Hernanes scored against his ex-Lazio teammates on Javier Zanetti’s farewell to San Siro in a 4-1 win for Inter.
Hernanes faced his former club for the first time after the January move, but Esteban Cambiasso was suspended and Juan Jesus injured, while Ricky Alvarez was only fit for the bench. The Aquile missed Federico Marchetti, Abdoullay Konko, Stefan Radu, Helder Postiga, Ederson and the banned Senad Lulic, while Cristian Ledesma, Antonio Candreva and Stefano Mauri were benched for an experimental line-up.
This was a head-to-head for European qualification, but also Javier Zanetti’s final Serie A match at San Siro after 19 years. Despite this special event, Walter Mazzarri left the captain on the bench. The Curva Nord was shut due to ‘racist’ anti-Neapolitan chants, but the rest of the 60,000 seats were sold out.
Incredibly, Lazio broke the deadlock to silence the crowd within two minutes. A hopeful Bruno Pereirinha cross was knocked down by Lorik Cana for the unmarked Giuseppe Biava to bundle over the line from a couple of yards, as the defence was caught napping.
Inter fought back immediately and equalised by the seventh, as Rodrigo Palacio sprung the offside trap on a Mateo Kovacic slide-rule pass to prod past the on-rushing Etrit Berisha.
The Albanian goalkeeper standing in for the injured Marchetti spilled a Yuto Nagatomo shot for a corner, but was more solid on Palacio’s long-range strike.
Samir Handanovic had his gloves stung by a Keita Balde Diao solo effort, who then sprinted at the defence for his pass to go all the way across the face of goal without a final touch.
Palacio was booked for a mistimed tackle on Pereirinha and will therefore be suspended for Inter’s last game of the season at Chievo.
Inter turned the game around completely, as another inspired Kovacic pass off the outside of the boot split the defence in two and Mauro Icardi swept the finish across Berisha.
Eddy Onazi drilled not far wide, but Palacio completed his brace when tapping in a Nagatomo ball from the left, getting in front of a clumsy Cana.
There was a separate game on the touchline, as the crowd went wild before half-time when Zanetti started warming up. The fans held their breath for the seven minutes it took for the captain to be introduced, including his special armband that included all the names of his Inter teammates over the last 19 years. This was his 614th Serie A appearance and remarkably he joined the club in 1995, the same year that Lazio’s Keita was born.
Handanovic flew for a low save on Biava’s header, as the defender risked bagging a rare brace. Keita’s cross-shot also flashed across the face of goal and Lucas Biglia blasted just over the bar.
Zanetti went past his man on the touchline and the crowd practically gave him a standing ovation. Diego Milito also received a warm farewell from San Siro, as he’s expected to go back to Argentina this summer.
Keita continued to trouble the Nerazzurri defence and forced a tough save out of Handanovic with his rising finish at the near post.
Keita could’ve opened the game up again when totally unmarked on Antonio Candreva’s cross, but he rushed it and shinned the volley.
Handanovic was forced into a desperate reaction save with his foot when Anderson’s effort was deflected off Rolando.
The goalkeeper was again called into action by Candreva and moments later got down for a low one-handed save to his right on Anderson.
However, just as Lazio were piling on the pressure, Inter extended their lead with ex-Biancocelesti hero Hernanes. The midfielder unleashed a left-foot screamer from distance that flew into the far bottom corner. Out of respect for the club he left in January, the Brazilian did not celebrate, but it was Kovacic’s third assist of the game.
Nagatomo tested Berisha, but in stoppages there was another moment of drama. A fan rushed on to the pitch wearing Zanetti’s jersey and was hauled down by a large group of stewards. Javier Zanetti reassured them and accompanied the supporter off the field.