Tuesday November 3 2020
Lazio show tremendous spirit under difficult circumstances

Lazio’s hard-fought victory against Torino on Sunday was emblematic of their ‘never die’ attitude, writes Lee Bushe.

“I couldn’t miss out on that hug with my lads, especially after the week we’ve had.”

Indeed, no one could blame Simone Inzaghi for rushing off his bench to celebrate Lazio’s last-minute winner against Torino with his players. It had probably been, with the coronavirus outbreak within his squad, the toughest week of his managerial career so far, and he had every reason to be proud of his players for weathering that storm.

The day before their Champions League clash with Club Brugge, it had been reported that multiple members of Lazio’s squad had either tested positive for coronavirus or were showing symptoms of it, leaving them with just 13 first-team players for the game. Nonetheless, Lazio put in a good shift; their remaining exhausted players defending valiantly to come away from Belgium with a well-earned point.

It would’ve been a big ask to expect them to do it again in their following Serie A fixture, an away trip to Torino. Despite this, it became clear that it was very much Lazio’s intention to fulfil that fixture, raising some eyebrows due to the fact that - with the information available at the time - the Biancocelesti would’ve met the criteria to request a postponement.

They must’ve known something we didn’t. The likes of Ciro Immobile, Lucas Leiva and Luiz Felipe, who were absent for the Club Brugge game, had returned to training a day prior to their match against Torino. Still, taking into account that most of their players either hadn’t trained with the team since Tuesday, or were still shattered from the game on Wednesday, winning at the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino would be a difficult task.

That’s precisely what it was. Lazio started strongly, pressing Torino well and managing to dominate possession. Their efforts were rewarded after 15 minutes, with Andreas Pereira getting a goal on his first-ever start for the club. It was goal symbolic of the strong bond that this Lazio side has with each other. Vedat Muriqi was on the receiving end of a lovely Sergej Milinkovic-Savic chip, and crossed it over to a sprinting Patric, who, without giving it a second thought, squared it to Pereira, who whacked it into the back of the net.

The lead wouldn’t last. Torino cancelled out that goal four minutes later, with Bremer losing his marker in the Lazio box to head the ball past Pepe Reina with little challenge. Six minutes after that, Torino scored again, with Andrea Belotti dispatching a penalty which gave Il Toro the lead going into half-time.

Lazio aren’t a team who lie down or break under difficult circumstances, however, with Milinkovic-Savic scoring an equalising free-kick just after half-time. From that point forward, Torino enforced something of a defensive policy; their winless side clearly happy to come away from this game with a draw. 

Just when a draw seemed set in stone, Sasa Lukic took advantage of a defensive horror-show on Lazio’s part to score what looked like the winning goal for Torino with four minutes to go. No one would’ve criticised the Biancoclesti players for taking their foot off the gas after that; it was their fifth game in 16 days and their thin squad were clearly - physically and probably mentally - drained.

But Lazio didn’t take their foot off the gas. Ever since that embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Sampdoria in mid-October, Lazio’s players had been giving blood, sweat, and tears to ensure nothing like that ever happened again, and this game was no exception. In the dying minutes of the game, the Biancocelesti were rewarded with a penalty, which Immobile, who had come off the bench earlier in the half, duly scored.

Everyone associated with Lazio would’ve taken that; a hard-fought draw earned under difficult circumstances, but the Biancocelesti aren’t a side who just settle. In the eighth minute of stoppage time, Felipe Caicedo received the ball in the box and was surrounded by eight Torino players. Undeterred, he managed to slide the ball past Salvatore Sirigu to give his side the win.

This prompted almost every Lazio official - on the pitch or on the bench - to mob Caicedo, releasing the stresses of what had been an unspeakably difficult week for the club. They’ve shown a tremendous amount of spirit in their recent games, and the way the earned the Torino victory was emblematic of that. With this in mind, one his little reason not to feel optimistic about Lazio this season.

