Sunday, June 16, 2024

Inter Milan 1-1 Lazio: Talking points as Biancocelesti lose vital ground in Champions League qualification race

Veselin Trajkovic in Editorial, Serie A 20 May 2024

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Inter Milan and Lazio shared the spoils in an exciting contest at San Siro on Sunday, in the penultimate round of the 2023/24 Serie A season. Daichi Kamada put the visitors ahead in the 32nd minute, but Denzel Dumfries made sure the new Italian champions kept a point in the 87th.

The teams

Coach Simone Inzaghi deployed his Inter side in a familiar 3-5-2 formation. Yann Sommer was in goal, with Benjamin Pavard, Francesco Acerbi and Alessandro Bastoni forming the back line. Nicolo Barella, Hakan Calhanoglu and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were in the middle of the park, flanked by Matteo Darmian on the right and Federico Dimarco on the left. Upfront, Lautaro Martinez paired up with Marcus Thuram.

For Lazio, Igor Tudor arranged his men a shape that looked mostly like 3-4-2-1, with Mario Gila, Nicolo Casale and Patric forming the defence ahead of goalkeeper Ivan Provedel. Luca Pellegrini and Adam Marusic played out wide, flanking the midfield pair of Nicolo Rovella and Matias Vecino. Hamada and Mattia Zaccagni supported striker Taty Castellanos, who was given the nod ahead of veteran Ciro Immobile.

Both coaches used up all of the five substitutions at their disposal over the course of the game. Aside from goalscorer Dumfries, Carlos Augusto, Davide Frattesi, Alexis Sanchez and Tajon Buchanan were given a chance to contribute for Inter off the bench, while Elseid Hysaj, Matteo Guendouzi, Luis Alberto, Felipe Anderson and Danilo Cataldi came on in the second half for Lazio.

The game

There were plenty of chances at both end. Inter threatened first as Thuram was set up by Lautaro in the third minute and attempted to nutmeg Provedel, but the goalkeeper managed to deflect the shot with his foot. Shortly after, Castellanos nutmegged Acerbi and put the ball in the back of the net, but a VAR check revealed the striker had been offside on Kamada’s assist. Sommer made a crucial one-handed save on Castellanos after a misplaced pass from Acerbi, while Provedel, on his comeback, made two sensational reaction saves against Dimarco in quick succession.

Lazio took the lead when Kamada unleashed a left-footed screamer from distance into the near bottom corner, just beyond Sommer’s reach. They almost doubled it when Zaccagni hit the side-netting following a strong Kamada run.

Inter had penalty appeals in first-half stoppage time, but Vecino had slipped and Lautaro Martinez collided with him while focusing on the ball.

In the second half, Provedel made another fine save on a Barella header, and from the resulting corner, Lautaro’s header hit the base of the far post. Vecino’s angled drive skimmed the back post, and Matteo Guendouzi also shot off target, and Benjamin Pavard’s decisive sliding tackle stopped Castellanos from going clear on a counterattack in the 85th minute.

That moment obviously proved crucial, as instead of Lazio clinching a victory, Inter equalized moments later with a Sanchez free kick floated to the back post, where Dumfries out-jumped Marusic for a powerful header to level the score.

Looking at the stats, Inter seemingly had more of the game under their control with 58% of possession, which is hardly surprising given that they had a deficit to chase for most of the contest. They took a total of 19 shots, seven of which went on target, while Lazio sent three of their total of eight within the frame of the goal. The home side also took all eight corners of the game.

Into the final round

With the Scudetto firmly in their hands, Inter had little but pride and the happiness of their fans to play for, and they still worked very hard to find the equalizer and avoid defeat, aiming not to disappoint on their last San Siro appearance of the season. Next week they play away to relegation threatened Hellas Verona, and despite the difference in the table rankings between the two teams, it certainly won’t be an easy task against an obviously motivated opponent.

Leaving that final hurdle aside for now, the Nerazzurri are in Italian champions after a fantastic season in the Serie A, and at the end of the game, captain Lautaro lifted the trophy as the fans roared in the stands.

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As for Lazio, Dumfries’ equalizer practically ended their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League next season, despite Italy securing five representatives in UEFA’s elite club competition in 2024/25. They sit seventh, trailing city rivals AS Roma in sixth by three points, and their goal-difference is significantly weaker than that of the Giallorossi.

If fifth-place Atalanta win the Europa League final against Bayer Leverkusen, the Serie A could have another additional place in the Champions League, but unless Roma suffer an unlikely catastrophe away to relegation strugglers Empoli in the final round and Lazio absolutely destroy the already relegated Sassuolo at home, by more than 10 goals combined, it won’t make any difference for Tudor’s team.

Therefore, it’s practically certain at this point that we’ll be watching Lazio in the Europa League next season. The worst-case scenario could possibly see them drop further down to the Europa Conference League, but that’s just as unlikely to happen as for them to qualify for the Champions League.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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