Gonzalo Higuain finds form to power Lazio past Sampdoria 3-1

ROME — Gonzalo Higuain scored two goals and Lazio overcame an hour of inactivity with captain Stefan De Vrij to win 3-1 at Sampdoria on Sunday. Ezequiel Munoz put Sampdoria ahead after 12 minutes…

Gonzalo Higuain finds form to power Lazio past Sampdoria 3-1

ROME — Gonzalo Higuain scored two goals and Lazio overcame an hour of inactivity with captain Stefan De Vrij to win 3-1 at Sampdoria on Sunday.

Ezequiel Munoz put Sampdoria ahead after 12 minutes with a powerful header from Lucas Biglia’s cross, and the home side’s dominance in midfield seemed certain to extend into the second half as Giovani Lo Celso brought the scores level.

It was the first time the two teams have played since the winter break that ushered in a seven-day break for both teams. The match was rescheduled after Sampdoria was forced to move two matches to January due to its clashes with Italy’s national championship, which kicked off the previous day.

Juventus takes on Roma on Monday and, given that they meet twice more over the next seven days, that means a rematch would potentially be played on Jan. 11 or 12.

Despite their poor form in Serie A, Sampdoria coach Davide Ballardini picked Simone Gazzi in place of Massimo Maccarone and he produced a lively game, dictating play from the front.

The game was ten minutes old when Sampdoria’s flying wing-back Simone Gazzi exploited a defensive mistake by Juan Jesus to cut back a cross and Munoz rose to head the ball in off the far post.

Lazio struggled to build play into attack for most of the first half. It couldn’t seriously trouble Sampdoria goalkeeper Federico Marchetti and had to settle for a short corner.

“We gave them a free game up front because we weren’t in control,” Biglia said. “But in the second half I think we took control and we won the ball back better.”

There was uproar in the third minute of stoppage time when Lazio lost possession near its own area, which led to Sampdoria forcing a turnover before Lo Celso slotted home.

“Of course we have to thank Sampdoria,” Biglia said. “They really put pressure on us and they had all the balls, but in the end we still managed to turn things around.”

Higuain equalized five minutes after the break with a header off Jorge Montana’s cross from the right. He completed the comeback with four minutes remaining by sweeping home Federico Fazio’s pass into the right corner.

“For me it’s just another day,” Higuain said. “Two goals after being a man down.”

Lazio was already playing a man down after De Vrij was given a second yellow card in the 55th minute for trying to escape pressure, but the European champion started to take control in the final stages after both teams resorted to stonewall defense.

“The opponent plays from the back, which we thought we could have done well,” Sampdoria captain Massimo Cannavaro said. “Because we were concentrated from the start we were better in the first half, but we were constantly exploited and having time to wait for some openings.”

Lazio remained eighth in the standings while Sampdoria remained 11th.

Also Sunday, Empoli beat Cagliari 1-0, with Emmanuele Giaccherini scoring in the 10th minute, while Bari won 2-1 at Crotone.

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