As the reigning Scudetto winner, Inter prepared to take on a struggling Chievo Verona side, and the odds were in favor of the Nerazzurri and expectations were for a one sided match where the Flying Donkeys would struggle to take flight.
As the match kicked off, the prediction held true for most part but the match took a dramatic turn for a nail-biting finish.
Inter were going into the match on back of two away wins at Fiorentina and Roma and a home tie against Sampdoria. As the team was preparing to take on Chievo Verona, they had an upcoming champions league round two match against Bayern Munich at home to look forward too and Roberto Mancini was looking to rely on the deep squad he had at his disposal to rotate some key players. Maxwell, Ibrahimovic, Maicon, Materazzi all were rested.
However with a squad consisting of star players all over the field, that was no problem for team with the firepower of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Crespo and Adriano.
After a surprising and very promising finish to their 2005-06 campaign where they finished fourth in the league and qualified for Europa League, Chievo got off to a dreadful start where they lost to Siena, Lazio and tied to Empoli. Failing to keep a clean sheet despite playing perennial bottom of the table sides, they traveled to San Siro desperately looking for points to jump start their season and get back on track.
Mancini opted for a 4-4-2 formation. Defensive pair of Walter Samuel, Ivan Cordoba with Javier Zanetti and Fabio Grosso on either side supporting Julio Cesar in goal. Argentine Santiago Solari on left-wing and Luis Figo on the right along with Olivier Dacourt, Dejan Stankovic providing support in center of the field. And a world-class attacking duo of Hernan Crespo and Adriano leading the front line.
Giuseppe Pillon starting with Squizzi, Lanna, Scurto, Moro, Mandelli, Kosowski, Luciano, Sammarco, Brighi, Godeas and Verona legend Sergio Pellissier.
With Adriano and Crespo adding strength and pace at the top, Mancini’s men were instructed to find any way possible to get them the ball, through the middle, from the wings, over the top. Right from the start, every counter-attack opportunity highlighted these instructions as Adriano and Crespo both would take off trying to beat the off-side trap and wait for a pass from Stankovic from midfield.
Inside first twelve minutes, the strategy paid off when Stankovic played a perfectly weighted pass over the center-backs and a wide-open Crespo inside the penalty box who comfortably scored the first goal, giving Nerazzurri the early lead.
After conceding the early lead, Chievo tried to get back into the match by slowing down the up-tempo attack of Inter by retaining possession and finding ways to let their lead striker Sergio Pellissier dictate flow of the match. With defense giving him ample attention around the penalty box, rest of the players started flooding the box from the wings and through the middle, threatening the goal.
On the other end, playing without a trequartista, Mancini instructed his strikers to play off of each other by Adriano dropping back and using his strength and pace to let the play develop and Crespo threatening to make his perfectly timed runs inside the box. Both sides took shots on goal but failed to add another goal as match remained in favor of the home side 1-0 going into half-time.
As play resumed in second half, Figo and Solari switched sides on the wings. With both wingers now trying to cut inside from the wings to overload the penalty box, Chievo couldn’t keep up with the pressure. Six minutes into the second half, after Squizzi punched a Figo cross towards the center of the box which Walter Samuel powerfully headed the ball into the back of the net from the edge of the box.
It didn’t stop there. Stankovic unleashed an absolute missile from the right wing at least thirty-five yards out, blowing past a fully stretched Squizzi in goal. Chievo completely unable to keep up with the immense pressure from the Nerazzurri attack, conceded two more goals within ten minutes of added their second as Stankovic and Crespo added a third and fourth for Inter, putting Nerazzurri in complete control of the match. The match seemed to be headed to a Chievo Verona demolition.
After a comprehensive 4-0 lead at home, Mancini immediately went to his bench, rotating remaining starters to save them for the Bayern Munich match midweek. With the finish line in sight and a comfortable lead at home, Inter sat back, waited for the referee to blow the final whistle. However, Verona had other plans.
Chievo were awarded a penalty after Julio Cesar fouled Pellissier inside the penalty box which the journeyman Chievo Verona striker comfortably converted to give visitors their first goal at eighty-minute mark. Nine minutes later, second half substitute Simone Tiribocchi helf off Cordoba after reciving the pass from Pellissier, and unleashed a long range strike from while turning away from the defender, leaving no chance for Julio Cesar to make the save.
Minutes away from the whistle forty-eight thousand Nerazzurri faithful were suddenly biting their nails as Chievo added a third goal following a scramble in defense where nobody cleared the ball away and midfielder Matteo Brighi put away the goal uncontested. Soon after however the game ended with the home side hanging on by a thread to a 4-3 win.