Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s header gave Lazio a precious victory at San Siro over third-placed Inter, putting them in the thick of the top four race.
It was a head-to-head for Champions League football last season and they were in a not dissimilar position this time round. Milan and Roma had lost two on the bounce, creating an ideal opportunity for these clubs to take advantage, especially as the Aquile have a game in hand to be played against Udinese on April 17.
Lautaro Martinez and Stefan de Vrij were injured, with Mauro Icardi not called up, despite returning to training this week, so Keita Balde Diao was the only available striker against his old club. Despite the confusion, Icardi and wife Wanda Nara were in the stands. The Biancocelesti had Stefan Radu, Patric, Jordan Lukaku and Pedro Neto carrying injuries.
Lazio knocked Inter out in the Coppa Italia quarter-final here in January on penalties after a controversial 1-1 draw.
Ivan Perisic tested Thomas Strakosha at the near post on a Matteo Politano assist, then Milan Skriniar ballooned over after the goalkeeper only parried a corner.
However, Lazio took the lead when Luis Alberto floated a delicate cross to the back post for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s header, beating a distracted Marcelo Brozovic.
Keita and Perisic scuffed promising opportunities, but the visitors lost Joaquin Correa to injury, introducing Felipe Caicedo.
Samir Handanovic rushed off his line to clear from Milinkovic-Savic one-on-one after a lucky ricochet off Skriniar, while Inter had the ball in the net from a free kick taken far too quickly and from the wrong position.
Bastos was convinced he had made it 2-0 just before half-time, but his header from a set play was straight at Handanovic from point-blank range.
Moments later, Keita turned a defender and saw his left-foot angled drive parried by Thomas Strakosha’s legs at the near post.
However, Lazio again had the best chance in stoppages with Handanovic’s flying one-handed save to palm away the Luis Alberto curler.
The hosts came out fighting for the second half, Perisic testing Strakosha from distance and Matias Vecino’s free header straight at the goalkeeper, but Lazio again had a huge opportunity to double their lead.
Caicedo charged through three defenders, riding a Skriniar tackle, and tried to chip Handanovic, but the goalkeeper reached up his long arms to get fingertips to it, then grabbed the rebound off the feet of Immobile.
Politano had a couple of strikes just off target from outside the box, Handanovic was alert on Immobile after a Caicedo back-heel and Keita hesitated when sent clear by Marcelo Brozovic, allowing Francesco Acerbi to close him down.
Inter had a period of pressure that pinned Lazio back in the final half-hour, even though Handanovic also ran a huge risk with some fancy footwork in the six-yard box on Immobile.
Joao Mario replaced exhausted Keita, moving Matias Vecino to centre-forward for the final six minutes. Inter nearly equalised thanks to a suicidal Bastos header back, which whistled just wide of his own goal.
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