Inter back in 2nd with a 2-1 win over Lazio
Happy Easter to all Interista, and to make the weekend more special Inter managed to claim all three points from Lazio even though we were down to 10 men with goals coming from Sneijder’s 4th of the season and Eto’os 33rd. The downside is after Julio Cesar’s red card it means we are without our first choice keeper for the next game on the bright side its against Cesena. The other piece of bad news is that Stankovic had to go off with an injury. Milan beat Brescia with a late goal to put them back to 8 points ahead though with Palermo beating Napoli we have gone above them to reclaim 2nd place, which if we end up finish there I will be happy considering the bad season we’ve had.
It was end-to-end play in the first half at the Stadio Meazza, with Lazio taking the lead in the 24th minute when Zarate scored from the spot, after being pulled down in the area by Julio Cesar, who was subsequently sent off to leave Inter with ten men. Milito paid the price and was taken off to make way for Castellazzi. They may have been inferior in number, but by no means in spirit and the Nerazzurri equaliser came eventually. On 40 minutes Sneijder made it 1-1 with a perfect free-kick which was out of Muslera’s reach. Then it took a classic super-Eto’o run to leave Dias and Biava for dead before dribbling around Muslera to put Inter 2-1 up in the 8th minute of the second half. Mauri received his marching orders in the 22nd minute of the second half bringing the teams back to ten men apiece.
First half –
To take on Lazio, Inter had Eto’o back in the line-up and Leonardo positioned him alongside Milito, playing in front of Sneijder who liaised between the attack and midfield, while Pazzini started on the bench. For the Biancocelesti, Zarate and Floccari made up the attack. The fans, who are twinned, dedicated the pre-match choreography to the memory of Gabriele Sandri.
Zarate was the first to try out his boots with a long-distance right-footed shot which Julio Cesar punched away two-fisted, before Nagatomo made the final clearance in the 5th minute. From the same position at the other end, one minute later, Eto’o responded with a curling shot off his right instep but it flew wide of the mark. Then the Cameroonian was speeding towards goal once again, only to be intercepted by Floccari who pulled him down at the edge of the area. Morganti decided it wasn’t a foul and Lazio started off again. Zarate showed he could be dangerous in the penalty box on 15 minutes as jinked his way past Maicon and then Lucio, leaving Ranocchia’s timely intervention to save the day. Eto’o passed to Stankovic who was looking for his first goal against his old side and his shot, from well out, sped over the bar after 19 minutes.
After only 22 minutes’ play, Inter were down to ten men when Julio Cesar was sent off. The Brazilian keeper came off his line to take on Zarate who was looking like scoring and seemed to have made contact. Morganti was in no doubt and pointed to the spot, from which Zarate duly scored, 0-1. Milito too, paid the price when he was taken off to allow Castellazzi to take over in goal. Inter were in no mood for giving up though, and it was up to Sneijder to find the equaliser. He tried with a free-kick which Ranocchia almost got to, forcing Dias to concede a corner on 26 minutes and with a low, hard, right-footed effort which Muslera needed all his skill to save on 28 minutes.
He finally managed to break through after 40 minutes. Bresciano had fouled Eto’o just outside the area and the Dutchman stepped up to curl the ball over the wall, into the top left-hand corner of the net, out of the Biancoceleste keeper’s reach and brought the teams level at 1-1.
Morganti signalled two minutes of added time, but Lichtsteiner had time enough to find Floccari with an inch-perfect cross and it was only Nagatomo’s timely interception that prevented it from reaching the net. In the clash Castellazzi took a nasty knock on the right leg.
Second half –
The second half got underway without any changes being made to the teams, however after 7 minutes Stankovic pulled up with muscle problems and had to be taken off with Mariga coming on in his place. It was beginning to look like yet another unlucky day for the Nerazzurri, but then Eto’o popped up to change the face of the game.
He picked up a through ball from Zanetti perfectly and capitalised on Biava’s slip to dribble past Dias. He took the ball wide of Muslera and slotted it home with his left instep to put Inter into the lead at 2-1. In the 13th minute Lucio missed Lichtsteiner’s cross and Floccari was unmarked in front of goal, but the ball ended up in the side-netting. Leonardo asked Sneijder who wasn’t fully fit to make the sacrifice, but it was Eto’o who gave the ball away in midfield and the equaliser was looking very much on from Zarate’s volley, but he didn’t managed to put it away with only Castellazzi to beat. In the 21st minute Nagatomo fouled Mauri who reacted and kicked out at the Japanese defender, sending him reeling. He was shown the red card and that evened the numbers at ten men apiece. On the half hour mark, Lazio came close to equalising once again. Brocchi crossed and Zarate chested down only for Kozak to smash his shot against the bar.
Inter came back though and Zanetti laid off a perfect ball for Maicon who was only denied by Muslera’s superb save. Morganti indicated that there were five minutes of added time to play, but Inter kept their wits about them as they tried to make it three. This wasn’t to be but they did pick up the three points to take them onto 66 and back up to second place behind AC Milan.
Inter 2-1 Lazio (HT: 1-1)
Scorers: 24 Zarate (pen), 40 Sneijder, 53 Eto’o.
Referee: Emidio Morganti (Ascoli Piceno).
Booked: Garrido 38, Leonardo 42, Zarate 50, Mariga 62.