Have your say...
3. Still, as you said, true unification of interpretation amongst refs can never be achieved.
Oddly, sometimes even the same ref changes his interpretation/ criterion during the same game!!! :)

(I still believe Lazio's pen wasn't valid.
Immobile has a fierce strike; there's no way N'Koulou anticipated where the ball would bounce after it hit his body from that proximity. Nicolas' arms also moved in a natural way for someone jumping into a block. There was no arrogance or malice from him.)
on the 6th November, 2020 at 5:16am
2. Common sense should be used for handball rules. Whether player was too close to the shot, wasn't looking, or the ball bounced, is irrelevant. Penalty should (only) be given when player INTENTIONALY or IRRESPONSIBLY: moved his arm towards the ball or made himself bigger!

VAR school should teach VAR refs:
- READING BODY GESTURES to interpret player's intention.
- ANATOMY to understand (un)natural movement/ balance.
- PERSPECTIVE to spot offsides. (See the first goal in United-Leipzig game! LOL
on the 6th November, 2020 at 5:13am
1. Anonymous, I agree with everything you said.

Because of VAR introduction, football NEEDS TO EVOLVE. Rules need to be reassessed & expanded for more consistent ref calls & to better the game.
If they come up with fixed rules prepared for ANY possible variables, VAR can reduce the uncertain "gray area". They just need competent refs with proper VAR schooling.
(And when a new variable occurs, just do what you deem appropriate for the situation, then afterwards discuss a new protocol for it.)
on the 6th November, 2020 at 5:10am
For those commenting on the COVID issue here is the explanation as reported in the Italian press. The type of test UEFA uses is different and also picks up a type of Coronavirus gene (n) that isn't anything to do with COVID. That, plus a lower viral threshold is why players like Immobile and Hakimi tested positive, but negative for Serie A. I know everyone would love us to be kicked out of Serie A and Champions but sorry not this time...
on the 5th November, 2020 at 8:57pm
Lazio need a new 45.000 seater stadium if they want to stay a top 40 team in Europe.
on the 5th November, 2020 at 8:07am
2. ... the ball rebounds of the belly in a predictable manner, that the hand does make the body bigger and that if not the hand - the ball is moving towards goal. Don't get me wrong, in general I would like for penalties like that not to be awarded, I'm just thinking about the decision making process that the referee is facing. I could give many similar examples, but ... max character limitations :-)
Hope they figure it out eventually, but do not expect them to to be honest, VAR or no VAR.
on the 5th November, 2020 at 1:54am
This year, everytime a player contracted COVID, clubs informed the public about it...
...Until Lazio. :)

Why were they quiet about their missing players for the Brugge trip??
I instantly knew somethimg was amiss! It resembled Napoli's shady stance when they too avoided communication. (--"Play dumb, until it passes.")

I think a similar thing happened with Roma's Mancini: One day he tested positive, then the next he was mysteriously cured.

Did clubs found a hole in the COVID protocol?
on the 5th November, 2020 at 1:48am
1. Hi again, ROMAntic. I generally agree with your posts. Most of all, we are looking for consistency and secondly, for the rules to follow the spirit of the game. The problem is that it is impossible to avoid interpretation when it comes to handballs, unless you say: "Every handball in the box is a penalty". And there goes the spirit of the game.
See even if your post is factually correct, I can still see a lot of room for interpretation. For one, you could argue that in this particular case..
on the 5th November, 2020 at 1:45am
& don't preach me when it is you who's obsessed with Roma & always stick your nose where it doesn't belong.
Last week in FI LiveBlog, you rushed to bash Giacomelli when he gave an absurd penalty for Roma.., but when he gave another laughable pen for Milan you didn't utter a word.
(You only acknowledge what serves your "Totti photo" story, right?)

I am OVERJOYED Roma got that penalty, because I'd be extremely annoyed had Milan won because of a nonexistent foul on Hakan minutes later!
on the 5th November, 2020 at 1:12am
This is probably the last time I respond to you, but it DEPENDS ON YOU:
"Riommantic" is not my nick. If you want me to read a post addressed at me, don't invent names. If I see immature troll-like namecalling I will not read further --you have been warned.

