Written by: Sam Wilson (@snhw_)
In June 2011, a 32-year-old Miroslav Klose was released from his contract with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich after scoring just one goal in 20 league games in the 2010/11 season. It looked as though Klose was in the twilight of his career and would never again reach the heights he achieved with the likes of Werder Bremen; where he scored 53 Bundesliga goals in 89 games, with a 25 goal in 26 match season in 2005/06.
Klose had fallen behind compatriot Mario Gomez in the pecking order at Bayern and, despite the club’s wishes to potentially extend Klose’s deal, it was concluded that he would be leaving the club on a free transfer. A number of clubs expressed an interest in signing the 32-year-old German but, on his 33rd birthday, Klose officially signed with Serie A side Lazio on a three-year deal.
Although Klose featured in Europa League preliminary matches at the start of the 2012/13 season where, on his full debut with the club, he scored one and asssisted four in a 6-0 win, this piece will focus on the German’s Serie A debut – a trip to San Siro to play an AC Milan side who had won the league the season before.
Milan had a star-studded line-up and their starting XI against Lazio on the 9th September 2011, in the opening game of the 11/12 Serie A season, would see the Rossoneri field the likes of Gennaro Gattuso, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva. Massimiliano Allegri’s Milan were a formidable opponent and the Bianocelesti, who finished in 5th the previous season, would have to be at their best to come away with a positive result.
Klose started up front for Lazio, alongside Djibril Cisse and in front of the likes of Hernanes and Stefano Mauri. The atmosphere in San Siro was incredible; the Rossoneri still embracing the afterglow of their Scudetto the previous May. The crowd was a sea of flags and optimistic faces; Milan ready to try and reclaim their title whilst Lazio looking to break into the top four and qualify for the Champions League.
Lazio kicked off and it wasn’t long before the Biancocelesti began to apply pressure on the reigning champions. Midfielder Cristian Ledesma smashed a long-range attempt just over Christian Abbiati’s crossbar. Milan were then presented with a fantastic chance to take the lead but great goalkeeping from Albano Bizzarri denied Alberto Aquilani the chance to put his side up in a one-on-one scenario.
In the 12th minute, Serie A was introduced to Miroslav Klose when a beautiful pass from Stefano Mauri flew into the German’s path just inside the penalty box, taking it down with his right foot and onto his left, getting goal-side of former Lazio man Alessandro Nesta and shooting with his left foot into the back of the net past Abbiati. Lazio led the champions within 15 minutes and they had, largely, their new striker to thank.
Lazio nearly doubled their lead shortly after when a coming together between two Milan players, Nesta and Abate, gifted Cisse the chance to take a shot from inside the box. His shot was parried by Abbiati and nearly fell for Klose before a fantastic challenge from Luca Antonini denied the German his chance to pounce.
Lazio did manage to double their lead in the 21st minute, when another fantastic ball from Stefano Mauri into the box gifted Cisse the chance to head one home. Everything was going wrong for the hosts in their own iconic stadium and legendary defender Alessandro Nesta was partly to blame for both goals; being sent the wrong way by Klose and beaten in the air by Lazio’s French forward. Cisse celebrated with a series of flips and, after just over twenty minutes, Lazio looked in the driving seat.
Milan quickly pulled one back eight minutes later through Zlatan Ibrahimovic, after a missed interception from Zauri allowed Antonio Cassano to square one for the powerful Swedish striker who made no mistake from a few yards out to give the hosts a lifeline. Replays revealed that Cassano was, in fact, offside but, in a pre-VAR era, a linesman’s mistake remains just that.
AC Milan nearly equalised soon after Ibrahimovic’s goal when a Kevin Prince Boateng shot was tipped just round the post by Bizzarri. From the resulting corner, however, Antonio Cassano rose to meet an Aquilani corner and level things up just 33 minutes into the game. The opening half hour of the season for these two sides had offered a lot and fans on both sides, and from a neutral perspective, had reason to love the game so far.
Just before the half-time whistle, Lazio had a great chance to lead when Djibril Cisse forged a chance for Hernanes who, from 7 or 8 yards out, fired the ball wide.
The second half was a tamer affair and featured a lot less action. Milan started the half well with Antonio Cassano firing just wide in a good chance for the Rossoneri before Kevin Prince Boateng dived in for a header which flew narrowly to the right of Bizzarri’s goal.
Cassano later hit the post after a great pass from Zlatan Ibrahimovic split open the Lazio defence and the Rossoneri were beginning to show their championship quality once again; leaving Lazio to dig their heels in and survive the onslaught.
Lazio had a late chance to take the lead when an over-the-top pass found Djibril Cisse, who took the ball over Abbiati but an immense recovering slide tackle from Alessandro Nesta redeemed the Italian for his earlier errors. Cisse, if not for Nesta, would’ve had an open goal to either score in himself or square for Klose to follow up; as he so often did throughout his career.
At the full-time whistle, the Lazio players applauded the travelling fans and it would be the Biancocelesti who would be the happier of the two teams after this one. Milan, as reigning champions, would have expected to come away with a win at San Siro but a spirited performance from Lazio, and most particularly the attacking combination of Klose, Cisse and Mauri, had gifted the visitors a point.
Miroslav Klose had shown exactly why Lazio made the decision to take on a 33-year-old striker who was considered ‘past his best’. What would follow would be five more years for Klose at Lazio; before retiring at the age of 38. During his time with the club, Klose would scored 54 goals in 139 Serie A matches; including a 15-goal season in the 2012/13 season, in which the club famously lifted the Coppa Italia with a win over fierce rivals Roma in the final.
During his time with Lazio, Klose also broke records for Germany. Prior to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Klose scored his 69th goal for Germany, surpassing Gerd Muller and becoming the nation’s record all-time goalscorer. Klose scored 71 goals for Germany in 137 games but perhaps his most famous came in the 7-1 win over Brazil in the 2014 World Cup. Klose scored Germany’s second and, in doing so, broke Ronaldo’s record of the most World Cup goals, with 16.
Miroslav Klose’s debut was a memorable and hard-fought affair; if not entirely a game of one half. Both sides looked flat in the second half and, spare a few chances, all the action was to be seen in the opening forty-five minutes. Klose was a reliable and formidable threat up top; perhaps catching Milan slightly off-guard. Klose was not yet past his best and still had plenty to offer for the Biancocelesti.