Old friends they may be, Inter’s clash with Lazio at a hostile Stadio Olimpico was not an affair of niceties. The good guys had an opening sixty minutes to be proud of but caved after Ciro immobile’s equalizer and Lazio made Inter’s porous defense pay with a pair of late goals, handing Simone Inzaghi his first league defeat as Inter boss. The final thirty minutes left a sour taste in the mouths of all involved, however. Lazio’s game-winner came about as Federico Dimarco lay prone to the turf. The Aquile opted to play on and eventually scored on the play, leading to a violent coming together between both teams in Inter’s box. Things culminated after the final whistle when Luiz Felipe was red-carded for an ill-timed celebratory jump onto an understandably upset Joaquin Correa’s back.
But by the time the dust settled, Inter can only blame themselves. The Nerazzurri’s defense was suspect at best and the mental collapse that happened after Immobile’s penalty left the door wide-open for a confident Lazio to take control. The defensive stability that characterized last season is nowhere to be found so far. Inter hasn’t kept a clean sheet since Matchday One and leaks chances (Lazio had 19 shots) at an alarming rate. The situation is by no means hopeless but Inzaghi has to find a fix if Inter’s going to compete for silverware.
Inzaghi was forced into several changes from the first choice XI thanks to the international break. Inter’s South American contingent was only fit enough for the bench, so Ivan Perisic partnered Edin Dzeko up top and Roberto Gagliardini picked up his first start of the season in place of Hakan Calhanoglu. Pedro and infamous Inter killer Felipe Anderson flanked Immobile for Maurizio Sarri’s Lazio, while Toma Basic got a surprise start over Luis Alberto in midfield. Felipe Acerbi was suspended for the hosts.
With stadium capacity increased to 75%, a vibrant stage was set at the Olimpico and the action on the pitch didn’t disappoint. The first real chance came eleven minutes in as a Felipe Anderson cross found Pedro in the center of the box but Milan Skriniar headed the Spaniard’s effort away. Inter was awarded a penalty only moments later when Elseid Hysaj tripped up Nicolo Barella and Perisic confidently dispatched the spot-kick to open the scoring.
Both Anderson and Perisic continued to cause the majority of problems in the final third. The former’s pace and trickery caused Bastoni constant problems and with a better end product, he could have had at least a goal or two. Perisic was also in the mood and forced Pepe Reina into a superb save on a long-range rocket. By the time halftime rolled around, however, the scoreline still read Inter 1, Lazio 0. The hosts had the statistical advantage, holding 56% possession and taking 10 shots (3 on target) compared to Inter’s 6 (2 on target).
Inter came out of the interval on the front foot but failed to conjure up a second, beginning to tire by the hour mark. Lazio was then handed a golden opportunity to draw level out of nothing. Perisic booted a loose ball in the box out for a corner and on the following cross, a Patric header made contact with Bastoni’s outstretched hand. The referee once again pointed to the spot and Immobile buried his 7th of the season.
Serie A top scorer, Ciro Immobile gets his 7th goal of the season pic.twitter.com/pMDVrDQPZj— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 16, 2021
Both managers made a round of changes after the goal. Lazzari and Luis Alberto entered for Lazio while Inzaghi brought on Dumfries, Correa, and Vecino. The momentum, however, was fully in the hands of Lazio. The biancocelesti were forced to wait a little while but had a lead of their own before too long. Felipe Anderson continued his habit of scoring vs the Nerazzurri, this time by slotting home the rebound of an Immobile effort in the 81st minute. Inter was rather perturbed as Dimarco had been on the ground in pain before Lazio began its counterattack but the hosts decided to play on. Dumfries sparked a coming together (and was lucky not to be sent off) when he shoved Anderson as he wheeled away to celebrate.
Felipe Anderson scored to put Lazio up 2-1 with ten minutes to go while an Inter player was down and things got heated pic.twitter.com/GqPf4HkwHf— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 16, 2021
Inter threw numbers forward to find an equalizer of its own but ultimately came up short. Instead, the fourth goal of the evening came in Lazio’s favor when Milenkovic-Savic sealed the victory in the 91st minute.
Sergej Milinković-Savić with a towering header for Lazio pic.twitter.com/KmF1vVgSOL— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 16, 2021
That still wasn’t the end of it, however, and things ended on a rather unhappy note after the final whistle when Luiz Felipe got himself sent off and yet another scuffle ensued.
Handanovic - 5.5: Did well to contain Lazio’s half-chances and hopeful efforts from distance but left a lot to be desired on the game-winner. Can’t leave a rebound like that at this level.
Bastoni - 5: Struggled mightily to contain Anderson and though it’s a harsh rule, should know better than to have his arm outstretched in the box. Inzaghi’s less-stable defensive setup has exposed Bastoni’s weaknesses so far and the youngster (it’s easy to forget he’s just 22) might be in for a learning curve.
de Vrij - 6: Not a great outing from the Dutchman either. Not as much as a liability as Bastoni but never looked comfortable up against Lazio’s attacking trident and lost his mark on several occasions.
Skriniar - 6.5: Made several key blocks to protect Inter’s lead, though his efforts ultimately proved futile. Made 3 clearances, blocked 2 shots, won 4 duels, and made one interception.
Dimarco - 5.5: Lazio’s right back Adam Marusic afforded Dimarco a surprising amount of space but he couldn’t take advantage. The Italian had iffy decision-making and a less-than-stellar final product (only 3 accurate crosses from 12 attempts). He also lost possession a team-high 16 times.
Gagliardini - 5: Easy to forget he was out there. Just 28 touches and a passing accuracy of 84%. Presumably, Inzaghi started him to mark Milenkovic-Savic out of the game (as Kessie did in the Milan/Lazio fixture) but Gagliardini failed to be anywhere near as effective as the Ivorian.
Brozovic - 7 (Man of the Match): Inter’s most consistent performer on Saturday by far. Led the team in touches (95), had a 92% passing success rate, won 6 duels, and had 17 ACCURATE long balls. Put the contract on the table and let him write whatever he wants.
Barella - 5.5: Looked a lot like someone that’s played maybe just a little too much football recently. His sloppiness on the ball was a theme and the Italian registered a 71% passing accuracy and 16 giveaways. Was as energetic as ever but couldn’t quite put it all together.
Darmian - 6: Solid defensively but offered very little going forward. Won 5 duels and made 3 clearances, so not a bad outing by any means.
Perisic - 7: Started in an unusual striker role in a throwback to the Parma and Real Madrid games last season. Became the first player in Serie A history to score a penalty with both feet but failed to do much else afterward. Got very little service and had a mere 23 touches by the time all was said and done. None of that was his fault though and it’s a testament to his quality that he’s so versatile.
Dzeko - 6: Much more effective off the bench than as a starter. Like Perisic he had 23 touches, along with 2 off-target shots. Should be rested midweek so he’s at 100% for Juventus next weekend.
The coming week will only increase in difficulty for Inter. First up is a must-win home game against Sheriff Tiraspol on Tuesday before a visit to Juventus in Turin Sunday evening.
Buckle up folks, we’re in for quite the ride.