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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

May 5, 2002: Lazio Inter 4-2

Updated: May 5

Inter throw away scudetto as Lazio have little choice but to take the win


A suicidal Inter hand Lazio victory and UEFA qualification





The season so far


The previous season had seen title winning Sven-Goran Eriksson leaving the club and the return of Dino Zoff. Lazio had fought for the scudetto but eventually just lost out to city rivals Roma. A 3rd place finish did however give them a Champions League preliminary round participation.


Lazio's main investments this year were defender Jaap Stam (Manchester United) and midfielder Gaizka Mendieta (Valencia). Mendieta in particular was considered a major swoop after his performances in the Champions League for Valencia. In had also come midfielders Giuliano Giannichedda and Stefano Fiore (both from Udinese), Fabio Liverani (Perugia), Brazilian César (São Caetano), Ivan de la Peña (back from loan periods after a disappointing time at Lazio 2 years earlier) and Serb forward Darko Kovacevic (Juventus).


Lazio had however also lost scudetto legends Pavel Nedved (Juventus), the "Matador" Marcelo Salas (Juventus) and Juan Sebastian Veron (Manchester United) plus Fabrizio Ravanelli (Derby County) and Roberto Baronio (Fiorentina).


Lazio's season had started on a positive note as they qualified for the Champions League groups by knocking out Copenhagen (1-2, 4-1) but showing some first signs of difficulty. These were confirmed in the group with Galatasaray, Nantes and PSV Eindhoven where they only managed two wins and were eliminated.


After drawing the first three league matches and losing 1-3 at home to Nantes in the Champions League, Zoff was sacked and replaced by Alberto Zaccheroni.


The new manager had a difficult start with several injuries and lost the first game 2-0 away to Milan. After a winless first three games things improved but Lazio were too inconsistent to challenge for the top places. They had some good wins (Juventus 1-0, Brescia 5-0, Fiorentina 3-0, Perugia 5-0) but also bad defeats (Chievo 3-1, Verona 3-1, Piacenza 1-0, Torino 1-0, Parma 1-0). They had also lost both derbies, the first 2-0 and the second 5-1 where Zaccheroni had played an illogical formation. After three consecutive wins, a week before today's clash the Biancocelesti had lost the possible UEFA decider 2-0 at Bologna.


Lazio still had a chance to qualify for Europe's second tournament but would have to beat Inter, possibly handing the Scudetto to city rivals Roma, and hope Bologna lost away to a desperate Brescia. Was it worth it?


Inter were coming to Rome to win and celebrate the Scudetto. They had not won the title for 13 years. The Nerazzurri had a point advantage on Juventus (away at Udinese) and two on Roma (away at Torino). Under manager Hector Cuper the Milanesi had won 20, drawn 9 and lost 4. Two months earlier they had earned a crucial 2-2 home draw against Juventus with a 91st minute Clarence Seedorf equaliser. Despite a 2-1 home defeat to Atalanta in April the "Beneamata" had kept their advantage coming into this last game. Everything pointed to a happy ending.


The match: Sunday, May 5, 2002, Stadio Olimpico, Rome


All was in place for Inter's scudetto. The Nerazzurri were top of the table, playing a demoralized opposition, in front of a 75,000 crowd of which 40,000 were their own fans and the remainder were "highly" sympathetic to them triumphing today. The two sets of fans were even mixed around the ground thanks to their historic friendship. What could go wrong? Well as they say it's a funny old game.


Inter's starting line-up showed their intention to attack as they played with Ronaldo, Christian Vieri and Alvaro Recoba up front. Lazio were more balanced with a strong midfield and only Simone Inzaghi in attack.


The initial stages were quite bland and confirmed the appearance more of a formality than a competitive game. Inter soon took the lead thanks to a howler by Angelo Peruzzi (former Inter) who dropped the ball from a corner and Vieri tapped it in. So after 11 minutes Lazio 0 Inter 1. The script was being followed to the letter.


However something was happening elsewhere which should at least have been a warning sign to Inter and kept them on their toes. At Udine, Juventus were 2-0 up after 11 minutes (David Trezeguet, Alessandro Del Piero) thus basically eliminating any risk of Lazio's "cousins" Roma stealing the title. Many Lazio fans, including myself, no longer saw any reason to hand Inter the victory on a plate. After all, if Lazio won they could still qualify for the UEFA Cup.


