Conspiracy theories and accusations abound in Italy after Lazio’s controversial home defeat to Inter Milan once again puts Serie A’s integrity under the microscope.
Last week, I remarked how Liverpool and Lazio were in the same boat with their fans arguably hoping for a home defeat to counter their hated rivals’ challenge for domestic glory.
Both club’s matches ended 2-0 to the away side, Chelsea and Inter Milan respectively, but while there have been virtually no whisperings of collusion in England – Steven Gerrard’s inch-perfect through-ball for Didier Drogba’s opener aside – the atmosphere is very different in Italy.
The footballing colossus that has given us the defensive discipline of catenaccio is now almost as famous for the secret deals and institutionalised corruption exposed by the calciopoli scandal and it comes as no surprise that accusations of subterfuge have been levelled in Lazio’s direction since the final whistle blew at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday night.
The home fans were the most brazen in theire support of the away team with each of the Nerazzurri’s goals being celebrated as wildly as if Lazio themselves were on the verge of the scudetto. While those emotions might seem a little strange on the surface, the thought of AS Roma claiming the title while Lazio suffer a rather horrific season will have spurred on those that were cheering the opposition.
Historically, there has been a strong bond between the ultras of Lazio and Inter which could further explain the mutual desires of the two sets of supporters though the singing of aggressive ditties aimed at the home side’s own players – which ran along the lines of “if you win, we’ll beat you up” – were probably taking things a little too far.
But it is claims at boardroom level that have really got tongues wagging.
Rather than wait for scurrilous journalists to unearth some dirt on any potential mischief – fabricated or otherwise – Roma President Rosella Sensi has stoked the conspiracy theorists with some outspoken words.
“After what we have seen define the most beautiful league in the world, it’s paradoxical,” fumed Sensi. “If I were in Inter’s place, I would be ashamed of winning in this way.”
To further cloud the issue, reports have also emerged that a death threat was made to the Lazio President, Claudio Lotito, on Friday claiming that he would pay the price if the Biancocelesti did NOT beat Inter.
Lazio were indeed dreadful and it required a quite superhuman effort from goalkeeper Fernando Muslera to keep the score anywhere near respectability. But it must be remembered that the accused side are actually pretty damn poor and have been all campaign.
After a season spent fighting relegation, they have all but guaranteed their spot in Serie A for next season with two games remaining yet that was secured due to a late goal conceded by Atalanta rather than by any pro-active performances on their part. Mathematically, they could still find the trapdoor but tricky remaining fixtures for their two rivals means that it is a highly unlikely outcome.
Lazio have also scored just 34 league goals this season – the fewest out of all 20 teams bar Livorno who are rooted to the bottom of the table – so it was asking a bit much of a team to suddenly find some rhythm and upset such illustrious opposition that has just conquered the mighty Barcelona to reach the UEFA Champions League final.
Such common sense seems to be in short supply in Serie A when juicier and more conspiratorial alternatives are on offer, however far-fetched, though the league’s recent history shows us why the hysteria remains.
The bottom line though is that the result was a hammer-blow to the Giallorossi’s bid for the scudetto especially having performed so admirably in the hot atmosphere of the Stadio Ennio Tardini when winning 2-1 in a bad-tempered match.
Roma still trail Inter by two points and, with Chievo and Siena being the last two obstacles in Jose Mourinho’s way, hopes are diminishing that Claudio Ranieri will secure his first league title in management.
Tickets to this weekend’s matches in Serie A are still available to compare and buy including Inter Milan v Chievo, AS Roma v Cagliari, Juventus v Parma as well as the final day clash between AC Milan and Juventus. For all your football tickets, visit tixdaq.com.