On day 33 of the 2011-12 Serie A campaign, a resurgent Nerazzurri side traveled away to Friuli under the newly appointed manager, Andrea Stramaccioni, to take on the dynamic attack of Francesco Guidolin and Udinese.
The Zebrette were in the middle of a tight race to finish the season in top three against Lazio and Napoli. After narrowly missing out on the Scudetto, following a tight title race against rivals AC Milan, Inter had ambitions of repeating recent success during 2011-12 Serie A season.
However, it was a tall order for the team as Leonardo left the Nerazzurri to join PSG as their Sporting Director and the star players from the treble winning side Marco Materazzi, Goran Pandev, Samuel Eto’o had all left the club due to retirement and transfers respectively.
The veterans and senators of the squad didn’t buy into new manager Gian Piero Gasperini’s philosophy and the club changed managers after just three games into the season. Claudio Ranieri helped Inter finish the year strong, however after the winter transfer of Thiago Motta to PSG, the Nerazzurri struggled to win games and made their third managerial change of the season by promoting primavera squad manager Andrea Stramaccioni.
Under Stramaccioni, Inter bounced back by going on an undefeated run of six games to finish the season. In this fantastic run of form, the Nerazzurri took on Udinese at the Stadio Friuli. Historically, this away match had proved to be a difficult three points for Inter to win even during the glory years.
Considering the recent head-to-head record at the Friuli along with Udinese’s third place in the league standings, only behind Juventus and AC Milan, Stramaccioni’s men were facing a tough ask to keep the winning momentum going to finish the season strong.
On the flip side, Francesco Guidolin’s side were in the middle of a downward spiral. They started the season in fantastic form, going undefeated through eight rounds.
However going into the round thirty-three match at home, the Zebrette had managed only one win in their past seven league games. With Lazio and Napoli gaining ground on them, the Friuli side couldn’t afford to drop any more points if they were to achieve their goal of Champions’ League qualification.
Starting the game for Inter were Julio Cesar in goal with Yuto Nagatomo, Andrea Ranocchia, Lucio and Maicon in defense. A midfield trio of Dejan Stankovic, Esteban Cambiasso and Fredy Guarin played behind the trident of Wesley Sneijder, Diego Milito and Ricardo Alvarez.
For Udinese, Samir Handanovic played in goal, with a defensive back three of Danilo, Mehdi Benatia and Maurizio Domizzi. The midfield consisted of Kwadwo Asamoah, Giampiero Pinzi, Michele Pazienza, Pablo Armero and Dusan Basta with attacking duo of Antonio Di Natale and Antonio Floro Flores completing the lineup.
Udinese got off to a fantastic start, when Danilo’s scored an absolute screamer from outside the box inside six minutes, taking advantage of being complete unmarked following a passing sequence between Di Natale and Asamoah on the left flank. The nervy start for visitors continued as midfielders ran into the box to provide attacking support, causing defensive mismatches for the Nerazzurri.
However, champions rise to the occasion in face of adversity and Wesley Sneijder rose to the occasion yet again. At ten minutes mark, he equalized after Handanovic uncharacteristically let his shot slip through his hands. The visitors saw the shift in momentum and capitalized quickly, adding another goal at twenty-eight minutes mark. Sneijder completed his brace as he finished off a brilliant counter-attack receiving a pass from Diego Milito by chipping over an on-rushing Handanovic to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
With the support of the home crowd behind them, Udinese pushed forward in numbers looking for the equalizing goal and regain momentum from earlier. In doing so, they were continuously exposed to counter-attacks. This tactical blunder cost Udinese another goal before half-time, as Guarin’s through ball set Alvarez free on goal. His solo effort deceived Danilo with the cross-over and placing the ball in the far left post to score Inter’s third goal of the game before half-time.
In the second half, Guidolin’s men imposed themselves a lot more than the first half. Di Natale’s predator like instincts inside the penalty box, created number of fantastic scoring opportunities for the home side.
However Julio Cesar’ strong performance overcame the defensive lapses from the shaky partnership of Ranocchia and Lucio. As the game edged close to full-time Antonio Floro Flores’ partnership with Di Natale was proving more dangerous with each passing second.
However Inter came away with a comfortable three points win in a historically hostile environment for the team and continued the fantastic run of form to finish out the 2011-12 Serie A season.