Schedule confusion and COVID outbreaks across Serie A have led to a rather tumultuous opening week of 2022, but luckily the most important constant of all remained the same; Inter in the win column. The Nerazzurri claimed an eighth straight league victory with a dominant and yet nervy (this is Pazza Inter after all) 2-1 win over Lazio. Ciro Immobile’s out-of-the-blue equalizer made the good guys sweat, but ultimately a super attacking effort from Alessandro Bastoni and Milan Skriniar’s game-winner proved the difference.
Inzaghi had almost the entirety of his squad to choose from, with the exception of a suspended Hakan Calhanoglu. Edin Dzeko was fit for the bench after returning from COVID-19, so Inter went with a front two of Lautaro and Sanchez. Roberto Gagliardini was given the nod in midfield over Arturo Vidal, while Denzel Dumfries retained his starting spot from Matteo Darmian.
The opening ten minutes saw Inter hold the vast majority of possession, albeit without much final third activity. The first clear cut chance of the evening came fourteen minutes in with Dumfries putting a close range effort wide off a Sanchez cross. Ivan Perisic missed a similar attempt a few minutes later but all seemed forgiven when Lautaro cooly steered the ball into the back of the net on a one v one with Thomas Strakosha, once again sparked by a Sanchez assist. VAR, however, had other ideas and ruled the goal out for a very marginal offside on Lautaro in the 19th minute. Missed chances continued to be a dominant theme of the game. Stefan de Vrij put a point-blank header wide while Strakosha acrobatically saved a Lautaro volley. The Nerazzurri finally got its opener in the 30th minute via a moment of brilliance from Alessandro Bastoni.
This one counts!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 9, 2022
Alessandro Bastoni gives Inter the lead, the technique on that finish pic.twitter.com/jhiTfpHb6z
But despite all of the work put into taking it, Inter’s lead didn’t last long. A defensive miscue was pounced upon by Immobile in the 35th minute, and with Handanovic in no man's land, the Italian slotted home into an empty net.
Mr. Lazio! Ciro Immobile levels it up pic.twitter.com/ih4if0IH1H— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 9, 2022
The Nerazzurri looked taken aback and limped into halftime with the score level, though it controlled just about every statistic from the first half. Inter had 69% possession and 10 shots (2 on target) compared to just one Lazio shot. A 1-0 scoreline would have flattered the side from Rome, let alone an even boxscore.
Inter once again controlled the ball after the break but this time Lazio had the first real chance. A cross fell to Sergej Milinkovic Savic eight yards out but his wayward finish managed to go out for a throw-in. Inter began to apply full pressure on Lazio’s goal by the hour mark and created a handful of chances within minutes. Sanchez saw a freekick destined for the upper ninety pawed away by Strakosha in the 63rd minute. Dumfries was next in line to try and break through the visitors but Lazio’s Albanian keeper again came up big, smothering a one-v-one with the Dutchman. The rebound fell to Perisic, but Lazio somehow cleared the Croatian’s effort off the line. Inter couldn’t be kept out forever, however, and got their second in the 67th minute via a peach-perfect Bastoni cross and thunderous Milan Skriniar header.
Alessandro Bastoni finds his other center back Milan Škriniar and Inter take the lead again pic.twitter.com/7nuJ60XUi4— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 9, 2022
Though it made its best efforts, Inter couldn’t quite add an insurance goal to its tally, so the door was still cracked open for Lazio in the final few minutes, if only barely. The Biancocelesti threw numbers forward but ultimately proved unsuccessful in its attempts to snatch a late and underserved leveler. The visitors’ best chance came in the 86th minute when Immobile almost latched onto a through ball behind Inter’s defense. Luckily Handanovic was alert to the danger and quickly closed down Lazio’s skipper, allowing Inter to escape a late Aquile surge unscathed.
Handanovic - 6: Left a bit to be desired on Lazio’s goal but that was more due to a general defensive chaos than Handanovic. Didn’t do much for the rest of the ninety but his late save on Immobile atoned for the earlier mistake.
Bastoni - 8 (Man of the Match): One goal and one assist from *checks notes* center back Bastoni. The Italian had a rough start to the season but Inzaghi’s focus on a more diverse attacking cast has taken him to the next level. Bastoni’s left foot is unmatched and you won’t see many better crosses than the one for Skriniar’s goal.
de Vrij - 6: Lazio’s goal didn’t paint de Vrij in a positive light but he was clean in possession (passing accuracy of 95% and six completed long balls), won five duels, and made five clearances.
Skriniar - 7.5: Lost track of Immobile of Lazio’s goal but more than made up for it with the match-winner. Also went four for four on long balls, won six duels, and made six clearances.
Perisic - 6.5: Better finishing would have seen Perisic add a goal or two to his tally but he still put in a performance to be proud of. The Croatian had two key passes, won five duels, and made 3 tackles
Gagliardini - 7: I won’t lie, seeing Gagliardini’s name in the team sheet did not fill me with confidence. He proved all of his doubters wrong, however, and was a key force in the center of the park. Milimkovic-Savic had a peripheral impact in large part thanks to Gagliardini.
Brozovic - 7: What else is there left to say? Brozovic is by far the most important player on this Inter side and he continues to show that week in and week out. He led the team in touches (121) and accurate passes (95), went 9/10 on long balls, made 3 interceptions, and won 5 duels against Lazio.
Barella - 6: A busy if not completely effective outing from Barella. He had just the seventh most touches on Inter and an 87% passing accuracy, but he was frequently in the middle of the action nonetheless.
Dumfries - 6.5: Dumfries continues to grow into his own at Inter. Whereas in previous big games he had been a late sub for Darmian and cost Inter control of the game, this time the roles were reversed (minus the late-game chaos). Dumfries was rock solid on both sides of the ball and fully deserves the starting job. His improvement recently has been a joy to witness.
Lautaro - 6.5: Unlucky not to score but this time it was thanks to a tight offside call and some superb goalkeeping than any wayward finishing. El Toro linked up well with Sanchez and hopefully the goals start coming Wednesday against Juve.
Sanchez - 7: Would have had an assist if not for Lautaro’s marginal offside and was a constant threat in the final third. His recent form may have put rumors of a January exit to bed, and if so, I won’t have any complaints. Fitness is definitely a concern but it’s going to be hard to find anyone else near his level with Inter’s budget.
Inzaghi - 7: The recent recipient of the December coach of the month award hardly put a foot wrong against his old club. Gagliardini over Vidal was a questionable call but the former’s lock on SMS and the latter’s sloppiness in his limited minutes proved Inzaghi right. Dumfries and Sanchez may not be in the first choice XI either, but they too were more than up to the task. Inzaghi also used his subs to good effect, giving Lazio’s defense something else to think about with the introduction of Lautaro and Dzeko while he closed out the game with Darmian’s entry.
The Nerazzurri regained first place from Milan with the three points, bringing Inter’s total haul up to 49 points. The Rossoneri are lurking just one point back having played a game extra, while Napoli (43 points) and Atalanta (41) round out the top four.
Inter is back in action Wednesday with the Supercoppa against Juve before a visit to Atalanta on Sunday.