Table-topping Inter played hosts to a struggling Lazio side in the final Serie A match of the year. A win would see the Nerazzurri end the year with a four point gap over Fiorentina and Napoli, while a loss would see the chasing pack breathing down their necks when the league starts up again.
Mancini went with his attacking 4231 lineup, with Montoya, Miranda, Murillo, and Telles in front of Handanovic, and Medel and Melo patrolling the space in front of them. The front four were made up of Biabiany, Jovetic, Perisic, and Icardi.
The game started on a concerning note; Handanovic tried to dribble around Matri and luckily the striker was not able to put the ball in the back of the net. Within the first 5 minutes Lazio still took the lead through a Candreva first-time shot from a corner. From there Lazio could sit back and try to hit Inter on the counter either through long balls to Matri or by utilizing the pace of Anderson and Candreva. Speaking of Anderson while he apparently had come into the match in poor form he had fun tearing down Inter's right flank numerous times. Montoya was burned quite a few times and it looked like Mancini made a poor choice to play such an attacking fullback against the winger.
Another poor tactical decision that was apparent throughout the first half was deciding to play a midfield pair of Medel and Melo. The two of them are not particularly known for their passing so all Lazio had to do was leave them space and use the extra men to strangle Biabiany, Jovetic, and Perisic in order to cut off any Inter attacks. In fact, their trying to be creative led to a number of hazardous and often misplaced passes that caused Lazio counterattacks, one of which almost lead to a goal in the 43rd minute. The match was calling for the introduction of Brozovic and most expected him to be brought on at halftime, at the expense of either one of the attacking wingers or Melo (don't worry, we'll get to him later). That did not happen, though Brozovic and Ljajic were introduced 11 minutes into the second half (for Biabiany and Jovetic).
A few minutes before the substitution the referee gave Inter an indirect free-kick around six yards out due to a goalkeeper back pass. There were some questions as to if this qualified as a back pass and whether the free-kick should be taken from where the defender made the pass or where the keeper picked it up (I though the ref got it wrong and it should have been where the keeper picked it up). Though the referee's placement of the free-kick was advantageous to Inter, they were unable to take advantage. In the 61st minute Inter were level though, a Perisic through ball found Icardi who was able to slot the ball between the keepers legs into the goal. At this point the momentum was with Inter who were pushing for the winning goal but Lazio seemed to be holding on.
Now we have to talk about Melo. His performance had not been all that great the entirety of the match at this point. His passes had been erratic and had committed a couple of pointless fouls. Most fans would not have been opposed to pulling him at halftime for Brozovic, and then in the 87th minute another one of his challenges lead to a Lazio penalty. Handanovic did his best to atone for Melo's mistake by saving the spot kick but the rebound fell back to Candreva who was able to reestablish Lazio's lead. At this point, with Inter trailing Mancini turned to Palacio for a late goal, but instead of pulling the man whose head was looking out of the game, he subbed out an attacking fullback in Telles. That decision proved to be comically bad when less than a minute later, Melo kicked high for a ball only to bring his foot down right on Biglia's shoulder and received a straight red card.
Though Melo had a disastrously bad match, the Brazilian still is useful to Inter. He has had a number of good performances so far with this team and his time playing elsewhere showed us that he was prone to having explosive moments like he had today. If anybody should be blamed it is Mancini for not recognizing that Melo was a ticking time-bomb and removing him.
This match brings 2015 to a close for Inter. Though this loss hurts, the team is still Serie A winter champions. Hopefully the squad learns from this match and starts 2016 even stronger, because the rest of the season will be a war, not only for the Scudetto, but for Champions League spots.