Interisti all over the globe have been waiting with bated breath for Gabriel Barbosa to score his first goal for the club. They’ve had to be content with cameo appearances from Gabigol as he adjusted to life on the Peninsula.
A starting nod in the 3-2 Coppa Italia win over Bologna on Jan. 17 was his only lengthy appearance as Stefano Pioli preferred the likes of Eder and Rodrigo Palacio over the Brazilian forward.
That hasn’t stopped the Gabigol hype train from zooming out of control with the 20-year-old being hailed as the next great South American striker at Inter. Gabigol has brought the San Siro faithful to their feet on a couple of occasions with some sublime skill but his first goal remained elusive… until Sunday.
Gabigol’s tap in didn’t match the ferocity and dramatic effect of Alvaro Recoba’s debut strike for Inter nor was it in the same class as Ronaldo’s first goal for the Nerazzurri – which coincidentally came against Bologna at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara in 1997 – but it was an important goal nonetheless.
It was a goal in the 81st minute of a crucial clash that was quickly slipping away. He ensured Inter secured three points in a hostile environment to keep them in the race for a Champions League spot. It was a pragmatic goal; the style points can come later.
We can only hope that Gabigol has climbed past Rodrigo Palacio, who looked all of his 35 years against Bologna, in Stefano Pioli’s pecking order. The Nerazzurri have been nursing and coddling the young striker but it may be time to let the Brazilian find his own feet.
Here’s what we learned from Inter’s 1-0 win over Bologna.
Nerazzurri Pass Psychological Stress Test
We all wondered if Inter would let Juventus beat them twice, but they have bounced back with back-to-back victories and Pioli has turned a team with a fragile psyche into a squad that shows steely resolve. Quite a transformation to say the least.
The players could have panicked when the match was still scoreless in the 80th minute. Heads could have dropped and fingers could have been pointed at each other, especially after bad misses from Palacio and Eder, but instead Inter persevered and were rewarded with three precious points.
The Nerazzurri have won nine of their last 10 league matches heading into the Serie A showdown with Roma and are riding an eight-game home winning streak. Pretty amazing considering where they were under Frank de Boer in late October.
Pioli Still Picking Winners
Inter has scored 13 goals in the last 15 minutes of games this season and Pioli deserves much of the credit. His ability to change the complexion of games with a tweak at halftime or a substitution in the second half is a luxury Inter hasn’t possessed in a long time.
The double switch in the 74th minute that saw Ever Banega and Gabigol enter the fray proved to be decisive. Banega, who this author prematurely wrote off as Inter’s most disappointing player of the season, showed the kind of creativity that has made him a fixture with the Argentine national team, as he sent in tantalizing pass which opened up the defense and led to the winning goal.
Gabigol made a run to the back post and Danilo D’Ambrosio’s low cross left him with an easy tap in to open his Inter account and set off wild celebrations from the visiting Inter section. Once again Pioli’s adjustments made the difference.
Handanovic Comes Up Big… Again
He didn’t really have much to do but when the time came for Samir Handanovic to step up and preserve the win he did so in impressive fashion. D’Ambrosio let Vasilis Torosidis slip behind him and Handanovic was forced to make a crucial stop from close range deep in injury time.
Handanovic was at the top of his game against Juventus and Empoli as well and is quietly enjoying another stellar season between the posts. The Slovenian keeper might be one of the most underrated in Europe as his quiet, unassuming personality doesn’t attract the spotlight.
The 32-year-old will need to be at his best with Roma coming to town on Sunday. The Giallorossi have scored 14 goals in their last four games and Inter will be missing Miranda through an accumulation of yellow cards and possibly Jeison Murillo, who is nursing a thigh injury. The Nerazzurri’s Champions League hopes could very well rest on the shoulders of the veteran goalkeeper.
Max De Luca is a journalist based in Toronto, Canada and has been published on Reuters, CBC, Yahoo, Goal, USA Today and many more. Every week Max pens a column exclusively for SempreInter.com discussing the most pressing topics of the past week.
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