Serie A roundup: Lazio secure second place finish, relegated Cremonese end season on high

Serie A roundup: Lazio secure second place finish, relegated Cremonese end season on high
Lazio celebrate a goal
Lazio celebrate a goal
Lazio ended the season second in Serie A after two second-half goals put lower-mid table dwellers Empoli to the sword, while relegated Cremonese ended a disappointing season on a high as they defeated Salernitana 2-0 at the Stadio Giovanni Ziniwhile.

Cremonese 2 Salernitana 0

Although Cremonese had long been consigned to an instant Serie B return ahead of kick-off, Le Tigri were clearly determined not to slip back through the trapdoor quietly.

Their intent to attack was in full evidence from the outset, and they were awarded a 26th-minute penalty for a foul on Cristian Buonaiuto after a VAR review. The Italian stepped up himself and calmly converted his spot-kick as he placed the ball beyond Guillermo Ochoa.

The visitors were no strangers to having to come from behind though, having done so just last week in an impressive 3-2 victory over Udinese, and the Granata almost brought themselves back level just four minutes later. There would have been more than a stroke of luck about it too, as Antonio Candreva’s deflected effort looked to be looping into the top right corner, but Mouhamadou Sarr managed to scramble back in time to tip it over the bar.

Neither team managed to fashion any chances early in the second half, but Cremonese looked far likelier to grab the next goal, after enjoying a decent spell of possession in their visitors’ half.

Yet, it was not until the 75th minute that Cremonese had their best chance to kill the game, as wing-back Emanuele Valeri went close via a free-kick from distance, striking a venomous low effort narrowly wide of the far bottom corner.

However, the hosts did eventually get the second goal that their performance had warranted in the closing stages of the game through substitute Frank Tsadjout. The goal came as the Italian received the ball inside the box before opening up his body and bending an effort into the far top corner of the goal.

It was a bittersweet end to Cremonese’s first top-flight season in a generation, while Salernitana finished comfortably clear of the drop after an impressive second top-flight season this century – though clear improvements on this display will be needed to avoid experiencing their hosts’ fate next year.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Soualiho Meïté (Cremonese)

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Empoli 0 Lazio 2

Lazio’s intent to secure their best finish since winning the Scudetto in 2000 was evident immediately, as Luis Alberto took less than two minutes to craft the first major chance, forcing Guglielmo Vicario into a fingertip save via his shot from the edge of the box.

While that didn’t exactly spark a first half of one-way traffic, Lazio always seemed to be just one good final ball away from opening the floodgates at a packed Stadio Carlo Castellani.

And that was very nearly the case when a cross from Elseid Hysaj on the right flank met the head of Ciro Immobile inside the area. Their chief talisman could only direct his effort several feet over the bar though, as Vicario’s ambition of keeping a maiden clean sheet against Lazio at the fourth attempt continued to live a charmed life.

There was also time enough for a couple of extra scares too, leaving Empoli feeling somewhat relieved by the HT whistle.

Such had been Empoli’s dogged resilience against Lazio’s counters in the first half’s later minutes, a set-piece was looking increasingly like the visitors’ most realistic source of joy.

And so it proved barely two minutes into the second half, with Luis Alberto rifling an inswinging corner into a sea of bodies, amongst which Alessio Romagnoli rose highest to glance a header past Vicario for his first away goal since November 2018.

With a league-low four of Lazio’s 18 prior away games seeing both teams score, Empoli would now need a monumental effort to win and secure their best SA points tally since 2007. But Maurizio Sarri’s squad enacted his plan to perfection in the endgame, suffocating Empoli with shrewd passing and a high press that more than maintained the threat of a breakaway killer second goal from the Biancocelesti.

Overall, the dying minutes were uneventful – though not for Empoli’s Nicolò Cambiaghi, who drew a fine save from Ivan Provedel before receiving a second yellow card for a push just a matter of seconds later.

Ultimately, this was one of Lazio’s more straightforward successes of recent weeks, and that feeling was only reinforced by Luis Alberto’s fine strike from the edge of the box after receiving a crisp layoff from Immobile.

 Lazio deservedly end 2022/23 as the ‘best of the rest’, after an eighth win in 12 league outings that also served to stub out Empoli’s winning home run at three games, with the beaten hosts surely under no illusions as to the gap they must bridge to join the likes of Lazio as consistent European contenders.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Luis Alberto (Lazio)

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