Italian Super Cup: Inter 1-2 Lazio match report
The imposing Birds Nest stadium in Beijing, the scene of Usain Bolts amazing 100 metres world record at last year’s Olympic Games, was the setting for the traditional curtain raiser of the Italian season.
Champions Inter Milan took on Coppa Italia winners Lazio in the battle to claim this season’s first piece of silverware.
Rather controversially, the match had been moved to China to maximise business opportunities for both clubs. The majority of the 70,000 crowd were supporting Jose Mourinho’s side. Tickets for this match had been priced from anywhere between £200-300.
The two clubs in the week preceding the game had been on a charm offensive, Inter having opened their training complex to give over 4000 fanatical fans a chance to see their heroes at close hand. Lazio had been visiting local beauty spots in the city to increase their brand awareness in the Far East.
The game was a chance for both coaches to assess their squads just two weeks before the season’s openers. Mourinho opted to start the match with his four new acquisitions. Lucio, the big centre half bought from Bayern Munich partnered Christian Chivu in defence, in midfield, new boy Thiago Motta lined up alongside Estaban Cambiasso and Sulley Muntari.
The forward line was lead by new signings Diego Milito and Samuel Eto’o. Lazio on the other hand kept the nucleus of the side that finished the previous campaign, new coach Davide Ballardini only starting with one debutant, Roberto Baronio, a summer capture from Brescia.
The game started cagily with both sides acclimatising to the intense humidity in the stadium. On 16 minutes came the first real chance as Eto’o stung the palms of Lazio goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. Inter Milan then took the game by the scruff of the neck, Muntari was the next player to try his luck, but fired over with the goal at his mercy.
As half time approached, from a corner, Lucio headed the ball goalwards but again the Lazio goalkeeper was equal to it, making a wonderful save. Lazio were hanging on and as referee Morganti blew to end the first 45 minutes, Ballardini was relieved to get his charges into the dressing room.
The second began with both teams unchanged, the game also carried on where it had left off as Inter attacked the Biancocelesti goal. A mistake from Lazio defender Mobido Diakite almost let in Eto’o but the Cameroon international shot wide. Mourinho’s men were playing some scintillating football, Ballardini replaced new boy Baronio with ex Manchester City man Ousmane Dabo to help out his defence as the Nerazzuri poured forward in search of the opening goal.
Incredibly, against the run of play Lazio took the lead in the most bizzarest of circumstances. A free kick from Aleksandar Kolarov cannoned into the wall and fell into the path of Matuzalem whose shot hit Inter keeper Julio Cesar, rebounded back to the Lazio man striking him in the face, and rolled into the net. Inter had been hit by a sucker punch.
Within three minutes, Lazio had doubled their advantage. A fabulous ball from Stefano Mauri was cleverly taken down by Tommaso Rocchi who then placed an exquisite lob over Julio Cesar into the Inter net. Lazio were in dreamland. Immediately Mourinho withdrew the ineffective Dejan Stakovic replacing him with teenage striking sensation Mario Balotelli as Inter reverted to a 4-3-3 formation.
With 13 minutes to go, Eto’o pulled a goal back with a stunning left foot strike giving the outstanding Muslera no chance. In his final throw of the dice, The Special One replaced Muntari with his fourth forward David Suazo, it was now 4-2-4 for the Nerazzurri and the crowd who had been fairly muted for most of the game, responded with a crescendo of noise.
Five minutes from time it seemed Milito had equalised for the champions but Eto’o was stood in an offside position and the goal was rightly disallowed. By now Rocchi had been replaced by Ballardini’s main summer capture, Julio Cruz, who was playing against his former employers.
Lazio somehow hung on to claim the first prize of the season, an ecstatic President Claudio Lotito could hardly contain his joy at the end as the majority of the stadium went home disappointed.
Ballardini had made a great start to his new managerial venture, an astute tactician he had kept his cool amid intense pressure from Inter and was rewarded with Lazio’s first Super Cup win since 2000.
Mourinho on the other hand remained upbeat after his side had produced some wonderful football for the first 30 minutes after the interval. His main focus for this season is the Champions League and on this evidence there is no reason to suggest that his side could not go all the way to the final in Madrid. A supremely entertaining match had ended with a most unlikely result but that is why we love this game so much.
Inter: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Chivu, Zanetti; Muntari (Suazo 83), Cambiasso, Thiago Motta (Vieira 69); Stankovic (Balotelli 69); Milito, Eto’o
Lazio: Muslera; Lichtsteiner, Siviglia, Diakite, Kolarov; Brocchi, Baronio (Dabo 53), Mauri; Matuzalem (Cribari 81); Rocchi (Cruz 71), Zarate