Entertainment was in short supply for most of the proceedings at San Siro on Sunday night with Inter and Lazio fighting hard for the entire ninety minutes of the closing match of the Serie A matchday 17.
With plenty at stake for both sides which entered the derby match in contrasting forms, the game between Inter and Milan was expectedly short of flair and excitement for much of the showings.
Tight marking and high pressing at both ends made it hard for the teams to develop amusing football for the crowd in Milano. The total of 16 fouls after only 45 minutes make proof for the intercepted performance that was at display, and both Inter and Lazio have little to boost for after their uninspiring encounter.
It all started within five minutes of the game when the skilfully executed corner kick routine resulted in a goal for Candreva, who rifled a first-time shot that goes into the bottom right corner and past Samir Handanovic.
The Slovenian shot-stopper could’ve ended the game right at the beginning with his clumsy and indecisive challenges, but luckily enough a deflected ball from his gawky clearance bounced away to Miranda instead of Matri.
Only one shot at goal was recorded at the half-hour mark, fairly uneventful first half was ended with a great chance from the away team, which missed a huge chance to increase their lead just before the interval.
Antonio Candreva picked up a bounce ball inside the six-yard box and fired the ball high over the crossbar. Lazio could have ended the game in the first half against the wasteful home side, who had not fired a single shot on target for the entire 45 minutes.
Roberto Mancini has apparently done some team talking in the locker room as Inter came out dedicated and set on making something out of the remaining 45 minutes of the game.
I Nerazzurri have notched back-to-back triumphs prior to the match against Lazio, against Genoa (1-0) and Udinese (4-0). Criticised for their defensive style during the ongoing season, Mancini’s men have displayed some pretty offensive performances in their last Serie A game, and have continued in same spirits in Coppa Italia against Cagliari, having scored three to ease their way into the quarter-finals of the competitions.
The fans have surely expected to see another attack-oriented performance from their team, but were made to wait until the last 30 minutes of the match for some real excitement.
The team’s captain Mauro Icardi stepped up under the limelight scoring in his second consecutive Serie A game for the first time this season. The Inter forward was skilled to avoid an offside trap and pick up on a killer pass from Perisic to find himself one-on-one with Lazio goalkeeper who stood no chance against the precise shot into the left bottom corner of the goal.
Couple of minutes prior to the equalizing goal Roberto Mancini had made two timely tactical changes in his team by bringing on Adem Ljajic for Stevan Jovetic and Marcelo Brozovic for Jonathan Biabiany.
Serbian playmaker has been in superb form for the past few weeks and was expected to start the Sunday game, but his introduction has added a breath of fresh air and injected Inter’s play with flair.
All of the efforts from the home team were undone in the closing stages of the game, however, due to reckless Felipe Melo whose rough challenge inside the penalty area on 87 minutes was called a foul by the referee Paolo Mazzoleni, who pointed towards the white spot.
Antonio Candreva wasted his opportunity as his attempt was blocked by Samir Handanovic, who pulled a superb save. However, the ball rebounded to Lazio player and Candreva fired home for his second of the game.
Nervous and apparently anxious Melo committed a rough foul only three minutes after conceding a penalty, and his challenge belonged to a different kind of sport. Having kicked a Lazio player high in the air, the Brazilian was shown a red card.
Another player received his marching orders only two minutes later. This time it was Lazio player, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic who was cautioned for his reckless play.
Huge importance and competitive significance of the game were too much for the players to handle, great deal of tension and pressure were shown at both sides.
Lazio were ultimately awarded for their fighting spirit, there were no changes to the result in the final moments of the game and Inter were left with 36 points at the top of the table. Nerazzurri have missed the change to keep the four-point advantage over Fiorentina during the festive period and Scudetto race is back to square one.
On the other side, Lazio have made a huge step with their hard-fought win, leapfrogging Udinese, Chievo and Torino to the tenth place in the standings and the best possible Christmas present.
INTER (4-2-3-1): Handanovic 6.5 – Montoya 6, Miranda 6.5, Murillo 6.5, Telles 7.5 (Palacio 6) – Melo 5, Medel 6.5 – Biabiany 6 (Brozovic 6.5), Jovetic 6.5 (Ljajic 6.5), Perisic 7 – Icardi 7.
Unused subs: Carrizo, D’Ambrosio, Guarin, Jesus, Kondogbia, Manaj, Nagatomo, Dodo, Santon.
LAZIO (4-3-3): Berisha 6 – Konko 7, Mauricio 7, Hoedt 6.5, Radu 6.5 – Milinkovic-Savic 7, Biglia 7, Parolo 7 – Candreva 8 (Gabarron 6), Matri 6.5 (Djordjevic 6), Anderson 7 (Keita 6).
Unused subs: Braafheid, Cataldi, Guerrieri, Matosevic, Mauri, Oikonomidis, Onazi, Prce.
REFEREE: Paolo Silvio Mazzoleni
Other results this of the day:
Carpi 2-3 Juventus
AS Roma 2-0 Genoa
Atalanta 1-3 Napoli
Fiorentina 2-0 Chievo
Verona 1-1 Sassuolo
Frosinone 2-4 AC Milan
Sampdoria 2-0 Palermo
Torino 0-1 Udinese