In Rome one player who seemed to agree, or more likely just did not understand the dynamics of the Roman rivalry, was Karel Poborsky. He was one of the few Lazio players who seemed to be taking the game seriously. In fact in the 20th minute he equalised, firing in unmarked from an assist by Stefano Fiore who pulled the ball back towards the penalty spot to the oncoming Czech. Another warning sign for Inter, a very relaxed backline.


Not to worry, Inter immediately took back the lead in the 24th minute. From another corner a distracted Lazio defence was anticipated by Gigi Di Biagio's header to make it 1-2 for the Nerazzurri. Scare over? Not according to Poborsky or Inter's defence for that matter.


In the 45th minute Lazio equalised again. A Dejan Stankovic cross into the area was headed straight up in the air by Ivan Cordoba and then Vratislav Gresko had the next header but instead of getting it away or into corner he attempted to lamely give it back to the keeper, Poborsky still running got between them and hammered it in. 2-2 and more signs of problems in the script, mainly Inter's complacency and lack of concentration. They were struggling against a team where one player was fighting and the others just going through the motions. Lazio 2 Inter 2 and Juve were still winning 2-0 at Udine.


So halftime came with some cause for worry for Inter. The score, their defence, their attitude, the heat, the shifting allegiances of some home supporters which could influence the home players. No cause for panic yet but things were definitely not going to plan.


Things did not change in the second half. In sport if you do not have the right mindset it is often not easy to click it back on again. If you start in the wrong gear it is difficult to change. To complicate an already worrying situation came the news that Brescia had gone one up against Bologna, Lazio's UEFA rivals. So Lazio slightly more interested, any risk of Roma winning the title all but gone and now with a realistic chance of qualifying for Europe ... it was not looking good for Inter who continued however to be their own worst enemy.


At the beginning of the half Stankovic went close with a curling shot and for Inter Di Biagio had a low central shot saved by Peruzzi.


In the 56th minute nightmare on Inter street started to become reality. Lazio scored again, this time reluctantly, with a former Inter Diego Simeone header from a Fiore cross. "El Cholo" did not even celebrate but looked around with a face saying "what have I done?" Lazio 3 Inter 2.


Inter were on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Lazio were not doing anything special and not even pushing themselves. The Biancocelesti were almost forced to go forward by Inter's apathy. They had more chances with Poborsky saved by Francesco Toldo and Fiore just wide. Inter replaced Sergio Conceição with Stephane Dalmat on the hour mark but nothing changed, Inter were gone. They did come close once but even that was Beppe Favalli anticipating Vieri and then Alessandro Nesta clearing near the goal line.


In the 73rd minute came the final nail in the coffin. Cesar, who had replaced Stankovic, went down the left hand side of the area and put in a perfect cross giving Inzaghi a simple close range header. Lazio 4 Inter 2. Nightmare complete.



Inter were so far gone that Lazio hit a post with a Cesar header but then slowed down their already walking pace so as not to humiliate the visitors. The last 15 minutes were agony for Inter who slowly metabolized the mess they had made of things. Ronaldo went off in the 78th minute to cry his eyes out on the bench. That image of the "Fenomeno" best portrays the afternoon's events.


Inter blew it and Lazio only took advantage. The party atmosphere and feeling everything would go in their favour played a cruel trick on the almost champions. Lazio did the minimum necessary and won with merit.


Who played for Lazio 


Substitutes: Marchegiani, Negro, Pancaro, Colonnese, Evacuo

Manager: Zaccheroni 


Who played for Inter


Toldo, J.Zanetti, Cordoba, Materazzi, Gresko, Conceicao (60' Dalmat), Di Biagio, C. Zanetti (73' Emre), Recoba, Ronaldo (78' Kallon), Vieri

Substitutes: Fontana, Sorondo, Serena, Guglielminpietro

Manager: Cuper


Referee: Paparesta


Goals: 12' Vieri, 20' Poborsky, 24' Di Biagio, 45' Poborsky, 56' Simeone, 73' S. Inzaghi



What happened next


For Lazio an unexpected UEFA qualification. They came 6th, overtaking Bologna who lost 3-0 at Brescia. Despite still having some top class players it had been a bad season for Lazio, salvaged a little right at the end. Hernan Crespo was top scorer with 20 (13 in the league).


