Serie B 22/23: SPAL 2-0 Venezia

September 12, 2022

After a frustrating 2-0 loss at home to Benevento last week, Venezia suffered their second consecutive defeat by the same scoreline on Sunday afternoon in their trip to SPAL’s Stadio Paolo Mazza, leaving them stuck on four points through the first five rounds of the 2022/23 Serie B season.

In the early going, Venezia were most threatening on the counterattack, as SPAL’s defense seemed shaky and vulnerable to direct play, in particular when Aaron Connolly and Dennis Johnsen were running at them. In the 10th minute, Johnsen played a low cross into Connolly, who unleashed a fierce shot that appeared to be dipping under the bar, only for ‘keeper Enrico Alfonso to intervene with an excellent save. But further threats were few and far between, as Venezia still have not scored a first-half goal this season.

At the other end, SPAL gradually gained the edge in possession, and they would generate four shots on target in the first half, the most that Venezia have allowed in an opening period this season. Venezia ‘keeper Jesse Joronen was forced into outstanding saves in the 13th minute and 19th minute to keep it scoreless, but on the third effort he would be helpless.

In the 28th minute, SPAL striker Gabriele Moncini was afforded time and space on the left flank to cut inside and deliver a tame but tricky bouncing cross into the box. Federico Proia was making the run to the near post and whiffed on his shot attempt, but the ball unfortunately carried on to Andrea La Mantia, who reacted quickly and poked it inside the post for his fourth goal of the season.

For the fifth straight match, Venezia had conceded the opening goal and would need to come back.

In the 38th minute, Venezia appeared to have equalized, until the goal was disallowed. Once again, it was Connolly causing chaos, as he collected the ball on the left side and without hesitation ran straight at the defense. It took two defenders to stop Connolly’s run, but both defenders were left out of position and on the ground in the process, and when the ball broke loose inside the area, striker Joel Pohjanpalo rifled it into the top corner. It was a sublime finish, and the best demonstration yet of what the former Bayer Leverkusen man can do when given a chance to face goal. But on a VAR check, it was determined that Pohjanplao had been just a step offside on the play, and Venezia would go into half-time down 1-0.

Coming out of the break, Venezia manager Ivan Javorčić switched the team’s shape from a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-1-2. Venezia had been struggling to advance through midfield in the first half, with the team’s most creative player Michaël Cuisance often dropping deep to help and collecting the ball directly from the center-backs, while the point of attack was generally through the wings. With the tactical change, Venezia would sacrifice a defender to add an extra man in midfield, Cuisance would move forward to play as the number 10, and Connolly would come in from the wing to play as an orthodox striker in partnership with Pohjanpalo, forming a talented attacking trident that was aimed directly at the heart of SPAL’s defense. Marco Modolo joined the three-man backline and Tanner Tessmann stepped into midfield while right-back Antonio Candela and Dennis Johnsen came off.

The change did create more possession (from 44% possession in the first half to 53% possession for the match) and opportunities (two shots on target, two shots off target, and no big chances in the first half; four shots on target, five shots off target, and two big chances in the second half), but ultimately Venezia could not break through.

Javorčić took off Connolly early in the 58th minute, and his replacement Andrija Novakovich would immediately spurn two golden opportunities. In the 61st minute, Tessmann popped up on the left side and put Novakovich in behind the defense, but Novakovich could not finish under or over the ‘keeper as he slid out to stop the shot. In the 65th minute, Tessmann was again the provider, this time playing from the center of the pitch and putting Novakovich clear through on goal, but Novakovich would miss the target.

Those would remain Venezia’s two best chances. Over the final 25 minutes, the team’s play was a bit disjointed going forward, while having to respect SPAL’s threats to strike again, seeing Marco Varnier miss a header from close range and substitute Simone Rabbi hit the post.

In the 74th minute, Spanish La Liga veteran Denis Cheryshev came on for his club debut, taking over for Cuisance as the playmaker, but there were would be no more clear-cut chances.

Tessmann would pick up a second yellow card out of frustration and was sent off in the 88th minute, effectively ending any chances of a late comeback.

In the 93rd minute, SPAL would add an insurance goal and kill off the match.

After back-to-back defeats, Venezia return home to Stadio Penzo to face Pisa on 17 September in Giornata 6 of the 2022/23 Serie B season.

SPAL 2-0 Venezia

Scorers: 29’ La Mantia, 90+3’ Finotto

SPAL (4-3-1-2): Alfonso, Dickmann, Varnier, Meccariello, Tripaldelli (80’ Celia), Proia (64’ Zanellato), Esposito, Valzania, Maistro (64’ Rabbi), Moncini, La Mantia (81’ Finotto)
Subs not used: Fiordaliso, Dalle Mura, Prati, Thiam, Peda, Almici, Rauti, Tunjov
Manager: Roberto Venturato

Venezia (4-3-3): Joronen, Candela (46’ Modolo), Wiśniewski, Ceccaroni, Ullman, Črnigoj (87’ Pierini), Fiordilino, Cuisance (74’ Cheryshev), Johnsen (46’ Tessmann), Pohjanpalo, Connolly (58’ Novakovich)
Subs not used: Mäenpää, Svoboda, Zabala, St Clair, Busio, Andersen, de Vries
Manager: Ivan Javorčić