After becoming the first Italian side to win the treble, Inter started 2010-11 season full of confidence. Starting the season positively winning three out of first four matches and tying one. However, Inter had lost their form towards the end of 2010 and despite winning FIFA Club World Cup in December, the club had parted ways with Rafa Benitez due to poor form in the league and replaced him with Leonardo as the team’s coach.
Coming off a strong performance and a fourth-place finish in season before, Sampdoria qualified for Europa League in the 2010-11 season. The pressure of playing in three competitions seemed to be too much as the team finished first half of the season winning only five games through round sixteen. To make matters worse for blucerchiati, they also had sold their star players and leading goal scorers in Giampaolo Pazzini and Antonio Cassano to Inter and AC Milan respectively and now were looking for a new identity.
Going into the round 27 match between the two teams at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Inter were in flying form, winning nine out of last eleven matches since Leonardo took over as manager and were sitting in third place with fifty points, behind AC Milan and Napoli. Sampdoria on the other hand were really struggling to regain form after losing their star players, winning only twice over a two month period, leading up to the match.
Nerazzurri started lining up in a 4-1-2-1-2 formation with Julio Cesar in goal, Nagatomo, Lucio, Ranocchia and Chivu in defense. Stankovic, Zanetti, Kharja, Sneijder in midfield and Eto’o and former Sampdoria star striker Giampaolo Pazzini leading the attack.
To defend their home turf, the Blucerchiati lined up with a 3-5-1-1 formation with Gianluca Curci in goal, Daniele Gastadello, Stefano Lucchini, Massimo Volta in defense. Andrea Poli, Daniele Dessena, Angelo Palombo, Reto Ziegler and Stefano Guberti in midfield and Massimo Maccarone as the lone striker.
Despite struggling leading up to the match, Sampdoria started the game out positively, showing attacking intent right from the start, not sitting back and only playing on the counter. Using overloaded midfield to pass ball around quickly through the middle to divert pressure from Nerazzurri defense and using Reto Ziegler’s pace on the wing to provide width and crosses into the box.
Inter controlled the match from the start, with Sneijder dictating the attack through the middle while also rotating the possession to the wings with Nagatomo making run forward to provide width and crosses for Pazzini and Eto’o. Creating multiple chances and troubling Curci in blucerchiati goal on multiple occasions, first dangerous attempt came for Inter when Sneijder won a freekick at the edge of the box and unleashed one his trademark free-kicks over the Sampdoria wall in the bottom left hand corner of the goal. Inter onslaught continued through to 20-minute mark, creating plenty of opportunities to challenge Curci in goal, but failing to capitalize to cap off a brilliant start.
Not seeing much of the possession earlier on, Sampdoria slowly started building up their attack, trying to apply pressure on Inter defense to get back into the match. And in the process, challenging Julio Cesar on a number of occasions specially from corner kicks and crosses from wingback position. After the initial phase of Inter’s dominance in the match, the momentum had slightly shifted in favor of Sampdoria. On one occasion Andrea Poli coming close to giving blucerchiati the lead when his shot beat Julio Cesar and hit off the right post, following a quick passing sequence from Ziegler and Dessena at the edge of the box.
Despite the pressure from the home side, Nerazzurri stayed calm and got back in control of the game towards the end of first-half and attacked through the middle with Sneijder and Stankovic ensuring ball is moving around quickly in attack, troubling Sampdoria defense to keep up and on one such attempt, finding Samuel Eto’o inside the box with the defender behind him and only keeper to beat, however the shot went straight to the goal keeper and first-half ended with both teams tied at 0-0.
At the start of the second-half, Inter started out right where they left off, however they increased intensity and moved the ball around quickly and beautifully with Sneijder, Stankovic, and Eto’o keeping the pace up to trouble Sampdoria defense constantly and consistently making runs inside the box to keep the pressure up and Sampdoria on the back foot. Blucerchiati made half-time adjustments themselves, and started attacking Inter’s defense which was playing a high line and trying to find Maccarone with an over the top pass and exploiting Andrea Ranocchia’s lack of pace to their advantage. This allowed Sampdoria to create plenty of scoring opportunities despite Inter controlling majority of the possession.
With neither team able to break the deadlock, the match seemed destined for a stalemate. Until Inter won a free-kick approximately 35-yards out of goal and Wesley Sneijder caught Gianluca Curci and Sampdoria defense off guard as they were scrambling to setup the defensive wall and took a quick free-kick and curled a beautifully struck shot in the top right corner of the goal, giving no chance to Curci to parry it away, leaving him furious at his defense. Inter finally took the lead at 73-minute mark and looked firmly in control of the match.
Not sitting on their laurels, Inter continued to attack and keeping Sampdoria on the back foot. Wesley Sneijder showing his class with every free-kick and defying the laws of physics with every free-kick he took, putting on a clinic for everyone to enjoy. Taking wide range of shots, from well-placed curved shots, too strong a powerful low driven shots regardless of the distance from goal.
To cap off a great performance in a tough away match, Samuel Eto’o added an insurance goal in injury time to bring home the three points for Nerazzurri and bringing Inter within 2 points from league leaders AC Milan.