Antonio Conte has made a few changes from Inter’s midweek outing. Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi and Ashley Young were sent to the bench instead of Alexis Sanchez, Matteo Darmian and Ivan Perisic. Marcelo Brozovic’s COVID-19 test yesterday was positive for a « light viral load », so that midfield three remained unchanged.
Sassuolo was without strikers Francesco Caputo and Grégoire Defrel, leaving 20-year-old Giacomo Raspadori in first place with the support of the fearsome trio of Boga, Berardi and Djuricic.
Inter’s good start in the process turned out to be immediately profitable. A scratchy combination of Alexis Sanchez and Lautaro Martinez broke the dead end for the Nerazzurri in just four minutes. It was the Chilean’s first goal of the season, making him Inter’s eighth goalscorer of 20/21. Lautaro forced a turnover from Sassuolo’s center-back Vlad Chiriches in midfield and the loose ball fell on Sanchez. The 31-year-old tossed a chip over Sassuolo’s defense to Lautaro, which took him deep into the box, where he put the ball back at Sanchez, who was capitalizing on a court.
Lautaro would be in the 11. Minute almost came into play. He tried a nifty chip against Sassuolo’s keeper Andrea Consigli from outside the box, but the box bounced just wide of the open goal. However, Inter’s second goal shouldn’t be put off for much longer. Vlad Chiriches sent in the 14. Minute, a crackling shot from Arturo Vidal over his own goal line.
Sassuolo was until 21. Minute without a single attempt, but he opened his shooting list in style. A long-range curling shot by Filip Djuricic left Handanovic in the dust, only to ping off the post.
The Neroverdi grew further into the game and saw more and more of the ball in the last third. Inter held fast, however, and did enough to prevent Boga and Berardi from doing too much damage. Sassuolo had maybe 63% possession in the first period, but it was the Nerazzurri who had an 8-6 advantage and consistently found the more dangerous chances.
Sassuolo came out of the break with his forefoot, holding Inter in his own half. But when the visitors escaped, they found plenty of space and used it to go the other direction. It was Roberto Gagliardini who found the all-important third goal to almost entirely ensure the three points went to Milan.
The last thirty minutes have gone exactly as a 3-0 game would expect, with Inter claiming a well-deserved victory at the Mapei Stadium.
Just as the season seemed to hit a terrible low, Inter used one of the campaign’s performances to take the three much-needed points in the league. While this wasn’t the boys’ prettiest show in black and blue, it was exactly what you needed against an attacking team like Sassuolo.
Similar to the game in Madrid, the opponents had the vast majority of the ball possession. This time, however, the circumstances were very different. While Madrid dominated the game, Inter handled the state of affairs against Sassuolo fantastically, albeit more covertly. All too often we have seen Inter throw away results by wasting possession and chances, but this time it was the opposite. Inter blocked Sassuolo’s strong attack and limited hosts to just 0. 75 expected goals and three shots on goal from thirteen attempts, none of which fell in the second half. This was all while Sassuolo was bragging about 66% of the ball, but it obviously didn’t do too much. Inter’s defense has definitely problems this season, but a shutout against an almost 100% Sassuolo (who died on 9. Matchday was the top scorer in the league) is worthy of praise.
The admirable activities of the Nerazzurri, however, were equally admirable. Three of Nerazzurri’s four shots on goal (eleven attempts in total) found the backbone of the network, and Inter were all over Sassuolo in the first twenty minutes, thanks in no small part to Sanchez and Lautaro. Although the Nerazzurri cooled off as the game progressed in the final third, venturing forward always seemed to cause problems.
Handanovic – 7: The 36-year-old had a solid day at work. Handanovic made three saves and completed ten long balls and all but five of twenty-seven passes.
Bastoni – 7: Bastoni was also in his A game. He won four out of six duels and converted 85% of his passes. He also made five long balls, but his offensive contributions were less than usual as it wasn’t his fault, it was the style of the game.
De Vrij – 7: The Dutch made 26 of 29 passes plus three long balls. De Vrij also made seven clearances and lost possession four times at a team low.
Skriniar – 7. 5: With the exception of a misplaced pass early in the second half, this was a flawless performance by Skriniar. He made three interceptions, eight clearances, 90% of his passes and had the most contacts with Inter for the second game in a row (66). . It’s impossible to say who is the best of the three, but when I see Skriniar I feel a lot more comfortable when he’s on the pitch.
Perisic – 6. 5: The Croat was solid on both sides of the ball. He had an early shot that stabbed Consigli’s gloves and made five clearances. After a difficult start in Milan he has shown his quality in the last few weeks.
Vidal – 6. 5: Vidal set out to make up for his midweek breakdown. He made three tackles, two interceptions and seven of his nine long balls found their target. The Chilean also played an important role in Inter’s second goal, though frankly more than anything it was due to his choice of power over accuracy.
Gagliardini – 7: The Italian’s second goal of the season made the result unequivocal and it was also a classic finish. He won five duels and made two tackles and clears on the other side of the ball. Gagliardini is rarely the star, but on his best day he can definitely be a force at the center of the park.
Barella – 6. 5: Barella was played in a deeper, more defensive position and it showed. He made four interceptions and three tackles, despite having the third most touches (59) and success on 31 passes.
Darmian – 7: The summer additive has continued to prove its worth at both ends of the field. Five tackles were his name while the former parma man was accurate on all three crosses and made two key passes.
Lautaro – 8 (Man of the Match): The Argentine was excellent at the start, fought his way through the Sassuolo defense and never gave up the game. It was a shame its exquisite chip didn’t find the back of the net, but that doesn’t detract from the number 10’s superb performance.
Sanchez – 7. 5: The Chilean showed a great vision of playing Lautaro behind which resulted in the first goal and was rewarded with one of the easiest degrees of his career. Sanchez often played in the space behind Lautaro, which added another dimension to the team in the final third. And perhaps for the first time this season in the midst of injury after injury, he looked at home on the grid.
Conte – 7: Conte « won » the Golden Tapir (a satirical award given to a distressed Serie A coach) last week, but certainly didn’t look like it on Saturday. The only consternation in the starting XI was the midfield, which threatened to show signs of fatigue after the midweek game in Madrid. This wasn’t the case, however, and without Brozovic (virus) and Nainggolan (muscle fatigue), Conte didn’t have many options to choose from anyway. It was good to see another Sensi gig from the bench and hopefully the Italian is getting closer to full fitness sooner rather than later. Eriksen doesn’t look that good. In the ten minutes that the Dane was active, all he managed to faint for a kick in a counterattack was terribly embarrassed. Unfortunately, that’s a pretty fair representation of his time here in Milan. You can’t all win. . .
Inter have put Sassuolo in second place with this result and are two points behind Milan ahead of the Rossoneri game against Fiorentina on Sunday. Roma could still jump Inter if they beat Napoli but Juventus’ draw with Benevento means the lowest Inter could land after third place in Matchday Nine. Next up for the Nerazzurri is a visit to Borussia Mönchengladbach on Tuesday, as Inter do not want to be released from the UCL group stage for the third year in a row. After that, Inter will return to the league on Saturday, where Bologna will be visiting.
Inter Milan, U. . S.. . Sassuolo Calcio, Serie A, UEFA Champions League, Roberto Gagliardini, Antonio Conte
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