MILAN - It was the result the Nerazzurri faithful had dreamt of for Zanetti's farewell game. San Siro erupted to the goals of Palacio, Icardi and Hernanes, but the biggest roar of the night was when the captain made his entrance. Three points in front of Erick Thohir and Massimo Moratti that secure European football for next season. But the night is still young...
Indeed it was Zanetti's night – his last appearance as a player in the stadium that has been his for 19 years. Every last detail at the Meazza was designed to pay homage to the captain. From the giant No.4 shirt in the middle of the pitch to the T-shirts worn by the team during the pre-match warm-up, the pitchside LED displays and the images on the giant screen. The Nerazzurri faithful were loving every minute of it because there's only one captain, and 'C'è solo un Capitano!' rang around the Meazza.
As for the game itself - Inter's second-last of the season and crucial in the race for European football - Mazzarri brought in Kuzmanovic for the suspended Cambiasso in an otherwise unchanged line-up. Ranocchia, Samuel, Rolando were in defence, in midfield Kuz was flanked by Jonathan and Hernanes on the right and Kovacic and Nagatomo on the left, and Argentine duo Palacio and Icardi started up front.
The stadium – virtually sold out – was rocking from the off, but unfortunately Lazio were in party-spoiling mood and Biava touched home Cana's header from close range to give the visitors a shock lead after just two minutes.
The goal triggered a fierce reaction from the Nerazzurri though, and within five minutes Palacio had us level following a delightful through ball from Kovacic. In the 34th minute, the young Croat then played in another brilliant pass to hand it on a plate for Icardi, who duly obliged. Just four minutes passed and Palacio added his second of the night, swooping on Nagatomo's low cross to make it 3-1 before running across to hug captain Zanetti in the dugout. Inter went in at the break buzzing.
Seven minutes after the restart, the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived: Zanetti came on! The whole stadium rose to its feet and a roar went up as the captain beat his chest and the game within the game began. Pupi was wearing a special captain's armband for his 857th Inter appearance which bore the names of all the team-mates he's had during his long black and blue career.
Handanovic pulled off a stunning save to keep out Biava's header in the 54th minute, while Milito began warming up on the hour mark, ready to make his own entrance. It came five minutes later to another standing ovation, as Samuel – he too a pillar of our Treble-winning side – waited for him on the pitch to share this special night.
Lazio of course were still trying to get something from this game and managed a succession of shots on Handanovic's goal, but the big Slovene was in stingy mood and let nothing pass.
The Nerazzurri made the points safe with goal number four in the 79th minute and it was former Lazio man Hernanes who struck it. The Brazilian cut inside from the right and ripped a low skidding drive into the far corner to celebrate his World Cup call-up in style.
A thoroughly convincing 4-1 victory that ensured Inter's place in the Europa League next term and meant the post-match party could begin.
Inter 4-1 Lazio (HT: 3-1)
Scorers: Biava 2, Palacio 7, 38, Icardi 34, Hernanes 79.
Inter: 1 Handanovic; 23 Ranocchia, 25 Samuel, 35 Rolando; 2 Jonathan (Zanetti 52), 88 Hernanes, 17 Kuzmanovic (Taider 74), 10 Kovacic, 55 Nagatomo; 8 Palacio (Milito 65), 9 Icardi.
Subs not used: 12 Castellazzi, 30 Carrizo, 6 Andreolli, 14 Campagnaro, 33 D'Ambrosio, 11 Alvarez, 13 Guarin, 20 Botta.
Coach: Walter Mazzarri.
Subs not used: 95 Strakosha, 55 Guerrieri, 2 Ciani, 16 Elez, 85 Novaretti, 6 Mauri, 48 Filippini, 60 Pollace, 34 Perea.
Coach: Edy Reja.
Booked: Palacio 30, Onazi 46.
Added time: 0+3.