In the 1986-87 Serie A season, Inter found themselves in the middle of tough Scudetto race with Napoli and Juventus. Napoli was led by talismanic Argentinian number 1o Diego Maradona who had just won the World Cup for Argentina and was having yet another fantastic third season with Napoli.
For Juventus, after a decade of success where the club won six Scudetti, it was time for changing the guard. Michel Platini was in his last season at Juventus, already announced that season to be his last. However, the biggest change for the old lady was Giovanni Trapattoni leaving Juventus to join arch rivals in Inter, as the Nerazzurri were trying to get back to the top after finishing 6th and outside of European spots in 1985-86 season.
As the second half of Serie A season got under way, Inter were in second place, three points behind league leaders Napoli as Udinese came to San Siro in round eighteen. Nerazzurri were in fantastic form, winning five out of previous six matches and were unbeaten at home. Under Trapattoni, San Siro had become a fortress for Inter, as the club had almost won all home games, except a 0-0 tie against Avellino.
On the other hand, Udinese had started their season in a very tough position after the club was penalized 9 points before season had started due to the Totonero betting scandal of 1986. Going into round eighteen match at San Siro, Udinese had only managed three wins thus far, while tying eight games and were sitting in the relegation zone with eight points. Having returned to Serie A after a two-decade absence in 1980-81 season, the club were doing everything in their power to avoid relegation.
However, it was a tough ask specially with the club legend Zico leaving Udinese and the team looking for a new identity. They were also in the middle of their most difficult stretch of the season, where they played Juventus, Napoli, AC Milan, Inter and Fiorentina. Having already traveled to San Siro in week fifteen and managing to walk away with a point against the Rossoneri, Zebrette were prepared to put everything on the line against Inter.
Leading the capocannoniere race and Inter frontline was Alessandro Altobelli, along with Oliviero Garlini. Inter played the game without club captain Giuseppe Bergomi and star striker Karl-Heinz Rummenigge due to injuries. Both goal-keepers were putting on a show right from the start. Walter Zenga and Beniamino Abate, were under pressure as both sides created plenty of chances. Inter had a clear plan to attack Udinese by testing Abate as both Altobelli and Garlini took shots from range, but failed to get them on target earlier on.
Inter fullbacks were also pushing forward to either send a cross for Altobelli or cut inside to take a shot from range. Despite early opportunities, scored remained on level terms and before half-time, Udinese got back into the match and started committing men forward to apply pressure on the home side, forcing Walter Zenga to make several acrobatic saves to keep the scoreline 0-0 at the half-way mark.
Seeing Inter constantly knocking on the door to score in first half, Trapattoni didn’t change much going into second-half. Inter continued testing Abate from range, however in second half wingers and midfielders were also making driving runs inside the box which was causing a lot of problems for Abate. Inter’s game plan nearly paid off, as Abate gave up a rebound off a powerful 35-yard strike from center-back Riccardo Ferri, which Garlini tapped into the net.
However, Garlini was just an inch offside and the goal was called off. Unphased by the off-side call, Nerazzurri continued applying pressure and constantly blitzing Udinese goal with long range efforts. Home side came close yet again as Adriano Piraccini’s 40-yard rocket, managed to beat the goal-keeper but ricocheted off the crossbar.
With Abate putting on a clinical performance and defending Inter’s onslaught with one acrobatic save after the other, it seemed as if it would take a moment of brilliance to break through the Zebrette defensive wall. Oliviero Garlini managed to finally put Inter ahead at sixty-minute mark as he struck a cross from the right wing, on the volley straight into top left corner from a bicycle kick. The attack, played out with perfection, left an inform Udinese goal-keeper rooted to the spot, with no chance to attempt a save. After sixty minutes of onslaught, Nerazzurri were finally ahead 1-0.
Game was far from over, the Zebrette, mounted one counter-attack after another and tested Zenga by making number of driving runs from the midfield, constantly managing to dribble past Inter defenses. However, Zenga kept the clean sheet and truly lived up to the Spiderman moniker. As game was edging towards the final whistle, Zenga sent a long ball into the attacking half to Garlini who headed the ball to Piracchini.
Making the run from the midfield, he had a rare open path inside the box and crossed the ball to left edge of the box for Altobelli who took an uncontested shot to score his ninth of the season, giving Inter a hard-fought 2-0 win at home, keeping the team in the race for Scudetto.