Lazio manager Simone Inzaghi hailed his 'extraordinary' players and refused to blame them for the dramatic 3-2 home defeat against Inter on Sunday evening, which cost his side a place in next season's UEFA Champions League.
I Biancocelesti - who only needed a point to secure fourth place and thus Champions League qualification - seemed to be cruising to a 2-1 victory with less than a quarter of an hour remaining. However, late goals from Mauro Icardi and Matias Vecino enabled Inter to leapfrog their hosts into fourth place in the final standings.
Speaking to Mediaset Premium, and quoted by Football Italia, Inzaghi said: "Maybe it was our destiny that Lazio wouldn’t enter the Champions League. There is regret, but this result does not change the overall season my lads had, as they have been extraordinary from the Italian Super Cup victory onwards."
In particular, the manager was unrepentant about his controversial decision to select defender Stefan De Vrij, who will reportedly be playing at Inter next season - and whose poor challenge on Icardi led to the penalty from which I Nerazzurri scored their second goal.
Lazio's loss means De Vrij will be playing in next season's Champions League, while his former colleagues at the Stadio Olimpico will have to make do with another season in the Europa League.
However, Inzaghi denied that De Vrij's conflicting loyalties could have been a factor in his side's loss: "I would play him again, as he had a good game," he insisted, adding: "It’s wrong to blame anyone for this."
Nevertheless, Inzaghi ruefully noted his side's failure to convert their dominance into goals: "We had our chances to finish it, we dominated the game and Inter scored three goals without Thomas Strakosha ever really needing to make a save," he said.
Inzaghi vigorously defended his side's record this season, despite what he described as their lack of maturity. He explained: "We are the most prolific team in Serie A this season, we were unbeaten in 11 rounds, but all that was not enough. Perhaps we’re not mature enough yet, as towards the end of games we tend to lose our way."
Inzaghi was correct about his side's scoring record this season. However, he conspicuously failed to mention their defensive record, which has ultimately proved to be their undoing. They conceded 49 league goals this term, more than any other side in the Serie A top nine and 19 more than Sunday's opponents.
If Lazio are to break into the top four next season, their manager will likely need to reinforce his defence over the summer - especially after the departure of De Vrij.