It's stoppage time at the Stadio Mario Rigamonti and promoted Brescia are holding Serie A’s form team Lazio to a 1-1 draw and it seemed that the Biancocelesti's current streak is about to end. Then a long raking ball from Francesco Acerbi into the box is headed down by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, collected by Felipe Caicedo, who places the ball perfectly into the path of Ciro Immobile, and while falling to the ground he strokes the ball into the left hand corner of the goal.
Game. Set. Match.
The 29-year old's poacher's instinct had once again proved invaluable to the capital side. Victory put them and six points behind Inter and Juventus in the standings, with a game in hand. The statistics that are defining Immobile and Lazio's campaign are becoming the stuff of legend. It was the Neapolitan's 19th goal his first 17 games, the first player to achieve that feat since Antonio Angelillo with Inter 61 years ago. It was Le Aquile's ninth consecutive league win, matching the all-time club record set by Sven Goran Eriksson in 1998-1999, and they have scored at least two goals in each of their last 12 matches in Serie A, the longest ever such streak besides Torino's legendary team of the 1940s.
Not bad for a player and a team that has not always garnered much fanfare.
Immobile has his critics and some are entirely justified. His technique could do with some work, his play at Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla left a lot to be desired, while his performances with Italy have been average at best. In addition to which, he was written off as a one-season wonder after that break-out year with Torino back in 2013-2014.
However, he is a striker in the true sense of the word. Deceptively quick, physically strong with the ability to hold up the ball despite his slight frame, great with either foot, an efficient header of the ball, maximises the space afforded to him, tireless worker who chases and presses defenders into mistakes and links up superbly with his teammates. On that note, he already has five assists in the league this season to go along with the bucketload of goals.
Even at international level, he has made more of an impact. Under new boss Roberto Mancini, he has garnered three goals and two assists in Euro 2020 qualifiers, while rotating the starting position with Torino forward Andrea Belotti. He has taken his game to the next level under Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi, particularly his link-up play.
He always had a striker's instinct in the box, with the ability to be in the right place at the right time, something Inzaghi knows a lot about himself. The way he improved in leaps and bounds with his distribution and his chemistry with SMS, Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa make that front four one of the deadliest in Europe.
Immobile is the cherry on top of that tasty cake that Inzaghi has created at Lazio. They are not just about breaking records and playing an entertaining brand of football, of course, as they have added notches to their belt that they can be rightfully proud of. A Coppa Italia Final win over revelations Atalanta side last season, inflicting the only two Juventus defeats under Maurizio Sarri, including the Supercoppa Italiana triumph.
Even when Immobile does not get on the scoresheet, he always gives his contribution to the team. His ability to run at the opposition and take defenders with him when Lazio are in possession allow for space to be exploited by his teammates. The sign of any good striker besides putting the ball into the back of the net is the ability to attract the attention of defenders to such an extent that it leaves spaces in and around the final third. Those spaces have been effectively taken advantage of by his teammates and Immobile deserve a massive amount of credit for that.
The striker has proven that the fantastic season he had six years ago was no fluke. The year 2020 is barely a week old and already Immobile has gotten off to a flying start, so with a possible Scudetto challenge and Euro 2020 in the summer, the good times could get even better for the striker.