The unpredictability of football was in full display in Rome, as Inter defeated Lazio 3-2 in a game it did not even deserve to draw.
In this make-or-break game for both teams, Simone Inzaghi was glad to have two important squad members back in contention. After Felipe Caicedo took over the main striker role in last weekend’s 2-2 draw at Crotone due to Immobile’s injury, Serie A’s most prolific center forward was ready for this one. Center back Luiz Felipe Ramos Marchi was back from suspension as well. He was joined by Stefan de Vrij, Stefan Radu, Senad Lulic and Adam Marusic in the 3 CB/2 WB formation. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Lucas Leiva, Alessandro Murgia and Felipe Anderson were Lazio’s midfielders, while Strakosha was on goal. Spalleti made only one change to the team that pathetically lost at home to Sassuolo. Milan Skriniar started in place of Ranocchia at center back. The rest of the starting lineup consisted of: Samir Handanovic, Joao Cancelo, Miranda, Danilo D’Ambrosio, Marcelo Brozovic, Matias Vecino, Antonio Candreva, Rafinha, Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.
It was a feisty start to the match. First, Inter attacked. Then, Lazio returned the favour. Ramos Marchi had a terrific chance to open the scoring for the home team, but he somehow missed from close range. A minute later, Lazio had an even better opportunity. Ciro Immobile had an open header right in front of goal, but he failed to change the direction of the ball enough to fool the goalkeeper, who made the save. Moments later, Lazio scored the opener, officially through Adam Marusic, although his shot was going to miss by a lot if it didn’t hit Perisic’s face. It was a huge deflection that took everyone by surprise. The goal was in the net, so The Biancocelesti had the lead.
Vecino was the recipient of the first yellow card of the contest. Lazio tried to play from the back and it almost cost it the equalizer. A lost ball came to Icardi, who was in a great scoring opportunity. His finish left a lot to be desired. It was Inter’s best chance up to that point. In the 25th minute, one of Europe’s most wanted players almost scored from a free kick. Milinkovic-Savic’s brilliant attempt froze the keeper and hit the post. Danilo D’Ambrosio tied the game in the 29th minute. A scramble inside the box after a corner kick led to him kicking the ball from behind Strakosha. He caught the goalkeeper’s face while making the shot, but the referee didn’t think it was a foul despite the complaints from Lazio’s players. Replays showed that it was a regular goal.
A textbook counter attack gave the lead back to Lazio in the 41st minute. Felipe Anderson was the one who started the action from his own half and Felipe Anderson was the one who finished it. The velocity he showcased was really impressive. He turned on the jets, Lulic waited for him to break away and passed the ball in a space where only his running teammate could reach it. The Brazilian controlled the pass and scored with a precise shot in the lower angle. Milinkovic-Savic and Perisic each had an attempt on goal before the half-time whistle sounded.
The first substitution of the fixture was made in the 61st minute when Eder replaced Candreva. Later on, Yann Karamoh came in for Rafinha. The second half was passing in a much calmer pace than the first one. Lazio was still the more active team, with Felipe Anderson and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic by far the most influential players on the green grass at Stadio Olimpico. In the 72nd minute, we had a VAR moment. During a corner kick, one Lazio player hit another one in the arm, prompting the referee to show on the penalty spot. Lazio’s players asked for a review and they got it. Rocchi saw what had occurred and changed his mind, overturning his initial decision.
Ciro Immobile left the pitch in the 75th minute, making way for Jordan Lukaku. Next, it was Radu going off and Bastos coming on. Then, out of nothing there was hope for the visitors. Icardi was fouled inside Lazio’s box and a penalty was awarded. The Argentinian took the shot himself and converted. Right after the restart, Senad Lulic made a stupid tackle on Brozovic that saw him get sent off the pitch. The match turned upside down in a matter of seconds. Everything what happened acted like an energy drink for Inter. Karamoh fired a shot that Strakosha had to save. On the ensuing corner kick, Vecino’s header went in and Inter took a 3-2 lead. Wow!
Inzaghi had to react and he did, sending Nani onto the pitch in place of de Vrij. The stadium was in disbelief. Inter did not deserve to qualify for the Champions League, as Lazio controlled most of the game, yet The Nerazzurri were in a position to claim the berth. The result didn’t change until the end. Inter won. Remember the second leg between Tottenham and Juventus? The Spurs dominated all but five minutes of the match and it was enough for them to be eliminated. We witnessed a similar scenario in Rome, as a couple of reckless mistakes allowed Inter to come back and steal Lazio’s Champions League spot. Justice was not served tonight.