Sent off: Julio Cesar 22, Mauri 66.
Added time: 2 + 5 minutes.
1 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 6 Lucio, 15 Ranocchia, 55 Nagatomo; 4 Zanetti, 19 Cambiasso, 5 Stankovic (17 Mariga 52); 10 Sneijder (20 Obi 78); 22 Milito (12 Castellazzi 23), 9 Eto’o.
Unused subs: 7 Pazzini, 23 Materazzi, 26 Chivu, 27 Pandev.
86 Muslera; 2 Lichtsteiner, 3 Dias, 20 Biava, 14 Garrido (9 Rocchi 81); 23 Bresciano (32 Brocchi 71), 24 Ledesma; 6 Mauri; 8 Hernanes; 10 Zarate, 22 Floccari (18 Kozak 70).
Unused subs: 12 Berni, 5 Scaloni, 15 Gonzalez, 81 Del Nero.
Coach: Edoardo Reja.
Leonardo was unsurprisingly extremely satisfied after Inter’s 2-1 win against Lazio: “It was a special win today: down to ten men, a penalty and a goal behind, so to win in this way was an immense achievement. It was game won by everybody giving everything. Now we need to keep stringing these results together; that’s all that counts. Just look at how some of the other games have gone today.”
The Nerazzurri coach was asked about the future of this Inter team: “Now is not the time to be thinking about the future. It’s been a strange season, the team’s rhythm has been broken up by lots of injuries and also by the change of coach, but the team’s heart has always been there. This side is built on firm foundations and those will remain, but of course you can always improve. However, as I said, we mustn’t be thinking about the future now: we have the run-in to concentrate on. My own future? My relationship with Inter has never changed; it’s just the same. So I’m not worried about that. All I’m thinking about is the end of this season and concentrating on our achieving our goals. I have an agreement with the club and I’m working to reach the team’s targets. Really, nothing has changed since 6 January. I’m just going forward and working for the good of Inter. I’m not going to put my own situation before that of the club or the team. I have an agreement and I’m very happy here. Everything is clear and we have a great relationship, and I hope that will always remain, with the same enthusiasm as there was at the start. I want to win, I’m spurred on by enthusiasm, I’m getting to know the squad better and better and so I’ll go on like this.”
Finally, Leonardo was asked if he still hoped Inter could win the Scudetto. “Honestly, yes…” the coach rounded off with a grin.
Fresh off the pitch, Javier Zanetti commented on Inter’s hard-fought win over Lazio, speaking to Sky Sport Italia: “This win was down to the whole team, a match we won with character. This is a team that never gives up and everyone could see that. We beat a tough Lazio side and after everything that happened. We’re really pleased.”
Esteban Cambiasso commented on the win over Lazio: “There was a point when everything seemed stacked against us but we didn’t lose our heads. We stayed calm and did everything we could to get back in the game. And we managed it. This group is compact and you can see that. We’re able to come up with lots of different solutions, as we proved again today. That’s a great resource.”
“That was a fantastic game; it was incredible to come back like that,” declared Luca Castellazzi. “Despite the pain in my thigh,” he continued, “I’m really very happy. We found the strength we needed and we showed great belief to respond in that way. We needed that result against a direct rival. The greatness of a group can also be seen in times of difficulty, and we are a great group. A group with immense qualities.”
“It wasn’t easy going behind with a man down but the team responded superbly. I thought the players were a bit tired but they made up for their understandable fatigue with their character. The team were always in the game physically and that’s something that will be important over the remaining games.” Speaking to Inter Channel, president Massimo Moratti commented on how his Inter team performed as they came back to win against Lazio after Zarate had put the visitors in front from the spot. “It was a demonstration of our strength on many levels: we saw a team that played their football intelligently without panicking, because at no point did they lose their heads or were they out of the game. That’s a big plus in a team of champions like this. There are reasons why this side has won everything over the last five years, and that is one of them.”
Thanks to the results in the other games played so far in Serie A Week 34, Inter’s league position already looks better, sitting as they now are in second place. “If we hadn’t had that terrible week we’d be in a different situation now – which just goes to show that defeats in this period can prove crucial even for sides that haven’t been struggling for the previous five or six months. This is a tough league. As things stand we’re second, unfortunately some way behind AC Milan, but we’ll try to defend our position and see how it ends up.”
The president was asked to rate Yuto Nagatomo, a player who combines physical strength with tactical awareness and a great sense of humour: ” He’s a smart lad because he’s learning things every day and putting into practice really well what he’s being taught in a new team. He also knows how to create space and defend well: usually when you have a pacy full-back everyone assumes they are good going forward but not much cop defensively, yet he is a fantastic full-back; he intercepts balls played into the box for the opposition’s forwards. He has lots of qualities and he has opened the door to Eastern football for us, which is brimming with talent.”
What does president Moratti expect from his Inter team at the end of this season? “I wasn’t demanding too much from them all because I think they have given and continue to give a lot. However, I do expect – and I hope we don’t have to sweat too much – to qualify for the Champions League.”
Inter played exceptionally well and didn’t lose their heads when Julio Cesar was sent off and for a change I get my pre match prediction right! So with 4 games to go we’ve got ourselves back in 2nd which realistically is the best we can hope for this season but you never know the 8 points Milan have over us is still achievable with a lot of luck. Either way everyone at Inter and all us Interista can hold our heads high.