The score may have finished even, but Hugo Lloris came out on top in his duel with striker Libor Kozak, as our Europa League tie in Rome finished Lazio 0 Spurs 0.
Andre Villas-Boas brought in Steven Caulker after he missed the game at the Emirates at the weekend. Tom Carroll also got a start ahead of Tom Huddlestone in midfield, whilst Gylfi Sigurdsson came in for Aaron Lennon on the right.
Spurs controlled the possession in this one, but Lazio out shot us by 15 to 2 as Hugo Lloris put on a goalkeeping clinic.
Spurs lined up in a lop-sided 4-3-3 formation to begin with. Gareth Bale was playing high up on the left as a wide forward, whereas Gylfi Sigurdsson was playing slightly deeper on the right. In the Spurs 0 Lazio 0 draw at the Lane, the Italians had gone strongly down their left through Senad Lulic and Andre Villas-Boas wanted to protect this side slightly more here.
In the midfield, Tom Carroll was playing slightly in advance of Sandro, with Clint Dempsey at the top of the triangle. Whilst the Brazilian was doing the defensive work, Carroll was trying to move the ball wide to get Gareth Bale away. His intent to do this was there all game, but Lazio got an early warning as Carroll slipped a beautiful ball through to Bale. The Welshman rounded the keeper and put the ball in the net, but was given offside despite replays showing he was clearly on.
This would be Spurs best chance of the game, as Lazio dominated the shot count and were denied the three points by the excellent Hugo Lloris.
Lazio lined up in their usual 4-1-4-1 formation, but the surprise was to start Libor Kozak up front instead of Sergio Flocarri who has been getting the nod in the Europa League. Kozak would be turn out to be the game’s pivotal character, as he had a number of clear cut chances to win it for the home side.
The Italians have pressed teams at home and sat back on the road so far in the Europa League and I speculated whether they would press against better opposition here.
They stayed true to form, trying to close down early from the front and the defence was squeezing up, especially when they were taken out by Carroll’s ball to Bale in the fifth minute.
This was an early warning for the Italians, but they continued for the rest of the game, coping well and creating turnovers in our half, limiting Spurs to just two shots. Their best chance came when Kozak took the ball off Steven Caulker on the edge of our box. With Hugo Lloris leaning across goal to stop the cross, Kozak could only drag his shot in to the side netting with the goalkeeper completely wrong footed.
Lazio go left, but create through the centre
As in the 0-0 draw at White Hart Lane, the Italians went heavily down the left side again here, with 40% of their attacks to this side according to WhoScored.com. They once again used Senad Lulic on this flank, as Lazio tried to move the ball wide and then slide it back through the centre for striker Libor Kozak.
On the right, Alvaro Gonzalez was attempting to do the same as Lulic on the left, whilst in the centre, Stefano Mauri was looking for angles to slide the ball through.
The majority of Lazio’s chances came from good work in these wider zones and then the ball was diagonally passed through our defence in to central areas. They created 12 chances in total, but also had a number of offside decisions as they looked to get in behind our defensive line.
Thank goodness it wasn’t Miroslav Klose up front. Libor Kozak wasted at least four gilt-edged chances to give his side the lead and his finishing was the reason it remained Lazio 0 Spurs 0.
Hugo Lloris also deserves credit for some fine saves, as the Frenchman finally gave us some glimpses of why he is rated as one of the worlds best.
Kozak was operating as a lone striker and playing on the shoulder of our defence all game. He was the focus to hold the ball up for Lazio and then to look to get on the end of passes slid through in to the box.
He was judged offside on three occasions, but that didn’t stop him getting through to fire 6 shots at our goal. Hugo Lloris made two fine saves, getting down low to a shot and tipping another past the post with his foot.
Kozak’s biggest miss was dragging the ball to the near post side netting when Lloris was wrong footed thinking he was going to square it.
Lazio 0 Spurs 0 conclusions
Despite Gareth Bale having a perfectly good goal ruled out – our fourth against Lazio in two matches – Spurs were lucky to get away with a point from this. We controlled the game early, but after 20 minutes it was Lazio creating the chances and dictating the match which Andre Villas-Boas recognised.
“Lazio gained momentum with their opportunities and they put us on the back foot, that’s the reality. We came to the second half and had a good 10, 15 minutes again, but Lazio’s first chance put us on the back foot again and we struggled.”
Hugo Lloris made a string of fine saves to keep the Italians out, preserving a point and receiving much praise from the gaffer.
“In situations where we could have suffered, he was there for us. It was an extremely good performance, for sure.”
Andre Villas-Boas made several attacking changes to try and get the win that he was really looking for here, so that we could take all three points and qualify on the night. Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon were introduced on the hour as AVB went 4-4-2, but that just opened us up to more Lazio attacks.
Twelve minutes later, Moussa Dembele was brought on for Tom Carroll who was now being overrun in midfield with just Sandro alongside him after Clint Dempsey had made way for Defoe.
It was an aggressive move from Andre Villas-Boas that didn’t pay off this time and we had to rely on Hugo Lloris once more, as he made another good stop to deny Michael Ciani with a header from a corner.
We had the better of the game at the Lane, Lazio were the more dominant team here.