Inter made it two wins from two with a hard fought 2-1 victory away Cagliari. Lautaro Martinez opened the scoring after a good cross from Stefano Sensi, before Joao Pedro equalized with a header in the second half. Sensi was then fouled late on, allowing Romelu Lukaku to slot home a penalty to given Inter an away win.
Cagliari made a number of changes following their 1-0 defeat at home to Brescia on the opening day, including new signings Robin Olsen in goal, Luca Pellegrini at wing back and Marko Rog in midfield. Rolando Maran also opted for a change in system from the defeat to Brescia, choosing to match Inter’s 3-5-2.
Inter were unchanged from their opening day thrashing of Lecce, with new signing Alexis Sanchez among the substitutes.
Inter started the brighter of the two sides, with Conte’s side looking to put themselves on the front foot by pressing Cagliari high up the pitch. This led by Sensi in midfield, who played highest out of the three in midfield. Similar to the Lecce game, this allowed Inter to force Cagliari to turn the ball over quickly and Inter to subsequently dominate possession.
An example of how Inter looked to press high is shown below, and resulted in Cagliari turning over the ball through a speculative long pass, brought about by a collective press shutting off the short passing options.
However, there were warning signs with this high press as in the Lecce game, where if they were able to play through Inter’s midfield, it left the back three exposed. This was highlighted on 21 minutes, which resulted in an attack where Brozovic was subsequently booked trying to recover. The image below shows Brozovic being forced to make the foul, as if he doesn’t, it would have left Inter’s defenders 2 v 2, an area where their lack of pace can be at times exposed.
Cagliari’s best chance of the first half came through a deflection falling kindly to Cerri who should’ve scored when placed well, but it wasn’t until the second half with the introduction of Giovanni Simeone that they were able to really make the most of the high press.
By replacing Alberto Cerri, Simeone injected pace into the attack and was able to provide support to Joao Pedro and stretch the Inter defence.
However, Inter did adapt well after Cagliari equalized and regained control of the match through dictating possession, and as a result the attacking threat of Cagliari was significantly reduced.
Inter dominated the midfield throughout as they did in their opening game, with Brozovic and Sensi linking extremely well throughout. Brozovic control of the midfield was excellent, particularly in the first half where he completed 40 of 41 passes.
Following the Cagliari equalizer, he once again helped Inter regain control of the match, and ended the game with 70 passes completed out of 74.
Kwadwo Asamoah was influential once again for Inter, providing the main outlet out wide, with Brozovic and Sensi key to this link. As shown by the influence map below, Asamoah played very high on the left wing alongside Sensi, and this subsequently forced Nandez back for Cagliari and restricted his threat as an attacker.
This tactic that Conte is choosing to pursue is currently bringing out the best in Asamoah, and this was shown by his impressive stats. He completed the most take-ons of anyone on the pitch (7/8), with no one else from Inter completing more than 2 (and this was surprisingly Diego Godin).
His defensive contribution was also particularly impressive, topping both the ball recovery and tackle charts for Inter. Shown below, what particularly stands out is that a number of these were in the opposition’s half, once again reinforcing Conte’s willingness to press teams high.
On the right flank, Candreva had a quiet game for Inter, and this was partly down to Vecino struggling to have an impact on the game. Compared to Sensi and Brozovic, Vecino has had a slow start to the season and the introduction of Barella in the second half helped Inter find a winner and see out the game comfortably.
In his time on the pitch, Vecino only managed 43 touches, and struggled to move the ball wide to Candreva, subsequently limiting the impact Candreva was able to have. Vecino’s heat map on the left shows this, and in particular his struggles were compounded by the impressive Sensi, who’s heat map is shown on the right.
Moving onto Sensi, his man of the match display included him winning a penalty for Lukaku’s winner, as well as an excellent cross for Martinez’s opener. What was impressive for the opener is his ability to pick Martinez out in a crowded area where Cagliari had overloaded, as shown below.
The goal came from link up play with Asamoah, and this was a theme throughout the match. As shown by the heat map above, Sensi was able to create 2 v 1’s down the left side and supply Asamoah high up the pitch. He also chose when to play the ball at pace very well, with a number of effective quick passing moves to disrupt the compact Cagliari back line and bring them out of position. The main attacking threat from the midfield three, he completed the most passes in the final third of any player on the pitch (21/28).
His link up play with the excellent Lukaku to win the penalty showed his willingness to run in behind the Cagliari defence, making him hard for the midfield to track. Once again, his change of pace in attack created space for him to run in behind (shown below), and he was able to exploit this space thanks to a through ball from Lukaku. A stunning pirouette turn won the penalty, and capped off an man of the match display for the summer signing from Sassuolo.
The other performance of note for Inter was Milan Skriniar, who was solid defensively, as well showcasing his ability to play out from the back. He completed the most passes of any player on the pitch (below), and was fundamental in providing a link to Sensi and Brozovic. His passing ability is key to how Conte is looking to play this season, particularly from the back, and coupled with Godin at the back, expect to see a solid Inter backline this season.
In what was a hard fought, deserved win for Inter, they topped the xG charts 1.69 to 0.57, although this included Lukaku’s penalty, which carries a high weighting. Taking their chances effectively, it has been a promising start to the season for Inter, and moving onto Udinese at home after the international break, they will be confident of building upon another success.