Terzo Tempo – Inter Saved By Late Heroics in Naples
The Nerazzurri traveled to the South to take on Rafa Benitez’s Napoli this evening. Napoli was coming off a loss to Torino in the league and a draw with Lazio in the Coppa Italia. Inter would need to rebound from a very disappointing performance against Fiorentina if they were to be successful against Napoli and I had revenge on my mind after being bumped from the Coppa Italia by the Neapolitan side. Mancini fielded the 4-3-1-2 with Santon and D’Ambrosio on either side of Ranocchia and Juan Jesus. The Guarin-Medel-Brozovic midfield remained intact with Shaqiri in the tequartista role behind Palacio and Icardi.
This match began wide open and the play was flowing freely from one end to the other. Notably, Rocchi booked Juan in the first 30 seconds for a very soft foul and now JJ will miss the next match. Although the play was taking place in both ends of the pitch, Napoli surely had the superior chances and by the 35th minute could have been up 3-0 if it wasn’t for a bit of Handanovic brilliance and some poor Gonzalo Higuain finishing.
Inter on the other hand were bringing the play to Napoli’s box but completely ran out of ideas on the ball once they got there. Palacio was wasteful and Shaqiri seemed flat compared to previous performances. Moreover, Icardi was forced to run out to the corners to get touches on the ball and that is certainly not where you want Maurito spending his time. At the other end the defence was getting easily overrun by Napoli counter attacks and the CB pairing of Ranocchia and Juan were giving us more reasons why they should be separated. The whole back line did not seem capable of tracking the interchanging positions of Callejon, Hamsik, Mertens and Higuain. Santon in particular was having a hell of a time keeping up with Mertens on the right.
Inter completely failed to impose any of the style we had seen in previous weeks in the first half. When we gained possession we took too long on the ball or wasted the possession that Napoli were giving up. Napoli were sitting back and countering and this is precisely the type of opposition that Inter has dropped points against for the past two seasons regardless of who managed.
The second half began no better despite Santon and Danilo switching spots, as Inter were shaky on the counter and eventually conceded. This is precisely the type of goal Inter have conceded for years and I can count similar goals conceded in matches against Milan, Napoli and Lazio without even probing my memory. Consistently Inter have superior numbers in the box and between the defence and midfield, fail to properly mark the one or two opposing players in the box when crosses come in from out wide.
By the time the 60th minute had rolled around Inter were looking flat, lazy and frustratingly Mancini was not doing anything to fix it. Mancini is supposed to be the doctor and he sat back and watched his patient flatline without providing it any medicine until things looked incredibly grim. Higuain added to Inter’s woes and made it 2-0 before any changes were made on the pitch. However, Hernanes came on for Broz and Palacio added a quick goal in a massive scramble, which turned the game around.
At this point Inter seemed to smell blood in the water; however, they would need to remain vigilant because the counter attack threat was still there. Mancini seemed to also see an opening and replaced a very poor Juan with young striker Puscas. The Nerazzurri pushed forward but it looked destined to end in sorrow as there was no real cohesion to the attack. However, in what seemed like an impossible occurrence, Rocchi awarded a penalty to Inter in the dying stages of a match! Mauro Bomber Icardi stepped up to the ball and in calm and cool pazza Inter fashion chipped the Napoli keeper with the game on the line. Although there was some time left on the clock, the match ended 2-2. It was great to get a point after being down but this was far from a stellar performance from Inter. We will take a point home but I do not feel any better about our chances in the Serie A after the last string of performances. We need to learn to impose ourselves on matches, rather than waiting until the last dash to make our mark on a match.