#NerazzurriClassics – When Inter’s Lautaro Martinez & Romelu Lukaku Tag-Teamed Sassuolo

#NerazzurriClassics – When Inter’s Lautaro Martinez & Romelu Lukaku Tag-Teamed Sassuolo
November 26, 2020 17:00
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After a back-to-back nail-biting season finale under Luciano Spaletti where Inter qualified to champion’s league on the last matchday, the Nerazzurri decided to part ways and appoint Antonio Conte as a manager to lead the project back to glory days.

With a track record of winning titles at Juventus and Chelsea, Antonio Conte came to lead Inter with lofty expectations to challenge his former employers for the league title.

Under the new management, Inter had gotten off to a fantastic start to the season. The team dominated on both ends of the pitch, managing four clean sheets out of the first five league matches, winning them with a combined nine-goal differential.

Star summer signing from Manchester United, Romelu Lukaku instantly clicked with Lautaro Martinez and the dynamic duo formed the perfect partnership for a resurgent midfield after key additions of Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi.

Despite the fantastic start, Nerazzurri were fresh off a home defeat against reigning champions Juventus as they traveled to Mapei Stadium to take on Sassuolo or their round eight matches.

Sassuolo were in their seventh consecutive season in Serie A and were coming off a comfortable midtable finish in the previous season. Roberto De Zerbi had led the team out of the relegation zone and finish his first season in charge of the Neroverdi in eleventh place and had started to build a team in his mold.

However, the club got off to a rough start to their 2019-20 Serie A campaign, only winning three out of their first seven matches and only one clean sheet.

As the team prepared to take on Inter at home, they were also dealing with the emotional loss of their long-serving owner Giorgio Squinzi who had led them since 2002 and was the architect of their rise from Serie C2 to Serie A.

Going into the game, Inter had failed to win any of their previous five matches against Sassuolo, giving the home side an advantage over the visitors.

Starting for Antonio Conte and Inter were Handanovic, Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni, Candreva, Barella, Gagliardini, Brozovic, Biraghi, Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.

For De Zerbi and Sassuolo, starting eleven were Consigli, Muldur, Marlon, Tripaldelli, Peluso, Obiang, Magnanelli, Duncan, Traore, Berardi and Caputo.

The Nerazzurri couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, as Lautaro Martinez opened the game with a brilliant curled shot from the edge of the box past diving Consigli in the bottom right corner to give Inter an early lead inside the first two minutes.

The quick cut inside and curled shot left three defenders and the goal-keeper helpless against the brilliant strike.

Sassuolo defenders were clueless against the movement of Lautaro Martinez and the dominance of Romelu Lukaku.

Recognizing the need to double team the Belgian striker, the Neroverdi were leaving ample space inside the penalty box for Lautaro Martinez to attack and he was stretching Sassuolo defenses in every direction, coming inches close to adding is second just a minute after his opening goal.

Despite struggling on defense, Sassuolo still attacked the visitors with confidence despite not committing too many men forward.

Around the sixteen-minute mark, Domenico Berardi scored his customary goal against Inter, caping off a counter-attack move between Traore, Caputo, and himself.

Biraghi allowed ample space for Berardi and the Italian managed to get a shot past the outstretched reach of Samir Handanovic in goal.

Seeing the home side defending deep, Conte leveraged the passing ability of Stefan De Vrij to join the midfield to orchestrate the attack, allowing Brozovic to move freely and join the attack further up.

The extra men inside the penalty box made it difficult for the home side to constantly double team Lukaku, which allowed him to capitalize and score the go-ahead goal for Inter at the thirty six-minute mark.

Lukaku received the ball with his back towards goal and defender, using his strength pushed off the defender, and took a low driven shot past Consigli with ease.

De Zerbi and Sassuolo continued to struggle on defense which also significantly impacted their ability to mount an attack at the other end.

Being unable to cope with Lukaku’s strength and Lautaro’s movement inside the penalty box, the Neroverdi gave away a penalty right before the half-time whistle when two defenders dragged Lautaro Martinez down inside the box. Lukaku converted the penalty comfortably leading Inter into half time with a 3-1 lead.

Soon after the second half got underway, De Zerbi made two quick substitutions which changed the game and brought the home side back into the match.

Replacing Pedro Obiang for Jeremie Boga and Hamid Traore for Filip Djuricic allowed the home side to better control the midfield and orchestrate their attack against Inter defenses.

However, before Sassuolo could capitalize, Inter were awarded another penalty as Barella’s elusiveness forced yet another error by Neroverdi defenses inside the penalty box.

Lautaro Martinez converted the penalty comfortably giving the visitors a comprehensive 4-1 lead against a relegation fighting Sassuolo side.

Down, but not out, the home side kept fighting in the game and pulled one back around the seventy-seven-minute mark, capping off a brilliant counter-attack with both half-time substitutes Boga and Djuricic causing Nerazzurri defenses trouble in coping with their quick movement and passing accuracy.

Being pushed outside the penalty box for most of the match Caputo started playing the role of a playmaker, holding the ball up, while allowing Boga and Djuricic to make runs into the box to create scoring opportunities.

Being within 2 goals of tying the match, with thirteen minutes left to play, Sassuolo kept the visitors on the back foot for the majority of the last ten minutes.

Boga’s individual brilliance, beating four Nerazzurri defenders on the way to scoring Sassuolo’s third goal, brought the home side within one goal of stealing a point from Conte’s side after being played off the pitch for most of the game.

However, Conte’s side kept the lead and the game ended 3-4 in favor of the visitors, giving Inter the first win against Sassuolo in 6 matches!

By Bilal Mirza

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