I could feel the tension thousands of miles away as I watched both teams take the field. Here in the states, a snowy, yet sunny backdrop behind me on a Sunday afternoon. The crowd was ready and Conte was sporting the serious black suit. He was ready. The pressure of losing the top spot, now, the pressure of dropping further down the table. All eyes on the Black and Blues indeed.
For my money, the two best defenses in the league and, if I’m speaking honestly, Lazio’s defense outshines all other sides in Serie A. However, the Manchester United transfers made their presence felt early and often. Lukaku was able to find open spaces throughout the first half and Ashley Young’s first half goal seemed to have the team believing that a positive result on the road against a chief rival, and in front of a hostile crowd was possible. Unfortunately, the tide shifts with the unlucky penalty in the 50th minute. A slight bump by Stefan de Vrij was followed by Ciro Immobile’s thunderous right footed penalty shot that shook the bottom right corner of the netting. From then on, as usual, Lazio’s defense emerges as the force field that suffocates opponents until the final whistle.
Every air attempt by Lukaku was thwarted. Every set piece countered. All Lazio had to do was wait for the rare occurrence when Inter lacked judgement or displayed a hint of confusion and, unfortunately, such a moment came from a set piece in the 69th minute. As the ball ping-ponged inside the box, it ended up on the left foot of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and it was 2-1 to Lazio.
Newcomer Christian Erikson and back up Alexis Sanchez were thrown in the game to provide some hope of offensive firepower to penetrate the Lazio defense, but to no avail. The Eagles walk away with all three points and Inter move down to the three spot on the table.
Sunday was a hard fought battle against two incredible teams. But, if you can pick out a bright spot for the Black and Blues, it’s the fact their players can always find space in the opposition’s half anytime they want. But, when Lazio has their defense clicking on all fronts, survival seems to be the best outcome you can hope for. However, the season isn’t over yet but the opportunities for positive results will start to shrink. So, prepare your nerves Inter supporters. This will be a wild finish.