Before the season got underway, Inter got off to a rocky start. Parting ways with long-time Inter manager Roberto Mancini two weeks before the start of the season and replacing him with Frank De Boer, highlighted the chaotic state of the team.
Having no time to implement his philosophy and ideas on the team, Nerazzurri got off to a rocky start and failed to build any momentum. With the Champion’s League place dream drifting further away, management replaced De Boer with Stefano Pioli with hopes of turning the season around.
Under Stefano Pioli, Inter moved away from building offense from the wings to a more direct style of play and utilizing build-up through the middle and using wingers to stretch the defenses and providing scoring opportunities. The move gave early dividends, as Inter went on a positive run to start Pioli’s tenure, losing only an away match in Naples and scoring an impressive 4-2 win against Fiorentina at home.
As round seventeen match came around, Inter traveled to take on Sassuolo at Stadio Reggio Emilia. After welcoming the Neroverdi to Serie A in 2013-14 season with an embarrassing 0-7 loss at home, the Eusebio Di Francesco side had a good run of form against Inter, and managed crucial wins both home and away.
However, going into the match, Inter were certainly the more inform side as Sassuolo had a terrible start to the season and managed only five wins and mounted 9 losses thus far.
Pioli’s men, lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Handanovic in goal with the defensive back four of Danilo D’Ambrosio, Joao Miranda, Jeison Murillo, Cristian Ansaldi. Midfield pivot of Felipe Melo, with Marcelo Brozovic and attacking half of Mauro Icardi, Ivan Perisic, Antonio Candreva, and Joao Mario.
Di Francesco had his men lined up in a familiar 4-3-3 formation with Andrea Consigli in goal. Pol Lirola, Luca Antei, Francesco Acerbi, Cristian Dell’Orco in defense and midfield trio of Luca Mazzitelli, Lorenzo Pelligrini and Stefano Sensi. Attacking trident of Gregoire Defrel, Antonino Ragusa and Federico Ricci.
Inter started the game out with tremendous pressure on Sassuolo defenses, showing great attacking intent looking for an early advantage. With multiple seven-goal losses against Inter etched in his memory, Andrea Consigli was focused and determined for a positive showing. He was in sparkling form as the visitors tested him often from range in the early phases of the match.
However, neither team failed to capitalize on their opportunities and earlier on, only goal-scoring opportunities came from set-pieces. Fifteen minutes into the match, Sassuolo caught a lucky break as Candreva’s long-range strike took a huge deflection off of Sassuolo captain Francesco Acerbi and ricocheted off the post. With ample freedom to roam inside Sassuolo’s half, Candreva was looking dangerous from the get-go. After failing to convert the long-range strike, he set-up a perfect cross inside the penalty box for an unmarked Mauro Icardi, however, the Inter captain failed to capitalize and headed it wide.
On the other end, Sassuolo were strictly playing on the counter-attack. Relying on Defrel’s pace to create separation from defenders and Stefano Sensi’s magic from the regista position to create opportunities. Halfway through the first half, Sensi played a Pirlo-esque lobbed pass through to Defrel who beat the offside trap and went through on goal, however onrushing Handanovic, managed to get a hand on it to keep it 0-0.
Heading into half-time Inter continued exploiting Sassuolo’s defensive weakness on the right-wing and building up play through Candreva. Right before half-time, he found a wide-open Ivan Perisic inside the penalty box, however, Consigli made a tremendous diving reflex save to parry it away.
It didn’t take long for Pioli’s men to take the lead in the second half. Invisible for the majority of the game thus far, Joao Mario set up the first goal of the match, as he led a counter-attack and took a shot which deflected from Consigli and went straight to Candreva who smashed home the volley to score the first goal of the match.
Sassuolo had trouble getting past the Inter double pivot in midfield and relied only on count-attack opportunities, seeking the equalizing goal. On the flip side, Brozovic was having a phenomenal match dictating the flow of Inter’s attack and orchestrating each attacking move sitting deep.
On two occasions he played Perisic through on goal however on both occasions, Consigli’s brilliance kept the game with one goal margin. Match headed to closure with visitors winning 0-1 on the back of Antonio Candreva’s goal. Felipe Melo doing Felipe Melo things, got a red card after he picked up a second yellow card during added time. Pioli’s men walked away with a crucial one-goal win and kept the momentum going to push for the final Champion’s League spot in the league.