I thought it was going to be different this time around; I really did. That’s why this one stings so much. I had trouble sleeping on Saturday night and I know that I wasn’t the only one. Heck, I even know of an Interista who went to bed with his full kit on.
We were ready, dammit. Ready to let out five years worth of frustration. Ready to send a message to the rest of Serie A that Inter were back. Ready to take a big step towards a Champions League berth. Except that we weren’t ready at all.
We were drunk with anticipation and it must have impaired our better judgement. How did we expect to beat Roma – who had scored 10 goals their previous three league matches – with a three-man backline, which was missing its best defender in Miranda?
We believed that Inter were legitimate contenders but their bubble burst in spectacular fashion during the Sunday evening posticipo. The Nerazzurri were outclassed and outgunned by Roma as Radja Nainggolan decimated Inter’s defense with two ferociously struck goals.
Inter showed some fighting spirit as Mauro Icardi stretched out to meet Ivan Perisic’s low cross to cut Roma’s lead in half in the 81st minute, but it was too little, too late as Diego Perotti slotted home from the penalty spot four minutes later to seal the Nerazzuri’s fate.
Inter’s Champions League hopes took a major hit as they fell six points behind Napoli in third place and to make matters worse, Atalanta and Lazio both leapfrogged the Nerazzurri on what turned out to be a sobering night at San Siro.
Here’s what we learned from Inter’s disheartening defeat:
Nerazzurri Not Ready For Next Step
There’s nothing worse than getting all decked out for a party only to have the festivities fall way short of the mark. The Meazza was ready to ring in a new Inter renaissance but the hosts were woefully unprepared for the realities of battling the top teams in the peninsula.
Inter have won nine of their last 11 league matches but both of their defeats came to the 1st and 2nd placed teams in Serie A. Beating Bologna is one thing but the likes of Juve and Roma are a much different proposition all together.
Inter’s defensive warts were cruelly exposed as Gary Medel and Jeison Murillo proved no match for Nainggolan, Edin Dzeko and the rest of the rampant Roman cavalry.
The Nerazzurri have been outscored 7-1 against the top three clubs in Serie A since Stefano Pioli took the reins and must find a way to win direct encounters against teams above them in the table.
Pioli has Inter moving in the right direction but reaching the Promised Land this year seems one mile too many.
Pioli Gets It Wrong
‘In Pioli We Trust’ was a common refrain when the lineups were announced ahead of Sunday’s clash. Pioli’s curious decision to stick with a three-man defense despite the absence of Miranda, who was suspended, raised a few eyebrows, but most were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Pioli should be commended for salvaging a bleak situation at Appiano Gentile. He has turned a bumbling, dysfunctional squad into a well-organized, competent outfit but he got it woefully wrong against Roma.
Marcelo Brozovic had no business being thrown straight back into the starting lineup after missing the previous games with a foot injury. He looked like a Serie B player and was mercifully yanked off the pitch before an hour was played.
Antonio Candreva was somehow even worse and Roberto Gagliardini was left isolated against Nainggolan, who chewed up and spit the young Italian out like an eight-year old gleefully popping one Bazooka Joe into his mouth after another.
The two-month debacle under Frank de Boer has unfortunately left Inter with no room for error. It’s not fair to Pioli but it’s the reality of the current situation. I still think Pioli is the man for the job and I hope he is given another season but Luciano Spalletti taught him a lesson on Sunday. A lesson Pioli and Inter must absorb if they hope to return to the Italian elite.
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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