As rapacious as the eagle on their crest, S.S Lazio now lie just three points shy of Serie A leaders Juventus after their 2-0 home win against Atalanta BC on Sunday.
It was a victory obtained after 90 hard-fought minutes at the Stadio Olimpico and secured via a performance short of the highest standards. The three points, however, were all that mattered for the Rome side and revamped their Scudetto ambitions, especially since Juventus could only manage a 1-1 draw at Parma FC.
The key to Lazio's victory was their resolve and flexibility. On a day when Miroslav Klose failed to replicate his usual finishing feats, the tactical mastery of coach Vladimir Petković proved decisive. Brave enough to completely rejig his side with two half-time changes after a shaky first 45 minutes, once again the former midfielder demonstrated his value to his club.
"We played very badly before the break," commented the 49-year-old coach, who joined Lazio from FC Sion last summer. "Sometimes it's necessary to give the players a boost and try to change their approach. I think I succeeded in that during the break and I'm very satisfied with the result and the performance in the second half, even if we must play better football if we want to fly high."
Petković is fully aware that keeping in touch with the Serie A champions will be a tough task, but he is proud of his charges, who are now unbeaten in their last nine league games and 14 in all competitions. Only Delio Rossi (15 in 2006/07), Roberto Mancini (18 in 2002/03) and Sven-Göran Eriksson (24 in 1999/00, when Lazio won their second and last Scudetto) have done better in the history of the club. Not bad for a coach surrounded by scepticism just six months ago, and who is now considered as the main architect of Lazio's recent success.
Confidence is so abundant, in fact, that forward Sergio Floccari – who scored the opener against Atalanta – felt free to set the bar high for his club this term. "Juventus are a huge team and, despite some bad results, they still play good football," the striker said. "But the road toward the Scudetto is very tough and even if it's too early in the season to speak about that, we want to lay our cards on the table."
Those words will sound like a warning in Turin, where Juventus are desperate to rediscover form. They may still be top of the table, but the Bianconeri have earned just one point from their two games in 2013 and will be nervously looking over their shoulders – at the hungry eagle now hunting its prey.
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