That’s not the way to do it, Inter. The Nerazzurri twice squandered a lead built by Ivan Perisic and Stefan De Vrij last night, and threw away a match which – with 30 minutes on the clock – they looked certain to win. Torino made things even in the second half thanks to Andrea Belotti and Soualiho Meite. Round 2 of Serie A thus left both teams with one point, but while Walter Mazzarri’s Granata can be happy about their start – they succumbed to Roma only in the 90th minute, and snatched an unlikely point at the San Siro – Luciano Spalletti boys’ inconsistency is already raising at least one red flag.
One point from their first two league games represents one of the worst starts in Inter’s recent history, equaling Frank De Boer’s record in his short tenure two years ago (the Dutch coach was sacked after 14 games) and eclipsing only Gigi Radice’s ignominious zero-point start dating back to 1983. Not exactly the best of precedents for a team that began the season in triumphant fashion – fueled by their enthusiastic dip into the transfer market.
The problem doesn’t seem to be with the newcomers. Spalletti started four of them last night, and all made good contributions to the Nerazzurri cause. Stefan De Vrij made it two for his side, after Perisic scored first, while wingers Kwadwo Asamoah and Sime Vrsaljko helped shore up a three-man defense that started to suffer under Torino’s second half pressure. Matteo Politano joined Perisic behind Mauro Icardi, and assisted De Vrij for Inter’s second goal by way of a free kick.
Considering Lautaro Martinez was left on the bench after his disappointing debut for Sassuolo – but gave clear evidence of what he can do over the close season – and Radja Nainggolan is still recovering from injury, it seems the day the Nerazzurri express themselves fully will also be the day they look like a well-oiled football machine. Yesterday was not that day. And, let’s not forget, this is Inter. Pazza Inter is a club where anything can happen – including goalkeeper Samir Handanovic suddenly finding himself out of position and allowing the ball into his net – this after Andrea Belotti caught sight of a long range pass – to make the score 2-1.
Speaking of Belotti, the good news for the Granata side was that the goal was scored by the Gallo, the Nazionale striker who’s only just emerged from a season of torment in which multiple injuries limited his scoring output to just 10 goals. As the Azzurri prepare to face Poland and Portugal in their first Europa Nations League games next week, a ramped up Belotti – who had already scored twice in the Coppa Italia before yesterday – could make Roberto Mancini’s competitive debut as national coach that little bit easier.
Torino’s second goal was scored by 24-year-old French midfielder Soualiho Meite, a signing that captured the imaginations of Serie A’s most childish followers as soon as he signed for the Turin side, due to his name’s curious grammatical affinity with that of new teammate Nicolas Nkoulou. It just so happens that Meite Nkoulou sounds terribly close to the Italian for “f**k up the a**.” Ooops. Would the media miss the chance to immortalize the pair’s unfortunate moniker the moment they were in close proximity to one another? Of course not. So here it is, the picture that went viral following Torino’s match in Rome last week:
Back to last night’s game. The Nerazzurri took an early lead, with Mauro Icardi and Perisic switching their traditional roles – the Argentinian captain turning provider for the Croatian with an inch-perfect assist from the right-hand side. Perisic put the ball past Salvatore Sirigu with a lightning-quick shot, and everything seemed to be going the right way for Spalletti’s side.
Especially as, in the 32nd minute, Stefan De Vrij doubled the lead when he mimiced his move from the previous week in Reggio Emilia. Back then it took a miracle save by Sassuolo’s goalkeeper Andrea Consigli to deny him a goal. But this time, his header from Politano’s free kick left Sirigu with no chance.
Torino got themselves back into the game 10 minutes after the break, when Iago Falque made an exquisite long-range pass from behind the halfway line, and Belotti dashed past Danilo D’Ambrosio to get on the end of it. The Gallo’s next action would almost certainly have been to dribble around the goalkeeper, had Samir Handanovic not already put himself out of track with a terribly-timed exit from his 18 yard box. Meite eventually leveled for his side with a sharp left-footed effort that hit the target to Handanovic’s right, thanks in part to a slight deflection.
Spalletti showed that he still wanted to go for the win, replacing defender Sime Vrsaljko with striker Balde Diao Keita, and eventually sending in Lautaro Martinez for the final assault. The most dangerous chances still came from Perisic though.
In the 91st minute, Sirigu saved the day for the Granata impressively stopping a tricky shot from the Croatian. Andrea Belotti and substitute Adem Ljajic also tried to make an impact for the visitors, but the Azzurri striker’s header narrowly missed the target, while the Serbian’s shot was parried by Handanovic.
Fair enough. Losing 2-3 after wasting a two-time lead would have been too much even for this Inter side. Moreover, the city of Milan had already had its share of flushing a game down the toilet the previous night…
August 26, 2018 – Serie A 2018-19 Round 2
SCORERS: 7′ Perisic (I), 32′ De Vrij (I), 55′ Belotti (T), 68′ Meite (T)
|INTER (3-4-2-1): Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, De Vrij, Skriniar; Vrsaljko (72′ Keita), Vecino, Brozovic, Asamoah (66′ Dalbert); Politano (92′ L. Martinez), Perisic; Icardi (Padelli, Miranda, Ranocchia, Borja Valero, Joao Mario, Gagliardini, Nainggolan, Candreva, Karamoh) Coach: Spalletti|
|TORINO (3-5-2): Sirigu; Izzo, Nkoulou, Moretti; De Silvestri, Soriano (61′ Ljajic), Rincon, Meite, Ansaldi (22′ Aina); Iago Falque (88′ Lukic), Belotti (Ichazo, Rosati, Bremer, Djidji, Edera, Berenguer, Zaza) Coach: Mazzarri|
REFEREE: Mr. Mazzoleni from Bergamo
NOTES: Yellow Cards: De Vrij (I), Moretti, Meite (T)