Club Focus – Lazio – Victory against Inter fires warning shot to Serie A

Lazio recorded a magnificent 3-1 over current Scudetto holders Inter under the Friday night floodlights at the Stadio Olimpico. Going into this fixture, both managers could understandably feel the pressure. Edy Reja’s Aquile, despite gathering a few points, were appearing to struggle and Rafael Benitez’ Nerazzurri had suffered a mixed bag of form ever since Jose Mourinho departed in the summer.

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The team who handled the pressure ultimately won the contest, the Biancocelesti came out firing from the start and you sensed it was to be their night. A Jonathan Biabany effort was as close as the visitors came in the pulsating opening stages. Sergio Floccari almost headed Reja’s men into the lead but saw his effort saved by Julio Cesar’s stand in Luca Castellazzi.
Inter got themselves off the hook on that occasion but Lazio did break through on 27 minutes. The goal was credited to Giuseppe Biava, after chaos ensued inside the Nerazzurri penalty area. Hernanes whipped a teasing ball into the danger zone and Floccari, who was giving the Inter defenders a serious headache, got his head to the ball, Castellazzi again saved and as Esteban Cambiasso cleared the ball ricocheted off Biava and into the empty net. The Olimpico became a sea of noise, the Lazio tifosi jubilant as their team were taking the game to their more illustrious opponents. A scrappy goal, yes, but nobody associated with Aquile cared, they were ahead against the reigning champions.
A Wesley Sneijder free kick was as close as the visitors came during the first half, Fernando Muslera did well to save.
Lazio came out firing again in the 2nd half and Mauro Zarate doubled their advantage on 52 minutes. The mercurial Argentinean dribbled past inexperienced Inter full back Felice Natalino and chipped the ball over Castellazzi’s head into the Nerazzurri goal. This goal was just rewards for Zarate who has been playing well for a number of weeks now, it is fitting he chose such a big game to score in. The Brazilian Hernanes was again the provider, sensational stuff from a player who has perhaps struggled of late.
The goal seemed to have knocked the stuffing out of the reigning champions, they tried to push forward, but to no avail. It just did not look as if it was going to happen for Rafa’s troops. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the visitors got themselves a goal. A moment of true quality by the Dutchman Sneijder set former Lazio man Goran Pandev free, the Macedonian almost made a mess of it, but found the net at the second attempt.
Cue a nervous last 15 minutes for the Biancocelesti, as Inter went in search of an equaliser. Cristian Ledesma was sent on to replace Zarate as Reja looked to shut up shop and protect what Lazio had. The Nerazzurri almost got that elusive equaliser, Ivan Cordoba beating everybody but the Aquile goalkeeper, Muslera.
Lazio were again being troubled by Sneijder, the former Real Madrid man seemed to be one of the only Inter players who intended to show Lazio why his team were champions. He cut inside but again Muslera came to Lazio’s rescue, the Uruguayan smothering the shot well.
Then, the sucker punch, the killer goal. Inter gave away a foolish free kick, in Hernanes territory. The former Sao Paulo man dispatched the free kick with aplomb, sealing the victory for Aquile. Cue hysterical scenes inside the Olimpico, the noise was deafening, Lazio had beaten Inter.
It must be said Inter were favourites going into this fixture. Admittedly, they have had their struggles thus far this season. They could use the fact their two deadly forwards Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito were unavailable as an excuse. But, really, the Nerazzurri are champions for a reason and for Lazio to get a victory in this match is a fantastic achievement. It really does send out a message to Serie A, Edy Reja’s men really are going to challenge for the Scudetto.
The S word is however banned at the Stadio Olimpico. President Claudio Lotito claims, whilst he has happy with how the team are performing, Scudetto is a word which will not feature in there vocabulary. Again Lazio play down their season’s ambitions, which begs the question, do they really believe winning Serie A is a possibility? If not, why not? They are right up there going into the holiday season and perhaps the people of Rome and especially those directly associated with Lazio should start believing the impossible could happen.
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