As he watched his penalty cannon off the crossbar, Joaquin Correa’s head sank into his hands.
He wanted this – no, he needed this – to go in.
Correa desperately wanted to dedicate a goal to his grandmother, who passed away recently.
He wanted to be the man to secure a hard-fought win for Lazio against Bologna, after seeing his side come back from behind twice.
But most of all, he needed the goal to help change the narrative that has been building this season: that the Argentine lacks a clinical edge.
There is no doubting Correa’s ability. The fact that Lazio last week handed him a new contract until 2024 after just one year at the club points to that fact.
However, since his superbly taken strike helped the Biancocelesti to a 3-0 win away to Sampdoria on the opening day, the 2019/20 season has been a frustrating one for the 25-year-old.
HOT AND COLD
His debut campaign was one of steady improvement. Coach Simone Inzaghi sensibly took his time introducing the new signing to his team, particularly because he was having to change his role from playing as a winger at Sevilla to operating in a front two in Rome.
Correa’s electric pace and dazzling footwork made him an effective impact substitute in the early months of the campaign, and there were soon loud calls for him to start games more regularly.
He was given those chances from December onwards and his form at the tail end of the campaign suggested that 2019/20 could be the year of his explosion in Serie A.
The undoubted highlight of his first year with the club was his wonderful winner in the Coppa Italia final against Atalanta, a goal that summed up the best qualities of the player in one beautiful move.
Correa used his blistering pace to latch onto a clearance, burst past his marker and then had the composure to take the ball around the goalkeeper and smash home a finish so powerful that it took a defender with it into the back of the net.
PRESSURE IS ON
On Saturday, the forward will line up against La Dea at the Stadio Olimpico for the first time since that glorious night in May, desperately needing to produce another moment of magic to win over the fans once again.
For some, the costly penalty miss in Bologna, which left Lazio five points behind third-placed Atalanta, was the tipping point.
Ten days earlier, Correa put in an admirable shift away to Inter but his wastefulness – and a superb performance from goalkeeper Samir Handanovic – in a first half dominated by Inzaghi’s side ultimately meant they headed back to the capital with nothing to show for their efforts. It was a similar story in Bologna.
Correa has no problem building the champagne tower, but when it comes to placing the final fizzing glass on top, the whole thing comes crashing down far too often.
It’s not just for personal pride that he needs to rediscover the cool and clinical edge he demonstrated in the Coppa Italia final.
Lazio are already far too dependent on the combination of Luis Alberto and Ciro Immobile for goals this season and Inzaghi needs the rest of the team to start contributing too if they are to get their top four quest back on track.
Correa must take on that responsibility and find a way to stay calm when it matters most.
What better way to celebrate his shiny new contract than to reproduce his best moment in a Lazio shirt when Atalanta come to Rome?
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