Today Inter took on Sampdoria at the Meazza their first Coppa Italia match of the season. This game was framed as the duel between the master vs. the apprentice as Mihajlovic had worked as an assistant coach to Mancini in his previous stint at Inter. However, Miha was suspended and Sampdoria would have to make due without the fiery Serb on the bench. Sampdoria came into this game not having conceded in 204 minutes, while Inter were looking to rebound from a weak performance against Empoli.
The Nerazzurri set up in the much-anticipated attack-minded 4-2-3-1 with Icardi flanked by Shaqiri and Podolski and Kovacic sitting in the trequartista role behind the striker. Medel and Kuzmanovic joined the midfield and sat in front of a back four of Danilo, Andreolli, Juan and Dodo. Carrizo got the nod ahead of Handanovic, who took a well-deserved night off. With this formation it was expected that the Nerazzurri would come out of the gate with purpose and a much higher tempo than the match vs. Empoli; however, would also need to be weary of counter-attacks coming from the flanks.
The first ten minutes of the match passed without much substance. Inter had a few chances going forward but failed to link up the way that we hope they will once they gain chemistry together. The best chance came from a Shaqiri free kick that was deflected out of bounds. However the game changed gears after a great ball in to Icardi forced the last Sampdoria defender to bring the player down for a red card. There is some debate over whether or not the red card was warranted as Icardi’s first touch was poor. Nevertheless, Inter now has a numerical advantage on the pitch.
Inter looked to exploit the man advantage and Kovacic had an excellent chance to put the Nerazzurri up 1-0 but the player fluffed his shot and the wide open rebound was missed by Icardi. However, Inter continued to boss the game and Kovacic was going on his usual mazy runs though the Sampdoria squad and was continuously splitting Sampdoria apart with his passes into the box. The Croatian was soon at it again, sending Shaqiri in alone with a great ball from half field but Shaqiri’s touch let him down and the Sampdoria defender was able to catch up and clear the ball. Minutes later Inter were given a great opportunity to go up 1-0 after some great work from Dodo down the left that saw him taken down in the box. However, Romero got down well to save Icardi’s penalty that probably could have been taken with a little bit more pace on the ball. Podolski also had a great chance from a splitting curled pass from Shaqiri but Romero once again saved well. The Sampdoria keeper took the teams into half-time level with a first-half performance worthy of a man of the match award. If Inter were more clinical with their chances they could have been up 2 or 3-0 at this point.
Inter began the second half basically holding all of the possession in the Sampdoria half but without much luck finishing the move. This was partly due to the continued mixed crossing results from Danilo and Dodo, as well as some poor finishing from Inter’s front line that had a few great chances in a row but could not find the net.
At this point the game really began to stretch out with Sampdoria hitting long balls in to Okaka and Inter trying to attack with Samp out of position. Inter seemed to be doing everything right besides scoring as they held possession and attacked with purpose but always lacked the final ball or the shot necessary to score. However in the 70th minute this changed as Podolski received a ball in the box, held it up well, and laid off a beautiful back-heel for Shaqiri who blasted it into the net for his first goal with Inter. Romero tarnished what was a great match from the keeper after rushing out and losing the race to Icardi, who rounded the keeper and side-footed the ball into the empty net. It was nice to see both Bonazzoli and Puscas get a run out as well.
This was not a perfect game by any means. Inter attacked and passed the ball well and held possession; however, they did this against 10 men for a majority of the game and the finishing was not what it should be. Ideally the attacking players will gel more once they have played and trained together for a longer duration. Positively, the Inter back line looked solid and I preferred the partnership of Medel and Kuzmanovic to Guarin but I would prefer to see Hernanes play alongside Medel. I think the Brazilians distance passing would work well with the ball winning style of Medel. Individually, Mateo Kovacic had a superb game with some pinpoint passing. Moreover, Shaqiri had a serious impact tonight with his energetic runs and of course with his goal. Hopefully Inter will be able to look to Shaqiri to provide the type of spark he did tonight, combining with Kovacic and his other attack partners and not being afraid to take someone on one on one.