Lazio Jump To Second Place After Win Against Inter

“Before, you guys were much looser,” hinted Sky Sport Italia presenter Fabio Caressa at Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi.

“Now, one point from Juventus, at this stage of the season.. There isn’t really mental lightness, right?”

Inzaghi – after a light chuckle – had a response that reflected his pragmatist thinking as a manager.

“We talk with the players often about this. We know the journey that we have done so far. It’s been four years of continuing growth, with trophies, with thrilling evenings. But now, we are there. We must stay there, knowing that every Sunday the Serie A league lays out many traps on the way.”

Indeed, the journey that Lazio had made under Inzaghi is one to admire. Inzaghi, in reality, shouldn’t be on the Lazio bench. The managerial job at Lazio was given to the crazy, revolutionary Argentine Marcelo Bielsa. Two days after signing with Lazio, Bielsa walked out on the club, citing his frustration with the club’s inability to sign the players he desired.

Inzaghi, already a club legend at Lazio as a former player, took the helm. That was in July 2016.

Now, after four years of building and tweaking his squad to his liking, Italy, Europe and the rest of the world are beginning to take notice and enjoy this exciting Lazio squad causing chaos in Serie A’s hierarchy.

The interview between Caressa and Inzaghi took place shortly after Lazio had come from behind to beat Inter Milan – another title contender this year – at the Olimpico in Rome. Flipping the game on its head isn’t something new to Lazio; they had already had four comeback wins in the league this year. The Biancocelesti don’t seem to give up on games that easily this season.

The match saw equal spells of dominance by both sides, but it was clear that Inzaghi and his counterpart, Antonio Conte, were well aware of the magnitude of this match. Therefore, in the first half, each team had one real chance at scoring.

For Lazio, it came early through their midfielder Sergej Milinković-Savić, who fired an unstoppable shot from outside the box that flew past Inter keeper Daniele Padelli (who gave up on the ball and thought it was going in), only for the ball to rebound off the crossbar and get cleared by the Inter defense. The Inter chance came a few minutes after Lazio’s when Romelu Lukaku smashed one of his famous left-footed shots in an Inter counter-attack which had Albanian goalie Thomas Strakosha waiting to clear it out for a corner.

Then, as everybody was expecting to go in the dressing rooms with the score tied, Inter’s Antonio Candreva cannoned a shot in Strakosha’s direction, which ultimately fell into one of Inter’s January acquisitions Ashley Young, who volleyed the ball past the Albanian to make it 0-1 for the visitors.

The Lazio faithful were in disbelief. Was this the moment that would make everything crumble? Has the journey been too good to be true? One man did not raise the white flag.

“At halftime, I said that if we continued to play like that with a little more quality in the final ball, we could turn this around and win the game,” Inzaghi said in the interview with Caressa.

Inzaghi believed his squad could turn the match on its head, and so they did.

Five minutes after the start of the second half, the comeback was on. Lazio earned a penalty thanks to the clumsy defending by ex-Laziale Stefan De Vrij, who bundled over Lazio’s top-scorer Ciro Immobile and caused him to fall down in the penalty box, forcing the referee Gianluca Rocchi to give a penalty for the hosts. The Serie A capocannoniere Immobile – with 25 goals to his name – wasn’t going to miss this chance to increase his tally. And he didn’t.

With the scoreline tied at 1-1, the only beneficiary from this result would be Juventus, who had won earlier over Brescia and regained the top spot. Had the result finished as a draw, the Old Lady would be two points ahead of Inter and three of Lazio. Either the Biancocelesti or the Nerazzurri had to take the risk in order to get the win and shorten the gap between them and Juve. Lazio were up for the task.

Twenty minutes after scoring the equalizer, Lazio found the key to unlock Inter’s defense yet again, this time through midfielder Sergej Milinković-Savić, who was eventually voted as Sky’s man of the match. Lazio’s Luis Alberto played a corner that ended up reaching teammate Adam Marušić, who shot the ball and thought he had scored, only for Inter captain Marcelo Brozović to clear the ball off the line.

Inter thought that the danger was over. However, the clearance reached Milinković-Savić (or The Sergeant), who did some trickery to place the ball on his weaker left foot, and managed to shoot the ball past the wall of Inter players. Before he knew it, Inter keeper Daniele Padelli saw the ball rolling past him and couldn’t react in time to save it. Lazio had turned it around just as their manager expected them to do.

What this win means is that, with 14 rounds left to go and with a match against Juventus in April, Lazio have their destiny in their hands. If Lazio manage to win all their remaining games, the Biancocelesti will be crowned champions of Serie A at the end of the season; something that hasn’t happened since they last won the title in the beginning of the century.

Certainly, doubters of Simone Inzaghi didn’t expect him to reach this stage when he was appointed as permanent manager in 2016.

The season is long, though. The Scudetto is anyone’s at the moment. Let’s make sure to enjoy what’s left of this fantastic Serie A campaign so far!