The Serie A leaders were determined to grab all three points to fly ahead of second place Milan and faltering third place Juventus, but it was not a typical David and Goliath match. Eight degrees below zero was also a factor that grinded down on the players for 90 minutes. The first few minutes of the match showed a very determined and stubborn Lazio squad fervently try to score, as Stephan Lichsteiner was sending well placed crosses into Inter’s box for most of the first-half. However, Inter began their attack as well, seeing a decent long shot by Thiago Motta in the fourth minute. The difference between the two teams came in the 13th minute – a cross by Dejan Stanković found Samuel Eto’o, who headed the ball directly at ‘keeper Fernando Muslera. The save would be in vein as the Cameroon striker took advantage of the rebound and put the ball in the back of the net with a close range shot.
The rest of the game was a host of decent play by both sides but yielded no results. A free kick from Roberto Baronio in the 35th minute found Mourad Meghni, but the shot was just wide. Another set piece from Diego Milito in the 38th miute was placed in front of Esteban Cambiasso but the Argentinean midfielder rushed the shot and the ball fell into Muslera’s hands.
The second half was not dazzling to any extent. Eto’o had a fast break on the right side into the box but the attempt was too high. Inter’s No.9 would continue to be a nuisance to l’Aquile’s defense, dribbling into the box in the 62nd minute, but stopped Stefan Radu, who proved a huge factor in holding the Milanese giants to one goal. Former Nerazzurro Julio Cruz had a shot in the 87th minute from long range but the ball was wide.
Iván Córdoba: “If we’d scored another goal it would have been better, but the important thing was to get the three points,” he reiterated. “The weather influenced the movement, the pitch, all those factors that are going to influence the game. It’s having an influence now, just speaking.”
Davide Ballardini: “This is Lazio, and the points total we have now is what we have deserved. We have difficulties at the moment, but these are difficulties we will overcome together.”
For a team of low standing in Serie A, Lazio made the defending champions work for the win. Regardless of their efforts, Inter were fortunate to have Eto’o catch a lucky rebound and a ‘keeper out of position to seal the match. Other than the former Barcelona striker’s shining moment, this game was filled with long range shots going well wide, wasted possession, and some sloppy defending.
Unlike most of the Nerazzurri’s games, this particular match did not involve long through passes by Motta or Cambiasso, but more crosses and head-on dribbling into the box, especially by Milito. Lazio’s defence proved to be more consistent in many plays – Lichtsteiner’s crosses were well placed and many of them found Stefano Mauri and Tommaso Rocchi. However, the Biancocelesti’s season could be summed up in this game – unlucky. The visitors clearly had the capability to challenge the more consistent opponent, but mistimed shots, opportunities unseen, and a somewhat lackluster forward line left Lazio, once again, at the lower end of the Serie A table. Midfield effort was very good, and defence, particularly Radu, kept Inter at bay for the rest of the match. But long range shots and dissipated plays would not challenge Júlio César. Nor would Meghni and Rocchi missing chances help the team edge closer to being put on the scoreboard. Despite a very trying and valiant team executing a decent effort against the Serie A leaders, Lazio will still hold the record of 3 goals in their last 8 games.
Besides the goal in the 14th minute, Inter did not seem to turn up the offense until the beginning of the second half. Cambiasso and Milito provided the only near-goal opportunities. The former’s free-kick and the latter’s numerous dribbles were as close as the Nerazzurri would get to another goal. The Milan giants did not play to their full potential as their offense was rather bland and their defense almost cost them dearly. They claimed the three points but only by the margin of one opportunity taken.
Overall, both teams did well in not letting in fast breaks, long balls, or the occasional long shot. Most of the play was continuous possession changes at the edge of the box. This was a combination of decent defending by the Roman side and a rather one sided offense from their opponents. For a team at that is faltering heavily, especially compared to their performances last year, the team that played today seemed like a lively, capable, and potentially middle echelon squad. Yet their ability to actually finish is where their fault lies – a decent attack is just dissipated by the opponent’s defence every time. While Inter proved that they have their own faults, Lazio must work on their ability to be rewarded for their offensive build-up if they want to climb out of not only a 15 match winless drought, but a goal drought as well. Inter are now eight points ahead of Milan and nine points against faltering rivals Juventus, while l’Aquile are a mere three points clear of the relegation zone.
Inter 1-0 Lazio – Eto’o 14
Inter (4-3-1-2): Júlio César – Maicon, Lúcio, Córdoba, Muntari (Vieira 26) – Zanetti, Cambiasso, Thiago Motta – Stanković – Eto’o (Balotelli 86), Milito (Materazzi 88)
Lazio (3-4-2-1): Muslera – Siviglia, Stendardo, Radu – Lichtsteiner – Baronio, Kolarov, Del Nero (Makinwa 80) – Meghni (Cruz 58), Mauri – Rocchi
5- Corners – 2
15 (4) – Shots (on target) -12 (1)
20 – Fouls – 19
2 (0) – Yellow Cards (Red) – 4 (0)
1 – Offsides – 4