“Row row row your boat,
Gently down the stream,
Inter Milan win again,
That seems to be theme.”
Don’t applaud all at once. I admit it, I used a rhyming dictionary, but it’s an awfully fitting song for the present circumstances, don’t you think? I mean the guys from Gazzetta put it very eloquently on Saturday: “If anyone knows of antidotes and countermeasures, he should get them out now, or at this rate the Serie A could be over by Christmas.”
There just seems to be no stopping the Nerazzurri armada lately. They play badly, they win. They miss a boaload of chances, they still win (usually in the 90th). And then there’s games like Saturday evening’s.
The 3-0 scoreline by which Inter demolished Lazio at the Olimpico was so commanding it was scary. Class and unmatched physical strength destroyed the Biancocelesti, who mere seconds after kick-off had already found themselves trailing on the scoreline. From that point onwards, the spectators in Rome assisted to some sort of black & blue-painted monologue, where the Diakité’s own goal and Ibrahimovic’s header were only the culmination of a match dominated from start to finish.
Delio Rossi knew it. Against Inter, being awestruck can be fatal. So despite the accumulated fatigue from the Coppa Italia’s mid-week victory, here was an uninhibited Lazio side: Pasquale Foggia the playmaker behind strikers Goran Pandev and Mauro Zarate, and an attacking fullback, Aleksandar Kolarov, replacing Radu on the left wing. On the other end Inter lined up its infallible diamond-shaped formation, and Mourinho picked his cream of the crop for this one: Stankovic, Cambiasso and Muntari supporting the striking tandem of Ibrahimovic and Cruz. A lethal combination especially coupled with the deadly insertions of Maicon and Maxwell down the wings. Add just a dash of Walter Samuel, and you’ve got all the ingredients for an explosive recipe.
Indeed, a little less than two minutes was all Inter needed to start the festivities. From a cross from the left wing by Muntari, the sleepy and cold Lazio defence got caught with their pants down, and allowed the rocky Samuel to make his run undisturbed. The Argentine center-back connected with the ball, and his powerful header went past Carrizo and into the net. 1-0 Inter.
Delio Rossi’s team took a little while to collect themselves. It was an early cold shower, but eventually the Biancocelesti tightened their marking, moved their team up, and got back into the game. A reasonable question should be however asked: was it enough to instill fear into the top-ranking Serie A team? Zarate and teammates did try their best, but Inter contained and repelled every attempt.
In fact, the Nerazzurri’s game was frightening both in its simplicity and efficiency: control, ball possession and lethal counterattacks, characterised by a tremendous physical strength like few others in Europe. Class & team sacrifice are becoming this team’s marking points, clear indicators of the “à la sauce Mourinho” factor. It was not surprising to see Cruz giving the defence a hand or Stankovic working very hard to close down all the spaces.
Between minute 28 and 31, Cruz and Pandev both left the pitch with muscle strains, replaced by Hernan Crespo and Tommaso Rocchi respectively. The Lazio player was the more convincing of the two substitutes, without however having the kind of impact Rossi would have liked. Certainly not the kind leading to Inter’s second goal, deep into first half stoppage time.
Taking a quick free-kick, Ibrahimovic fed Maicon on the right wing, whose measured cross found the clearing foot of Mobido Diakité. The French center-back has been a nice surprise for Biancocelesti fans so far, but he will not get improve his popularity today: the ball ricocheted off his foot, past an immobile Juan Pablo Carrizo. 2-0 Inter right before the break. If Lazio fans were British, the appropriate expression here would be “Bollocks”.
Non content of leading already by 2-0, Inter started the second half with the same deadly and cynical attitude. Lazio meanwhile, with Christian Brocchi coming on for Dabo, tried some timid runs forward to overturn the situation. All the Biancocelesti could do was maintain the pressure, but when Inter went into fourth gear the game was effectively over.
In minute 55, Cambiasso carved out a perfect cross from the right, finding the noggin of Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the 3-0 tally. Critics will say Zlatan was offside when the pass was made, and he was. However, it’d be hard to argue that without that goal this match’s end result would have been any different. Despite their overwhelming lead, the Nerazzurri did not let up and continued to run and press their opposition. Insatiable, never satisfied, following Mourinho’s instructions to the letter.
Lazio kept trying, but the gap was too wide. Zarate tried to pull one back, but Maicon was alert to the danger. Kolarov did put one in from set-pieces, but the referee disallowed for taking the shot too early. At the end of the night, the only thing that remained were the three goals of Mourinho’s “Invincible Armada” and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s acrobatic heel-pass. I mean really… is this guy from another planet or what?
|GOALSCORERS: 2’ Samuel (I), 45’ Diakité o.g. (I), 55’ Ibrahimovic (I).
| LAZIO (4-3-3): Carrizo – De Silvestri; Diakité, Rozenhal, Kolarov – Dabo (46’ Brocchi), Ledesma, Mauri – Foggia (77’ Meghni), Pandev (31′ Rocchi), Zárate. (bench: Muslera, Cribari, C.Manfredini, Radu.). Coach: D.Rossi.
| INTER (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar – Maicon, Córdoba, Samuel, Maxwell – J.Zanetti, Cambiasso, Muntari (78’ Figo) – Stankovic (86’ Mancini) – Cruz (28′ Crespo), Ibrahimovic. (bench: Orlandoni, Materazzi, Burdisso, Quaresma.). Coach: Mourinho.