Mauro Icardi picked himself up off the ground with a slight grimace after Rafael Toloi took him down from behind while clear through on goal. His annoyance turned to disbelief when the referee let Toloi off with a yellow card even though the Atalanta defender was clearly the last man back. Icardi dusted himself off and decided to take matters into his own hands.
The next nine minutes would be historic. On the ensuing free kick the Inter captain pounced on a loose ball and slotted home after a brief scramble in the penalty area. Icardi won a penalty and beat Etrit Berisha with a perfect panenka to double the Nerazzurri’s lead. The 23-year-old then headed past Berisha to whip the Meazza faithful into a frenzy.
When the dust settled, Icardi set a new record for the fastest three goals in club history and Inter were well on their way to their 11th victory in 13 league matches.
The fun didn’t stop there as Ever Banega side-footed a lovely pass from Antonio Candreva into the bottom corner to make it 4-0. The Argentine midfielder then blasted home from close range to make it five goals in a furious 17-minute salvo that left former Inter manager and current Atalanta bench boss Gian Piero Gasperini visibly shaken.
Inter conceded in the 42nd-minute but the damage was already done and the Nerazzurri received a standing ovation at the halftime whistle.
The second half continued in the same vein as the first with Roberto Gagliardini scoring for the second time in as many matches before Banega completed his hat trick with a low free kick that eluded a flat-footed Berisha. Inter were in seventh heaven and Gasperini and Co. could only pray that this was a bad dream.
Inter had vanquished one of their bogey teams in convincing fashion and exorcised some past demons in the process. Here’s what we learned from the Nerazzurri’s emphatic victory:
Icardi Is The Life Of The Party
The captain kicked off the festivities in high style by breaking a 70-year old club record and setting the tone for the offensive fireworks to come.
Icardi’s dash towards the sidelines to embrace Marco Andreolli, whose father passed away recently, was a touching gesture and another sign that Maurito is ready to lead by example. He received a raucous ovation from the 60,000 spectators at San Siro when he was subbed off in the 77th minute and deservedly so as it was a true captain’s performance.
It’s an absolute farce that Icardi hasn’t received a call-up from Edgardo Bauza due to a youthful transgression, which some influential Argentine’s (who have done much worse) refuse to forgive him for.
The selfish part of me is glad that Icardi has been shut out of the Argentine national team as it keeps him fresh and motivated, but it would be nice to see Maurito receive the recognition he deserves.
An absolute monsterous performance. Left a path of destruction in his wake and kept poor Franck Kessie in his back pocket. The 24-year-old has suddenly morphed into Patrick Vieira and is an important cog in the Inter midfield.
Kondogbia was everywhere on Sunday. He dispossessed Kessie to start the attack, which led to Banega’s first goal and I lost track of the amount of times he single-handedly stopped Atalanta from going forward.
The Frenchman has formed an impressive partnership with Gagliardini, which has left Interisti salivating at the prospect of having two future stars in the midfield for years to come.
It’s hard to believe that Inter were ready to ship him off on loan in January after his disappointing performances under Frank de Boer, but it just goes to show you the difference a manager can make as Stefano Pioli has resurrected his Nerazzurri career.
Banega In Full Bloom
The Argentine midfielder is thriving under the steady hand of Pioli. A masterful performance on Sunday; A 10-out-of-10. Scored three and set up two others to give him four goals in his last two games.
Banega on his day is a game-changer and he’s been in the mood over the last few weeks. So much so that he’s kept out 45 million summer signing Joao Mario out of the starting lineup with his dominant displays.
Banega’s flicks and tricks are a joy to watch and let’s hope he can continue his sparkling form as he provides the creativity and flair to feed the Inter machine, which has scored 12 goals in the last two games.
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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