opportunities granted to Milan’s €35m signing, whilst good fortune and some unexpectedly stellar defending made matters even easier. Despite this, the semi-final is made up of two legs and, if Lazio really want to silence the critics, they will need to do the same at San Siro.
In Milan, the Rossoneri can be expected to have much more of the ball and, therefore, Inzaghi may have to find another approach to prevent Piatek from doing what he does best. That won’t include moving to four at the back, of course. Not on Inzaghi’s watch.
Ultimately, who is the more content from this 0-0 result? If Lazio were going to draw the home leg, keeping a clean sheet was the ideal scenario, yet once again they wasted so many scoring opportunities and after the Europa League exit to Sevilla it’s become more than merely frustrating. This cannot be just down to bad luck when the pattern keeps repeating itself.
Milan emerged from the Stadio Olimpico unbeaten, but without the possibility of a precious away goal and seeing their excellent recent form stunted. After moving so close to Inter in third place and with Roma still breathing down their necks, the draw of qualifying for the Champions League is far stronger than a second consecutive Coppa Italia Final.