Lazio may have lost out on their best opportunity to win a trophy in 2024 with one of its worst performances of the season. In the Supercoppa Italiana semifinal against Inter in Saudi Arabia on Friday, Le Aquile were dealt a brutal 3-0 loss.
With most betting sites listing Lazio as a long shot to win the Serie A title and Champions League, the club has lost its best chance to win hardware for the first time since 2019 when Lazio won the Supercoppa Italiana.
The loss was undoubtedly disappointing for Lazio. But the team’s performance may seem even worse. A Marcus Thurman goal in the 17th minute gave Inter an early lead. Even though Inter’s second goal until a 50th-minute penalty, Lazio never looked like getting back in the match. In fact, even before Lazio fell behind, Maurizio Sarri wasn’t impressed with how his team looked.
“It was clear within four or five minutes. It is clear there is a big difference between us and them, but at the same time, the difference is not as large as it appeared to be tonight. We cannot underestimate the degree to which we helped them.”
Before the game, Sarri didn’t have high hopes for his team’s chances against Inter Milan. While the manager had hopes of pulling off a surprise win, he knew Lazio would have to be close to perfect.
“We are motivated, we have the most difficult game against one of the best teams in Europe. We have a 25-30% chance [to quality]; we must be ambitious. We must not make errors. They are part of the game, but Inter’s reputation means they’ll make fewer errors.”
In retrospect, those comments make Sarri seem like a soothsayer. The game unfolded much like Sarri anticipated. Inter held possession for more than 60% of the game, even with Lazio chasing the game for more than 70 minutes. In fact, Le Aquile failed to record a shot on target or a corner kick for the entire match. Needless to say, Sarri had harsh criticism of his players after the loss.
“I had the sensation that we were late in everything, from their counter-attacks to our moves. I saw a team that to be honest looked afraid at the start. We made mistakes at the slightest bit of pressure, we were timorous in attack and sluggish in defense. We covered very little of the passing channels, so we were often stuck halfway.”
When the 3-0 loss was over, Sarri didn’t hold back in questioning the mentality of his team. From his perspective, Lazio was more than a little intimidated to face a team like Inter Milan.
“The lack of movement from the defenders and the midfielders made it incredibly difficult. When things are done with a bland tempo and always late, that suggests either we are afraid or we are mentally soft.”
For Lazio fans, it might be easy to dismiss the 3-0 loss to Inter as a poor performance in a relatively meaningless competition that was played in a foreign stadium. However, Sarri seems to be looking at it as a sign of a bigger problem at the club.
“This is a team that has always suffered from blackouts after a series of positive results. It irritates me to lose this way.”
Before the loss to Inter, Lazio had won five straight matches in all competitions dating back to a pre-Christmas loss to Inter Milan in Serie A play. That string of results has put Lazio in a tight race for fourth place in Serie A. That would put the club back in the Champions League next season while they also prepare for the Champions League Round of 16 this season. With so much left to play for this season, Sarri did his best to treat the 3-0 loss to Inter as a much-needed learning experience.
“In every negative experience, there is a lesson to be learned. If we look at the individual players, we are clearly inferior to Inter, although perhaps not to the degree we saw today. If we want to compete with these opponents, then we have to do more than them with tactical intelligence, motivation, and determination… That is a big lesson and we have to take it forward.”