After the International break which saw Italy perform underwhelmingly with a 2-0 defeat to Argentina at the Etihad Stadium and a 1-1 draw to England at Wembley Stadium after scoring an 87th minute penalty, the Serie A was finally back to the relief of most. Inter were looking to win this one comfortably with one eye on the derby midweek whilst some would say Hellas had both eyes glued to next week against Benevento with their manager, Fabio Pecchia saying in the build-up to this one and I paraphrase – ‘This match is not so important for Inter, the match next week against Benevento is a game we must not lose’.
Spalletti opted to keep his line-up the same for the 3rd match running and who could blame him? After picking up a good point against Napoli and then thumping Sampdoria 5-0 away from home, the confidence would be beaming out of this starting XI so it made perfect sense. The only slight concern could be the fact that the derby is on Wednesday (which is arguably the most important game of our season for many reasons but mainly to move further away from Lazio and of course Milan in order to qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season) so it would’ve been ideal to maybe rest one or two key men but the squad haven’t had to play many games this season and every fixture from now to the end is like a cup final.
Hellas were also involved in a 5-0 score line last time out but unlike their counterparts for this match, they lost by that score line at home to Atalanta to really put a dent in their confidence, especially having to now come to the Giuseppe Meazza to play an inform Inter team. Rafa Benítez’s former assistant manager, Fabio Pecchia made two changes to his side as Newcastle United loanee Rolando Aarons took the place of Daniele Verde and Souprayen came in for Ryder Matos with Fares moving further forward.
The Nerazzurri got off to the perfect start as Mauro Icardi continued his excellent form with a goal inside the first minute. A throw-in was won and simply put, Hellas fell asleep. Perišić threw the ball straight between the defence allowing the Argentine forward to poke home easing any nerves or worry that it would be a day similar to when Crotone came to the San Siro.
With the goal coming so early, both sides’ game plans remained the same as Inter looked to dominate proceedings with Hellas looking to counter whenever possible with their pacey wingers. They kept things compact but their awareness was questionable at times as they allowed the home side’s attack to float around without much pressure.
Although they are very compact and narrow here for example, four Inter players can be seen within close proximity of each other and all in-between the lines of defence and midfield. It is clear to see that Candreva has drifted inside to allow Cancelo to attack and then with many players on the other side, the Portuguese can have a one-on-one as Inter’s attacking players make a number of darting runs. A tactic Spalletti has to be credited for to exploit the opposition’s narrowness and lack of positional awareness.
Within 12 minutes of play, it was 2-0. The Gialloblu yet again showed their defensive inabilities as they attempted a high line but it went horribly wrong. Similarly, to Benevento when they came to the San Siro and tried to play a high line from a free-kick and conceded from a Ranocchia header. Although it wasn’t a free kick, it was just as bad, if not worse.
Their line was so off it allowed Perišić to bend his run perfectly to get onto the end of the inform Marcelo Brozović’s fantastic long ball. Credit has to go to Icardi here also as both centre backs are drawn to him as he drops deeper creating the space in behind for his teammate to exploit.
It is fine details like these that separate the top-class teams and players from the rest.
Something Inter have done consistently this season is press high up the pitch whether that be man-to-man press, high pressing an area in numbers or counter pressing. The latter was used effectively in this game since Hellas didn’t have the composure or positional awareness to play out so as soon as Inter lost the ball and had attacks in their final third, the goal was to win the ball back as soon as possible by applying immense pressure.
The example below shows both Cancelo and Rafinha charging in to close down Souprayen when some people might expect Cancelo in particular to get back into position or cut off the pass to the fullback’s left hand-side but like I said, this put him under serious pressure and caused him to lose the ball and had Gagliardini taken a better touch in the box, it could’ve been 3-0.
Fabio Pecchia changed from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 shortly after they conceded their 2nd goal as they obviously needed to be more offensive since up to this point in the match, they hadn’t registered a single shot or really made an attempt to get near Inter’s box. Bruno Petković and Fares were sent up top with Rômulo going out to the right and Aarons to the left. On paper a good switch but pressure wasn’t being applied which gave the men in black and blue the licence to move the ball around freely.
Almost a carbon copy of the start to the first half as yet again Ivan finds Icardi to slot home but this time, it was around 3 minutes in instead of the mere 35 seconds! Hellas started off brightly, attacking down their right-hand side with Rômulo causing a couple of problems and the away side almost scored as Aarons’ snap shot inside the box just crept wide of the post. The goal itself came from the counter pressing I mentioned in the first half, this time Perišić lost the ball high up the pitch but then won it back seconds later to drive into the box and put the ball on a plate for the goal scoring machine, Mauro Icardi to score.
Contrary to Inter, the Gialloblu continued to apply next to no pressure although they were down 3-0. I understand that maybe you don’t want to open up allowing chances to be made more easily but at this point, you have to try to go more attacking however that just didn’t happen and it is part of the reason why Hellas are one of the favourites and most likely to go down this season. They are very poor defensively and they don’t pose much threat going forward either.
Captain, Mauro Icardi was withdrawn for Italian forward Éder with everyone looking onto the derby now since this match was all but sealed. This change saw the wingers switch sides to compliment the substitutes style of play. Crosses would be of no benefit so instead, Luciano Spalletti ordered Ivan and Antonio to cut inside with the forward making runs in behind.
To get an idea of Hellas’ attacking intentions even in the 73rd minute whilst 3-0 down…
The Nerazzurri maintained their dominance just like in their last fixture against Sampdoria and should’ve had a couple more goals with the likes of Gagliardini and Éder missing relatively simple chances whilst the goal drought for Candreva came as close as it will to being broken with him hitting the post from a curling effort.
To summarise Hellas’ performance, goalkeeper Nícolas Andrade was sent off in the final minute of play for denying a clear goal scoring opportunity by deliberately blocking Éder’s path to the ball.
A terrible performance and result to match for Fabio Pecchia’s side. I slightly understand why they didn’t try to apply much pressure once they had gone 3-0 down as they didn’t want to tire players out with the crucial Benevento match coming up but that is a week away, is that really an excuse for the dreadful, lacklustre display they put out?
As for Inter, it was a near perfect performance and one Spalletti will be overjoyed with I’m sure as no one suffered any injuries, there were no signs that points would be dropped and we move onto the Milan game in great form. The only negatives are that Hellas could’ve scored maybe one or two goals due to the fact the team lacked concentration at times and also only getting three goals. Gagliardini could easily of had a hattrick which says a lot about the opposition… Candreva was unlucky not to score and even Éder had a claim for one or two penalties which might have been given on another day but apart from that, there’s nothing we can complain about.
We now go into the derby on Wednesday full of confidence, on great form including four consecutive games without conceding whilst Milan have lost two of their last three matches. Although, I’m certain Gattuso will make sure they are well up for this one so we must turn up and perform like we have been for arguably the biggest match of our season! Forza Inter!