For Inter what happened next ? Psychoanalysis ...The 5th of May was a huge trauma for all Interisti. Seeing hated rivals Juventus pip them at the post can't have been easy. But, as mentioned several times, they only had themselves to blame.


Juventus won 2-0 against Udinese and won their 26th scudetto. Roma won 1-0 against Torino and came 2nd. So to add insult to injury Inter came 3rd and would have to play the preliminary round of Champions League. Top scorer was Vieri with 25 (22 in the league).


At the opposite end Venezia, Fiorentina, Lecce and Verona were saying goodbye to top flight football.


Lazio 2001-02

Competition

Played

Won

Drawn

Lost

Goals scored

Serie A

34

14

11

9

50

Coppa Italia

4

2

0

2

6

Champions League

8

3

0

5

9

Total

46

19

11

16

65

Top five appearances

Player

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Champions League

Fiore

40

30

20

8

Lopez

38

29

1

8

Peruzzi

37

27

2

8

Stankovic

36

27

4

5

Couto

35

29

2

4

Giannichedda

35

28

3

4

Top Five Goal Scorers

Player

Total

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Champions League

Crespo

20

13

4

3

Lopez

12

10

-

2

Stankovic

8

z7

-

1

S. Inzaghi

6

5

1

-

Fiore

5

3

-

2

Let's talk about Simone Inzaghi


Source Wikipedia

Simone Inzaghi was born in Piacenza, on April 5, 1976.


He started his career in his hometown where he went through the youth sector. In 1994 he was loaned to nearby Carpi in Serie C1 where he played 15 games with 3 goals. In 1995 he was loaned to Novara in Serie C2 and played 30 games with 5 goals, the "Azzurri" won the league. In 1996 he was loaned to Lumezzane in C2 where he played 26 games with 6 goals and "Lume" also won the league.


Having gained some experience in the lower divisions he returned to Piacenza in Serie A in 1997 but, after one game in Coppa Italia, he was then again loaned this time to Brescello in C1, where he played 23 games with10 goals.


In 1998 he was considered ready to play full-time for Piacenza in Serie A. He had a good season for the "Il Piace". He played 30 league games and scored an impressive 15 goals (including one against Lazio). The manager was former Lazio, Giuseppe Materazzi and the "Lupi" came 13th.


The following year he signed for Lazio. It was the beginning of a long love affair. He stayed a first spell of six years playing 153 games with 53 goals (League 27, Coppa Italia 6, Champions League 15, UEFA Cup 5). He won a Scudetto (2000), 2 Coppa Italias (2000, 2004), an Italian Supercoppa (2000) and a European Super Cup (1999).


In the Scudetto year he played 22 league games and scored 7 goals (Cagliari, Torino, Lecce, Milan, Inter, Venezia and Reggina). His goal against Inter was particularly important as it re-opened a match where Lazio were 2-0 down with 7 minutes to go and eventually drew. He also opened the scoring in the last decisive game against Reggina. Another goal to remember is his goal in a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea and of course his four in the same match in a 5-1 drubbing of Marseille.


In his first six years he played under managers; Sven Goran Eriksson, Zoff, Zaccheroni, Roberto Mancini, Mimmo Caso and Giuseppe Papadopulo. He played alongside great strikers such as Alen Boksic, Vieri, Mancini, Marcelo Salas, Crespo, Bernardo Corradi. As a consequence he was not always first choice but usually got a fair number of games.


In the 2004-05 season Lazio were struggling under Caso and then Papadopulo, and Inzaghi was loaned to Sampdoria for six months. The Blucerchiati had a good season under Walter Novellino and came 5th but Inzaghi only played 5 league games and 2 in Coppa Italia with no goals.


In 2005-06 he was back at Lazio for his second spell. In two years under Delio Rossi he played 14 games with 1 goal (in Coppa Italia versus Cittadella). Lazio had a good season coming 6th but were then docked 30 points for the betting scandal and so missed out on Europe.


