#NerazzurriClassics – When Zlatan Ibrahimovic Taught Inter To #DareToZlatan Against Parma

#NerazzurriClassics – When Zlatan Ibrahimovic Taught Inter To #DareToZlatan Against Parma
February 6, 2019 11:30
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Coming off back to back Scudetto wins, Inter kicked off the 2007-08 season with a flying start. Going twenty-five games without a loss and creating an eleven-point gap with Roma in the process. However, on the back of a tremendous form of their own, Roma finished the season strong and closed the gap to one point with a game left to play.

To make things more complicated, Inter had not only missed an opportunity to win the Scudetto at home against Siena the match before, going into the last match against Parma at Stadio Ennio Tardini, they had also missed start man Zlatan Ibrahimović for six games straight due to injury.

On the other hand, Parma had a horrible season and were fighting to stay in Serie A and avoid relegation. To achieve their target, they needed a win at home. Parma were going into the match nervous after losing four out of previous five matches. Despite their struggles, with the home crowd behind them, Parma were not going to make this any easier for the Nerazzurri.

At kick-off the rain was pouring down at Stadio Ennio Tardini. Being so close to winning the Scudetto and not being able to clinch the title yet, the pressure was mounting for Inter in a must win match. The Nerazzurri camp was anxious and worried. From the players and coaching staff to Massimo Moratti and the fans, everyone was on the edge of their seats.

Few days prior to the game, Zlatan Ibrahimović recalls in his autobiography, a conversation Roberto Mancini had with him after the tie at home to Siena: “I don’t give a damn, I’m going to put you in against Parma, no matter what you say. Either from the start or from the bench but I got to have you there, we’ve got to bring this home.”

Zlatan, being the ultimate competitor himself, was never going to back down from a Scudetto deciding match. He understood the stakes and responded: “I know, I want to play too”, despite not being fully fit. So, as it was discussed, Ibrahimović was on the Inter bench for first time in six matches.

Mancini started the match in a 4-4-2 formation, with Julio Caesar in goal and a back line of Maxwell, Nelson Rivas, Materazzi and Maicon. Midfield quartet was Zanetti, Stanković, Patrick Vieira, Cesar, with Balotelli and Julio Cruz as the attacking duo.

In the first twelve minutes of the match both teams took a cautious approach, perhaps showing their nerves and focusing more on staying compact and not making any mistakes and relying on a counter-attack opportunities when the opposition turns over possession. Inter mainly attacking from the wings with Maicon making a run forward, with any space given to him and crossing it in for Cruz and Balotelli.

Similarly, Parma were not allowing too much space and trying to create opportunities from the wings as well. First real opportunity of the game came for Parma from a high arching corner-kick towards far post, causing a mad-scramble inside the penalty box. Everyone missed the ball completely and Stefano Morrone having an uncontested shot on goal! Julio Cesar saw the play developing and was able to close down the gap quickly and making a point blank save to prevent an early lead for the home team.

Match continued as a stale-mate with both teams sharing possession and attacking through the wings and not giving up anything through the middle. Around the thirty-minute mark, a quick passing combination between Vieira and Maicon on the right flank created some space inside the penalty box for Maicon to run into and receive a beautiful over the top pass from Vieira to have a shot on goal which was struck high and wide.

Each missed opportunity to score, piled on even more pressure on the Nerazzurri. Inter were starting to impose themselves on the game more from that point onwards, with both Cruz and Balotelli getting opportunities to give their team the lead going into half-time, but failing to convert their chances on numerous occasions.

Early in the second half, Mancini brought on Ibrahimović for Cesar to give Inter an attacking trident at the top with Zlatan leading the line. This gave the team confidence to continue building on good momentum they had going for them to end the first half. It didn’t take long for Ibrahimović to make his mark on the match. Stanković got a counter-attack opportunity around the sixty minutes mark and ran right at the Parma defense through the middle, taking defenders off Ibrahimovic and passing him the ball to give him an open shot from thirty yards out.

Zlatan struck it perfectly, placing the ball in the bottom left corner of the goal, giving Parma goal keeper Pavarini no chance to save it. Inter finally broke through and took the lead. The Nerazzurri bench erupted with happiness! Everyone running onto the pitch to celebrate with Ibrahimovic, Stanković on his knees in disbelief of the pressure finally lifting off his shoulders. Even Massimo Moratti in the crowd going wild with celebration. That certainly calmed the nerves to say the least.

The momentum after the first goal had completely shifted in favor of Inter. Not sitting comfortable with a one goal advantage, Nerazzurri continued to attack and finding different ways to get their target man Ibrahimovic open any way possible. Attacking both, through the middle and from the right wing with Maicon bombarding forward and making runs into the box.

Around the seventy-nine minute mark, one of his runs into the box from a counter-attack, Maicon ran towards the right flank, dragging multiple defenders with him and whipping a perfect cross towards far left post where he found Ibrahimović wide open who struck it on the volley and scored is second of the match, giving Inter a comfortable 2-0 lead. The game finished with that score line, giving Inter their third consecutive Scudetto title.

Bilal Mirza
By Bilal Mirza

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