I consider last season as an anomaly in Inter’s European history. Our beloved Nerazzurri missed out on all European competition; however, this is not a common occurrence for this club. Inter has seemed to be ever-present in European competition and regardless of the competition or the opposition, I am glad they are back, competing. Today the target was Dnipro, a Ukrainian football club based in Dnepropetrovsk. Many, including Mazzarri, preached that this game was not to be taken lightly and rightfully so. Inter cannot afford to be too relaxed, especially with a return to the Champions League as the clubs target.
Inter’s lineup underwent multiple changes from the weekends game vs. Sassuolo, as Ranocchia was given a rest and Campagnaro stepped into the defense with D’Ambrosio taking over duties on the wing. M’Vila and Kuzmanovic both took spots in the midfield with Guarin playing behind Icardi as the lone striker. With Ranocchia on the bench Guarin was wearing the captains armband.
The game began with Dnipro attacking but Handanovic made a few good saves early on. Inter were managing more of the possession but they seemed to be having trouble linking passes together and lost the ball frequently. Moreover, Hernanes wasted two free kicks in good areas by attempting difficult passing moves. The player would have been better to test the keeper from those distances. Inter played a few minutes with 10 men after M’Vila was forced to go off for treatment. The Inter player was the victim of a heavy elbow to the face from a Dnipro player, who received a yellow card.
The first half lacked continuity as Inter were not at their best, while both Kuzmanovic and Hernanes had particularly disappointing performances. Inter were struggling to break Dnipro down in the final third, which is reminiscent of multiple occasions where Icardi was deployed alone up front. Our number 9 was isolated and lacked service for the entire first half. The referee added to Inter’s frustration and continuously had the whistle in his mouth as the Dnipro players dropped at the slightest contact. The referee made matters worse at the end of the half by first denying a free kick when Guarin was clearly dragged down and then denying Inter a penalty after a very obvious Dnipro handball in the box.
The second half began positively with good chance from a Guarin header off a Hernanes through ball but the finish was just off the mark. However, Inter were soon under pressure as M’Vila lost his footing and Dnipro countered. The Inter midfielder was good to track back regain possession.
At this point the game was beginning to open up and the teams exchanged scoring chances. D’Ambrosio had a shot saved by the keeper only to have the follow up by Icardi miraculously saved point-blank by the Dnipro keeper. At the other end Konoplanka was inches wide from giving Dnipro the lead. Inter made their first change of the game, replacing the disappointing Kuzmanovic with Osvaldo and soon after Dnipro were reduced to 10 men after Rotan made a high challenge on Guarin. The Nerazzurri used the numerical advantage and took the initiative. A poor clearance by the Dnipro back line saw D’Ambrosio break into the opposing box and poke the ball into the net to put Inter up 1-0.
After the goal Inter began to try and shut things down and the game slowed once again. Both Guarin and Campagnaro had chances on net and hit the ball wide or the keeper saved. Jonathan replaced Hernanes in the midfield but the shoreline was destined to remain the same.
In was not an overly impressive display from Inter and they often had difficulty maintaining possession and stringing passes together in the final third. A few things can be taken from this performance though. First, there seems to be a significant difference in the type of performance you can expect from Medel and M’Vila. M’Vila has some good passing range and can be counted on to defend, but his work rate and hunger for the ball does not compare to that of Medel. Secondly, when deploying a single striker in the 3-5-1-1 Inter often have trouble providing service to Icardi, especially when Kovacic is not present to link up play. However, there are positives to take from this game. Inter won. When last season it seemed like this type of game would have ended a draw or an even more disappointing 1-0 loss, Inter pulled through and got the three points. On to the next one.