The following season was excellent and Lazio came 3rd qualifying for the Champions League. Inzaghi however was not involved as in 2007-08 he went to Atalanta on loan for a season. He played 19 league games with no goals under Luigi Del Neri.


In 2008-09 he was back at Lazio for his third and last spell, as a player anyway. He stayed another two seasons. In the first, under Delio Rossi, he played 9 league games with 1 goal (Lecce) and 1 game in Coppa Italia. Lazio won the Coppa Italia beating Sampdoria on penalties in the final. In his second and last year, first under Davide Ballardini and then Edy Reja, Inzaghi only played 3 league games. Lazio again won silverware, this time the Italian Supercoppa, beating Mourinho's "triplete" Inter 2-1 in Beijing.


At this point at 34 and struggling with back problems Inzaghi retired.


At international level he played 4 games with the U18's and 3 full Italian caps. In one he even played alongside his brother Filippo (against Spain).


He retired as a player but soon opened another chapter as a manager. He went into the Lazio youth sector and did well winning two U19's Coppa Italia and a Supercoppa. In 2015-16 he was promoted to the first team for the last seven matches following Stefano Pioli's sacking.


The following year the new manager was supposed to be charismatic Argentinian Marcelo Bielsa but the "El Loco", living up to his reputation, resigned even before arriving. Plan B came into action and it was Simone Inzaghi.


He stayed five years with two 5th places, 8th, 4th and 6th. In 2020 with 4th place he got Lazio back in the Champions League after a 13 year absence. That year, without the Covid-19 interruption, many pundits think Lazio would have won the Scudetto. In his time in Rome he did however win 3 trophies; a Coppa Italia (2019 vs Atalanta) and two Supercoppe (2017, 2019 both vs Juventus). He is the only person to have won both domestic cups as a player and manager. He also has the longest unbeaten run at Lazio, 21 games. On the down side he received criticism for his inability to read games and make corrective changes in negative situations. His departure from Lazio was also far from transparent. He gave the impression he was staying on and had even planned the transfer market with Igli Tare before he suddenly jetted off to Inter at the last moment. He was obviously playing at two tables all along.


So in 2021 he made his sudden and controversial move to Inter. He has done well in three seasons: Scudetto, Coppa Italia, three Supercoppe and a Champions League final.


As a player Inzaghi was a striker. He is 1.83 for 80 kilos but he was not a strong or physical player. He was not a talent but like his brother Pippo, he was a goal scorer. He had good positioning and was quick over short distances, enough to pounce on loose balls or beat the offside trap. He did not have any particularly strong points but as I said he scored goals and that is certainly not a defect.


Personally I was never a big fan of Inzaghi, the player, as when I went through the abilities of a striker; header, dribbling, shot, strength etc, he did not seem to possess any, apart from opportunism. For me he was most useful in procuring free kicks for Sinisa Mihajlovic to curl in. But it's a personal opinion and to be fair you don't score 55 goals for a team at top level without some skills even if its just opportunism. He is also Lazios's second top scorer in Europe with 20 goals (only behind Immobile).


As a manager he has been successful. He favours the 3-5-2 formation which can transform into a 5-3-2 when not in possession. He is known for his versatility, passion and familiar tactics. They served him well at Lazio in his five years and he has won a scudetto with Inter.


Lazio Career

Season

Total games (goals)

Serie A

Coppa Italia

Champions League

UEFA Cup

UEFA Super Cup

1999-00

40 (19)

22 (7)

6 (3)

11 (9)

-

1

2000-01

23 (7)

13 (4)

1

9 (3)

-

-

2001-02

28 (6)

20 (5)

2 (1)

6

-

-

2002-03

29 (9)

18 (4)

3 (1)

-

8 (4)

-

2003-04

33 (10)

24 (6)

4 (1)

5 (3)

-

-

2004-Jan 2005

16 (2)

12 (1)

1

-

3 (1)

-

2005-06

9 (1)

7

2 (1)

-

-

-

2006-07

5

5

-

-

-

-

2008-09

10 (1)

9 (1)

1

-

-

-

2009-10

3

3

-

-

-

-

Total

196 (55)

133 (28)

20 (7)

31 (15)

11 (5)

1

Sources


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