Lazio Boss Simone Inzaghi Deserves Credit For Coppa Italia Triumph

Lazio clearly hadn’t read the script in Wednesday evening’s Coppa Italia final. Almost everyone who has followed Italian football this season expected Atalanta to be the ones to lift the trophy at the end of the match, however the Bergamo-based side with the ultra-attacking philosophy were stopped in their tracks as Lazio stormed to a 2-0 win. 

Just 10 days earlier, Atalanta had fought back from 1-0 down to the Biancocelesti in that same stadium to register an emphatic 3-1 victory. That first result only served to reinforce the opinion that Gian Piero Gasperini’s bright and positive side would emerge victorious again, but how wrong we were. 

In truth, they were a little unlucky not to receive a penalty when Bastos was shown to have handled Marten De Roon’s shot, and Papu Gomez clipped the post with his shot shortly afterwards. In a “sliding doors” moment, they could’ve been 2-0 up and cruising in the first half, but that must not take away from Lazio’s performance.

Coach Simone Inzaghi used those 10 days wisely in that he figured out a way to negate Atalanta’s style of pressing forward in numbers. A huge amount of credit must go to both the tactician and his players as they pulled off what so many others, including Juventus, have failed to do this term. 

A look at stats from the two matches reveals that Atalanta surprisingly had less possession (45%) during their recent league victory, while they had the ball 53 percent of the time in Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat. By sitting deeper and allowing their opponents more of the play, Lazio turned the tables on Gasperini’s usual game of winning the ball back and playing on the counter-attack.

This was a genius move from Inzaghi, as his side were then able to play on the break themselves, with two of their shots on goal coming on from a counter-attack, as opposed to none in the league encounter on May 5.

Substitutions also played a part, as the coach brought on star player Sergej Milinkovic-Savic — who was rumored to be out of the match completely through injury — in the 79th minute, and then watched on as the Serbian opened the scoring from a set-piece just three minutes after his introduction. 

“We had a great game, but also congratulations to Atalanta, as it was hard-fought, the same way it was in Serie A,” Inzaghi told reporters from RAI Sport after the match. “Only this time we did well to turn the incidents our way.”

The boss then echoed his pre-match comments about the importance of the substitutes. “I told the lads that at times those who come off the bench are more important than the starting XI. I am satisfied, as we had a wonderful run in this Coppa Italia,” he concluded.

It was indeed a hard-fought match by runners-up Atalanta, who deserve huge credit for beating Juventus and coming through a high-scoring two-legged semifinal with Fiorentina to reach the final showdown in Rome. President Antonio Percassi and his son were moved to tears before kickoff by the 21,000 fans who had travelled from Bergamo to support their team, and once the disappointment has worn off they should feel an immense sense of pride for what has been achieved.

“We accept the defeat, Lazio are a very good team, it was a balanced game, but no this incident is absolutely unacceptable,” Gasperini told RAI after being shown a reply of the aforementioned incident with Bastos. “I wasn’t angry before I saw that replay, as from the bench I absolutely didn’t see that. My players told me there was a hand, but I thought it was one of those handballs that saw some absurd penalties given during the season, but this was far worse. It’s very clear.

“Maybe we wouldn’t have won anyway, but it’s really ugly to see this. It’s ugly. This was a very balanced game decided late on and a penalty, not to mention Bastos was already on a yellow card before that. It changes the game.”

In some ways, the coach is correct, but in general terms Lazio won this game fair and square by turning Atalanta’s usual tactics upside down. When the dust settles, the team must sit down and analyze what went wrong, as surely more teams will now attempt this very same approach. 

The capital club may not be as popular with the neutral, but Simone Inzaghi and Lazio were worthy winners of the 2018-19 Coppa Italia.

Roma Defender Chris Smalling Has Been Stellar In Italy

As if he’d not made enough of an impression since joining AS Roma on loan from Manchester United in the summer, defender Chris Smalling really stood out as an exceptional talent on the week of his 30th birthday. 

Hofstra Coach Simon Riddiough Doesn't Need The Power 5 To Define Success

By Jerry Beach

Simon Riddiough, the head coach of the Hofstra women’s soccer team, spent about two minutes of a 21-minute interview Tuesday afternoon discussing why he’s content at the Long Island school and not planning to see if he can replicate his success with a higher-profile Power Five school that would offer the resources and opportunities to make a deep NCAA Tournament run that are generally lacking in the mid-major arena.

Carlo Ancelotti, Aurelio De Laurentiis & Napoli Are In Complete Chaos

It’s hard to believe that only as far back as April 22, 2018, Napoli beat Juventus 1-0 in Turin to move top of the table with only four games remaining. Maurizio Sarri — himself now in charge at Juve — had broken the club record points total in each of the previous two campaigns, and would do so again in 2017-18, but the Naples men ultimately finished second, albeit with yet another unseen total of 91 points.

Canada Has An Opportunity To Prove Their Standing On Friday Against USMNT

This is the moment of truth for Canada's men's national team. 

Concacaf Nations League Returns For Final Group State In November

After nearly a month of waiting for the Concacaf Nations League to kick back into gear, the tournament is finally back this week with the final two matchdays in group play. 

Seattle Sounders & Toronto FC Clash With The MLS Cup On The Line

Just over a week after the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC went on the road and upset the favorites, MLS Cup 2019 is on the horizon as the 24th season in league history comes to a close. CenturyLink Field in Seattle will be the epicenter on Sunday at 3 PM when the two sides face off in the MLS Cup final for the third time in the past four years. 

Paulo Fonseca & The Unlikely Resurgence Of AS Roma In Serie A

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Potential USMNT Contributors From The Nations League Pre-Camp

November 15 could be a day of reckoning for Gregg Berhalter and the United States men's national team. After last month's 2-0 defeat to Canada — the first loss to their neighbors in 35 years — Berhalter needs a win in Orlando to help rectify the USA's position in the first-ever Concacaf Nations League. Anything other than a win would mean that Canada will advance to the semifinals, a shocking result for the U.S.

10 Things In Italy: Mario Balotelli, de Ligt Handballs & Conte's Inter

With the action in Italy heating up both on and off the field, it’s time to get you caught up with what’s been happening in the world of Serie A and, as always, “10 Things” is here to bring you right up to date.

Concaclusions, Ep. 9: Pulisic Strikes Again, Jiménez Haunts Arsenal

Another round of club play is in the books, and several of the region’s top players were in the headlines once again through clutch goals, quality performances, and even uncharacteristic errors.