Clinical Inter Demolish Lazio to Fly on Top of the Serie A Table

It was the night of “The Pass” at the San Siro as Inter finally succeeded in overtaking cross-town rivals Milan at the top of the Serie A table. They did so at the end of a clinical, no-nonsense performance as they toppled Lazio 3-1, making the best of all their chances and showing a cynicism they had lacked so far in the season.

Simone Inzaghi and his Biancocelesti stood no chance against Antonio Conte’s black-and-blues despite a good start and the ability to be in control of the game at various stages, though they seldom came to threaten the Nerazzurri goalkeeper for real.

Inter, on the other hand, managed to find the back of the net during Lazio’s best moments – twice with Romelu Lukaku and once with Lautaro Martinez. They Lu-La didn’t disappoint when it mattered the most: There is a new capolista in Serie A.

There was only one change for Antonio Conte versus last week’s winning blitz at Fiorentina, with Christian Eriksen replacing injured Arturo Vidal. Ivan Perisic maintained his left wing-back spot ahead of Ashley Young, with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez leading the front line as usual. Between the sticks, Samir Handanovic collected his 500th Serie A cap – the 15th player in history to do so.

Simone Inzaghi offered no surprises in his starting XI either, with Patric preferred to Mateo Musacchio and Wesley Hoedt taking Stefan Radu’s spot as the Romanian didn’t manage to recover from an injury. Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa were Inzaghi’s attacking pair. 

A Lautaro Martinez right-foot effort after 11 minutes was the first chance in the game and it ended not far from Pepe Reina’s right post. The Argentine made himself dangerous again four minutes later as he received a Christian Eriksen filtering pass in the middle of the box, but Wesley Hoedt blocked his way with a brilliant piece of defending.

The same duel took place again on 19 minutes, but this time Hoedt’s last gasp tackle on Lautaro to prevent him from going one-on-one with the keeper resulted in El Toro being pushed down in the box. Referee Michael Fabbri was adamant in allowing a penalty to the Nerazzurri despite Lazio’s vehement protests.

Romelu Lukaku made no mistake from the spot to put Inter ahead in the game and on top of the Serie A table for the first time this season.

It was not like Lazio didn’t show themselves around the Nerazzurri‘s area, however. Indeed, Simone Inzaghi’s Biancocelesti were in control for most of the first half and had a ball possession predominance that peaked at 61% – but Samir Handanovic was well alert and defused both a Manuel Lazzari fast break early in the game and then a Ciro Immobile vicious snapshot on 37 minutes.

Still, Inter were more concrete and clinical in taking advantage of any single Lazio mistake: On 44 minutes, Marcelo Brozovic’s clearance bounced on Manuel Lazzari and somehow ended right on Lukaku’s feet, with the Belgian ready to put it past Reina for the second time. The referee checked for an alleged offside position but then allowed the goal – the 300th in Lukaku’s career.

At half time, Lazio were trailing by two – an extremely severe punishment for Simone Inzaghi’s side.

Inzaghi came up with two changes after the break, substituting Lucas Leiva with Gonzalo Escalante and Wesley Hoedt with Marco Parolo.

The 36-year-old midfielder, in particular, initially seemed to be a good choice – if only because, on 57 minutes, he blocked an Achraf Hakimi shot from point-blank range that could have easily given the Nerazzurri their third.

But Parolo is not a true defender and, when Marcelo Brozovic launched a counterattack and he found himself face to face with Lukaku, he had no answer to the Belgian’s acceleration. Lukaku could thus serve Lautaro Martinez an easy chance to slot the ball home and make it three for Conte’s side. 

That happened just two minutes after Sergej Milinkovic-Savic had given the Biancocelesti an ephemeral hope with a winning free kick that was deflected by Escalante into the back of Handanovic’s net.

Lazio were hit in their best moment but Inzaghi didn’t seem to be wanting to give up: On 70 minutes, he replaced his whole offensive line, throwing Vedat Muriqi and Felipe Caicedo in the mix and eventually also adding a third striker with Andreas Pereira.

None of these moves would succeed in altering the course of the game, however, as Inter retained their two-goal lead and their hard-earned top spot in the Serie A table. They will be holding it at least until next Sunday, when a stellar edition of the Derby di Milano will say a great deal about the future of this thrilling edition of the Italian league.

But while Milan will come to it after a shocking defeat to Spezia and in the aftermath of a challenging Europa League test in Belgrade, the Nerazzurri will have on their side a full week to rest and the confidence of those who are finally performing at their best.



February 14, 2021 – Serie A 2020-2021 Round 22

SCORERS: 21′ Lukaku (I, pen.), 45′ Lukaku (I), 61′ Escalante (L), 63′ Lautaro Martinez (I)

INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Hakimi (91′ D’Ambrosio), Barella, Brozovic, Eriksen (71′ Gagliardini), Perisic (91′ Darmian); Lukaku (91′ Pinamonti), Lautaro Martinez (77′ Sanchez) (Padelli, Radu, Vecino, Kolarov, Sensi, Ranocchia, Young) Coach: Conte
LAZIO (3-5-2): Reina; Patric, Hoedt (46′ Parolo), Acerbi; Lazzari, Milinkovic-Savic, Lucas Leiva (46′ Escalante), Luis Alberto (77′ Pereira), Marusic; Immobile (70′ Muriqi), Correa (70′ Caicedo) (Alia, Furlanetto, Pereira, Lulic, Cataldi, Musacchio, Akpa Akpro, Fares) Coach: S. Inzaghi

REFEREE: Mr. Fabbri from Ravenna
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Lukaku, Hakimi (I), Hoedt (L); Extra Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 3′