Who cares what happened last season!
Last season Serie A opened a Pandora box & (almost) every handling was a handball.
It was HORRIBLE.., so refs promised they would only whistle for clear & intentional hanballs this time!
on the 5th November, 2020 at 1:04am
Now, with VAR, there should be (almost) no inconsistencies.
Unify rules, educate refs, specialize "VAR only jobs". (--Who cares if VAR ref is fat/ old if he's good at reviewing incidents!)

NO MORE EXCUSES! There are only a set amount of variables, so a "handball" is a "handball"!

VAR should:
- Call the ref to review a clear mistake. When it's 50-50, let his original decision stand & don't put him in a tightspot.
- Review incident from multiple angles..,
- ...With slow motion & normal speed!
on the 5th November, 2020 at 12:38am
I apologise, I only saw the last 5 minutes of the game...
Now that I saw Belotti's NONEXISTENT penalty, it is only right that Lazio were awarded a nonexistent penalty as well. --You guys won fair & in style.

Handball rules can be interpreted numerous ways.
It IS a handball if you make yourself "unnaturally bigger" or "intentionally move towards ball"...
But NOT if you're "protecting your face/ body", are "falling", are "too close to the shot", or if the ball "rebounds"...
on the 5th November, 2020 at 12:32am
Chris, both are not mutually exclusive. That being said, I trust and hope that Lazio have followed the protocol. This is an issue on which I would really like to have a detailed explanation from FI, as this would likely be happening again to Lazio and the other clubs. Something similar already happened to Inter, I wander why there is no investigation in that case. What is the role of the club here, surely they cannon tamper with the results or field a player that has been tested positive.
on the 4th November, 2020 at 5:01pm
Also a good point from Coppainfaccia, I had forgotten about that. Sometimes it goes for you and sometimes against you. You have to take the most of what's on offer and that's exactly what Lazio did by scoring the penalty and than the winning goal. And it is again Caicedo in the 98th minute, this guy has been an excellent squad player for the team.
on the 4th November, 2020 at 4:48pm
True that the referee did not originally point to the spot, however that's what VAR is for. The fact that the VAR official indicated for the incident to be reviewed means that he thought there are grounds to award a penalty. As a fan, I fully agree that giving all these handball penalties is not in the spirit of the game, however the referees' jobs is to apply the rules as they are. Still not clear to me what exactly the rules are though, but probably it is the same for you...
on the 4th November, 2020 at 4:41pm
Sorry Riommantic - just last season Torino got a penalty against Lazio for pretty much exactly the same incident, a shot at very close range that hit Immobile on the hand, and also resulted in him being suspended against Milan. Belotti in this match got an extremely light penalty where the ref didn't even both to look at the VAR for contact. For a Roma fan to come on here and start talking dodgy penalties after the one against Milan is pretty rich.
on the 4th November, 2020 at 1:28pm
Is it tremendous spirit they show, or is it a clear lack of respect for protocol and the health & safety of human beings? It remains to be seen.
on the 4th November, 2020 at 12:28pm
Let's be honest:
That was NEVER a penalty!
The ball hit N'Koulou in stomach, then RICOCHET into his hand (while he was falling & trying to protect himself from a point-blank Ciro missile strike)!
Don't forget ref's original verdict was "no penalty", which counts in 50-50 situations.

I would understand if this was given last year (when basically EVERY handball was a penalty)... But they said this nonsense won't occur in 20/21 season.

Without this pen, I doubt Lazio would've scored the winner.
on the 4th November, 2020 at 12:41am
Could FI or someone else share a thought on the Covid-19 testing discrepancies between the CL and Serie A. Some players positive in the middle of last week, then negative at the weekend, than positive again today. This leads to either a serious health risk allowed in Serie A or a huge and unfair disadvantage for Lazio in the CL.
For Lazio - fantastic win at the weekend and the second one in the same manner (2 goals in extra time to turn it around) in less than one calendar year. Great stuff.
on the 3rd November, 2020 at 10:32pm
But didn't some guy called Penturichion or something called Lazio provincial club. I hope that he learned some history about oldest club in Rome and realised that Lazio is no provincial club. And then he said that only last 10 years matter. Yeah it matters only if your old 7 years like I suspect. Oh yea and about clowns. I love them
on the 3rd November, 2020 at 6:33pm

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