MILAN – Tomorrow may be Easter Sunday but all of Inter's surprises arrived a day early on the pitch for Week 34 of Serie A 2010/11. Inside their egg the Nerazzurri found a well-earned victory against Lazio (by 2 goals to 1) and three points which put them back into second place in the league, with the help of Napoli who lost at Palermo.
It was end-to-end play in the first half at the Stadio Meazza, with Lazio taking the lead in the 24th minute when Zarate scored from the spot, after being pulled down in the area by Julio Cesar, who was subsequently sent off to leave Inter with ten men. Milito paid the price and was taken off to make way for Castellazzi. They may have been inferior in number, but by no means in spirit and the Nerazzurri equaliser came eventually. On 40 minutes Sneijder made it 1-1 with a perfect free-kick which was out of Muslera's reach. Then it took a classic super-Eto'o run to leave Dias and Biava for dead before dribbling around Muslera to put Inter 2-1 up in the 8th minute of the second half. Mauri received his marching orders in the 22nd minute of the second half bringing the teams back to ten men apiece.
First half – To take on Lazio, Inter had Eto'o back in the line-up and Leonardo positioned him alongside Milito, playing in front of Sneijder who liaised between the attack and midfield, while Pazzini started on the bench. For the Biancocelesti, Zarate and Floccari made up the attack. The fans, who are twinned, dedicated the pre-match choreography to the memory of Gabriele Sandri.
Zarate was the first to try out his boots with a long-distance right-footed shot which Julio Cesar punched away two-fisted, before Nagatomo made the final clearance in the 5th minute. From the same position at the other end, one minute later, Eto'o responded with a curling shot off his right instep but it flew wide of the mark. Then the Cameroonian was speeding towards goal once again, only to be intercepted by Floccari who pulled him down at the edge of the area. Morganti decided it wasn't a foul and Lazio started off again. Zarate showed he could be dangerous in the penalty box on 15 minutes as jinked his way past Maicon and then Lucio, leaving Ranocchia's timely intervention to save the day. Eto'o passed to Stankovic who was looking for his first goal against his old side and his shot, from well out, sped over the bar after 19 minutes. After only 22 minutes' play, Inter were down to ten men when Julio Cesar was sent off. The Brazilian keeper came off his line to take on Zarate who was looking like scoring and seemed to have made contact. Morganti was in no doubt and pointed to the spot, from which Zarate duly scored, 0-1. Milito too, paid the price when he was taken off to allow Castellazzi to take over in goal. Inter were in no mood for giving up though, and it was up to Sneijder to find the equaliser. He tried with a free-kick which Ranocchia almost got to, forcing Dias to concede a corner on 26 minutes and with a low, hard, right-footed effort which Muslera needed all his skill to save on 28 minutes. He finally managed to break through after 40 minutes. Bresciano had fouled Eto'o just outside the area and the Dutchman stepped up to curl the ball over the wall, into the top left-hand corner of the net, out of the Biancoceleste keeper's reach and brought the teams level at 1-1.
Morganti signalled two minutes of added time, but Lichtsteiner had time enough to find Floccari with an inch-perfect cross and it was only Nagatomo's timely interception that prevented it from reaching the net. In the clash Castellazzi took a nasty knock on the right leg.
Second half – The second half got underway without any changes being made to the teams, however after 7 minutes Stankovic pulled up with muscle problems and had to be taken off with Mariga coming on in his place. It was beginning to look like yet another unlucky day for the Nerazzurri, but then Eto'o popped up to change the face of the game. He picked up a through ball from Zanetti perfectly and capitalised on Biava's slip to dribble past Dias. He took the ball wide of Muslera and slotted it home with his left instep to put Inter into the lead at 2-1. In the 13th minute Lucio missed Lichtsteiner's cross and Floccari was unmarked in front of goal, but the ball ended up in the side-netting. Leonardo asked Sneijder who wasn't fully fit to make the sacrifice, but it was Eto'o who gave the ball away in midfield and the equaliser was looking very much on from Zarate's volley, but he didn't managed to put it away with only Castellazzi to beat. In the 21st minute Nagatomo fouled Mauri who reacted and kicked out at the Japanese defender, sending him reeling. He was shown the red card and that evened the numbers at ten men apiece. On the half hour mark, Lazio came close to equalising once again. Brocchi crossed and Zarate chested down only for Kozak to smash his shot against the bar. Inter came back though and Zanetti laid off a perfect ball for Maicon who was only denied by Muslera's superb save. Morganti indicated that there were five minutes of added time to play, but Inter kept their wits about them as they tried to make it three. This wasn't to be but they did pick up the three points to take them onto 66 and back up to second place behind AC Milan.
Inter 2-1 Lazio (HT: 1-1)
Scorers: 24 Zarate (pen), 40 Sneijder, 53 Eto'o.
Inter: 1 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 6 Lucio, 15 Ranocchia, 55 Nagatomo; 4 Zanetti, 19 Cambiasso, 5 Stankovic (17 Mariga 52); 10 Sneijder (20 Obi 78); 22 Milito (12 Castellazzi 23), 9 Eto'o.
Unused subs: 7 Pazzini, 23 Materazzi, 26 Chivu, 27 Pandev.
Lazio: 86 Muslera; 2 Lichtsteiner, 3 Dias, 20 Biava, 14 Garrido (9 Rocchi 81); 23 Bresciano (32 Brocchi 71), 24 Ledesma; 6 Mauri; 8 Hernanes; 10 Zarate, 22 Floccari (18 Kozak 70).
Unused subs: 12 Berni, 5 Scaloni, 15 Gonzalez, 81 Del Nero.
Coach: Edoardo Reja.
Referee: Emidio Morganti (Ascoli Piceno).
Booked: Garrido 38, Leonardo 42, Zarate 50, Mariga 62.
Sent off: Julio Cesar 22, Mauri 66.
Added time: 2 + 5 minutes.