Roberto Mancini’s first year in his first stint as the manager of Nerazzurri was a foundational year.
Following a fourth place finish in 2003-04 season, where Massimo Moratti had sacked Hector Cuper, midway through the season and replacing him with Alberto Zaccheroni, the team managed to finish in Champion’s League spot for the following season.
Seen as a short-term appointment, Zaccheroni was replaced at the start of 2004-05 Serie A season by Mancini who previously led Lazio to a 6th place finish.
Under the leadership of Mancini, Inter started the season inconsistently as the team struggled to keep a clean sheet with first one coming in week seven in the first Milan derby of the season.
Despite defensive struggles, the team was an offensive powerhouse, scoring 2-3 goals a game consistently throughout first half of the season.
The net result was the team tying thirteen out of nineteen games in first half. Overall, team only lost two games all season and ultimately finished in third spot behind AC Milan and Juventus.
For round thirty seven of 2004-05 Serie A season, Inter traveled to Genoa to take on Sampdoria. Earlier in the season, Inter had defeated Sampdoria at San Siro after trailing by two goals for eighty-six minutes and coming from behind to win it 3-2 in added.
Going into second-last round of the season, Inter were on a hot streak, winning eight out of possible ten matches including a win against Juventus in Turin.
Sampdoria were also having a fantastic season, ended the year in fifth place and qualifying for UEFA Cup in following season.
Under the management of Walter Novellino, Sampdoria had secured fifth place finish ahead of Palermo with an eight-point gap and two games remaining.
Going into the match against Inter, the home side had only managed to win two of previous five matches while tying three.
With the leading striker Francesco Flachi finding great form towards the end of the season, averaging almost one goal per game in the five game stretch, Sampdoria were hopeful of finishing the season strong and securing three points at home against the Nerazzurri.
Starting for the home side were Francesco Antonioli, Cristian Zenoni, Marcello Castellini, Simone Pavan, Marco Pisano, Aimo Diana, Angelo Palombo, Sergio Volpi, Max Tonetto, Francesco Flachi and Vitaliy Kutuzov in a 4-4-2 formation.
For visitors, starting eleven also in a 4-4-2 formation were Francesco Toldo, Ze Maria, Ivan Cordoba, Marco Materazzi, Javier Zanetti, Dejan Stankovic, Cristiano Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso, Kily Gonzalez, Adriano and Julio Cruz.
As expected, Roberto Mancini’s side came out in attack, clearly more confident of the two sides. Sampdoria playing mainly on counter-attack and defending deep in their own half, using front two strikers to press against Inter play makers in the midfield.
Inter retained majority of the possession throughout the game, however started the game being a bit sloppy, turning the ball over in midfield leading to early counter-attack opportunities for the home side.
Mancini’s side, not having much room to operate as Sampdoria were pressing aggressively in their own half, mainly relied on slow and methodical build-up through the middle and leveraging Kily Gonzales and Dejan Stankovic to send in cross from the wings to the big target men in the center.
The break-through came in thirty-sixth minute when Adriano started a counter-attack in Inter’s own half, holding up the ball by using his strength to allow Julio Cruz to make the run forward, then using his speed to burst forward into attacking position.
Cruz laid off the pass to Adriano, with only keeper to beat, Adriano dribbled past Antonioli to score the only goal of the match.
Much of the second half, Sampdoria tried to mount a comeback by attacking more, however Inter defenses had recovered from early season woes and kept a clean sheet to secure the eighteenth win of the season.