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FEATURE | Felipe Caicedo: Lazio’s Ultimate Super Sub

Lazio have a throw-in midway inside the Juventus half. Adam Marušić looks to throw the ball backwards, but we’ve seen that already in this game. Taking the safe option. Keeping possession. It’s looked pretty at times, but there has been a lack of penetration. It’s why Lazio find themselves 1-0 down in the fifth minute of added time. 

Manager Simone Inzaghi spots Marušić’s passiveness and urges the Montenegrin to look for an attacking option, even giving the wing-back a shove in the right direction. Marušić obliges and picks out Joaquin Correa. The attacker cheekily nutmegs Rodrigo Bentancur and darts into the penalty area. 

Adrien Rabiot attempts a tackle, but his effort is half-hearted. Merih Demiral applies some pressure but fails to put in a challenge for fear of conceding a penalty. He does enough to force Correa to make a pass, as the Argentine forward finds his strike partner, Felipe Caicedo.  

Caicedo collects the ball with his back to goal, nine yards out. His first touch with his left foot creates half a yard of space, and in one motion he turns and fires a right-footed thunderbolt into the bottom corner. Cue pandemonium.  

Inzaghi charges onto the pitch, leaping into Caicedo’s arms. The 32-year-old had rescued a point. Again. It is something that the Lazio faithful have grown accustomed to over the past year, and they will never get tired of it. Caicedo has become the ultimate super-sub. 

Since last November, the Ecuadorian veteran has netted four Serie A goals from the bench after the 90th minute, with three of those being match winners. Let’s take a look back at his remarkable run of last-gasp strikes. 

November 24, 2019 – Sassuolo 1-2 Lazio 

Lazio were entering this game on a four-match winning streak, and were beginning to climb the table. Yet it seemed that they were going to be denied a fifth victory by a stubborn Sassuolo side. 

Ciro Immobile’s opener had been cancelled out on the stroke of half time by Francesco Caputo. The visitors had huffed and puffed after the break, but to no avail. 

Then, Caicedo arrived. Having come on with just over 10 minutes to go, he struck in the first minute of stoppage time. After exchanging successive one-twos with Luis Alberto, Caicedo swivelled away from his marker and via a small deflection found the net. He had turned one point into three and continued the club’s good momentum in the process. 

December 16, 2019 – Cagliari 1-2 Lazio 

Three weeks later, he was at it again. Only this time, the ending to the game was much more dramatic.  

Lazio had won their two matches since the Sassuolo triumph, including a 3-1 victory over Juventus. However, they were now up against an in-form Cagliari. The Sardinia-based side were undefeated in their last 13 contests, and were just outside the top four at kick-off. 

The hosts started well, with Giovanni Simeone giving them the lead inside the opening 10 minutes. Cagliari had chances to wrap up the game, but failed to do so. As the clock ticked down, Inzaghi called for Caicedo. 

Three minutes into injury time, Lazio were level. Luis Alberto fired home from just inside the penalty box to seemingly earn a point. Or could they possibly grab all three? 

In the 98th minute, Jony whipped in a cross from the left flank. Under significant pressure, Caicedo rose highest, and managed to angle his header beyond Rafael in the Cagliari goal. The forward wheeled away, removing his shirt before Lazio’s players and coaching staff mobbed him. Their winning streak remained intact. 

November 1, 2020 – Torino 3-4 Lazio 

Arguably the best of the bunch. This time, Lazio were not flying. In fact, the squad was severely depleted coming into this game.  

With several players ruled out due to returning positive COVID-19 tests, along with other players missing out with injuries, Lazio looked short of options for this clash in Turin. 

After taking an early lead through Andreas Pereira, Lazio conceded twice in four minutes midway through the first half, as Bremer and Andrea Belotti found the net.

Lazio responded early in the second half thanks to a Sergej Milinković-Savić free-kick, but were still searching for a winner when Caicedo was summoned from the bench. 

His introduction did not get the desired result immediately. With two minutes remaining, a defensive error allowed Saša Lukić to put Torino in front once more. Lazio needed a miracle to win from here. 

In the 95th minute, they were given hope. Having looked at the VAR monitor for what seemed an eternity, the referee awarded Inzaghi’s men a penalty for handball, which Ciro Immobile duly dispatched. 

That VAR check meant that there was still time left. Eight minutes into added time, Luis Alberto clipped in a hopeful free-kick, and Wesley Hoedt looped a header towards Caicedo.

His first touch got away from him slightly, but the ball ricocheted back off Tomás Rincón’s shin and into the six-yard box. Caicedo reacted quickest, sliding in with his weaker right foot to fire a shot through the legs of Salvatore Sirigu.

With the squad struggling, Lazio had needed a hero. Once again, Caicedo had delivered at the crucial moment. 

Cometh the hour, cometh the man 

The fourth time came this weekend, of course, at the Stadio Olimpico against Juventus. It is a shame that there have been no fans in the stadiums to witness Caicedo’s latest two goals on this list, but there is little doubt that supporters will have been dancing around their houses when the ball hit the back of the net. 

Some may question whether Caicedo should start more. It is a legitimate query, but it does seem that the striker is much better as an impact substitute, and does not have the same effectiveness when given a starting berth. 

Immobile and Correa appear to be the preferred attacking partnership for now, whilst new signing Vedat Muriqi is still finding his feet but is expected to come good in time. 

Given that they now have three exciting forwards to call upon, fans did wonder whether Lazio would sell Caicedo in the off-season. They opted not to, and it has paid off handsomely.  

He may lack the consistency to warrant more starts, and fans can grow frustrated with his end product at times. Yet the former Manchester City forward has proven his worth to Lazio over the last year. 

When the team are searching for a goal and the clock ticks past the 90-minute mark, there is one player that every Lazio fan wants on the pitch: Felipe Caicedo. 

Sam Brookes

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