Inter Lose to Sampdoria to Record Second Seasonal Defeat

Wednesday afternoon football brought a near-classic derby of Italian football as Sampdoria took on Inter in Serie A Round 16. There was no famous, disputed rivalry at play here. Both teams, however, carry with them considerable lineage associated with success and a loyal contingent of fans.

Also, at the start of 2021, both clubs have many reasons to be dissatisfied. Inter have built a team for world domination, but it hasn’t occurred as planned. Sampdoria consider themselves silverware challengers but instead are stuck in mid-table.

Antonio Conte deployed his side in a 3-5-2, a formation that he’s helped define in modern football. His team had won 6-2 at the weekend, but the result does not tell the full story. The Nerazzurri struggled until the final half-hour of the game against Crotone. Worse still, today Romelu Lukaku and Arturo Vidal were missing from the first eleven against Sampdoria through minor injuries.

Meanwhile, Claudio Ranieri, a man for whom football should offer few surprises, opted for a conservative 4-4-2 approach. His side had lost 1-0 to Roma this past weekend, perhaps unjustly. The Blucerchiati, like most of Ranieri’s teams, are a collective that puts hard work above style every time. Occasionally this approach works out.

Inter are a team constantly living on the edge. It’s not by design, of course. No trophy chasing teams would like to gamble on losing points seemingly every single game. But, this is what seems to happen with Conte’s team. By half-time against Sampdoria, they were down 2-0. Most other teams would panic, but the Nerazzurri were not exactly in a novel situation.

Sampdoria pressed brilliantly and few of Inter’s players looked willing to take on the responsibility of searching for a killer pass. Worse still, even when provided with a clear chance to score, they failed. Alexis Sanchez missed a 12th-minute penalty that could have proved vital.

Meanwhile, their opponents were less willing to be wasteful when the penalty decision moved to the other side of the pitch. Antonio Candreva put the hosts ahead in the 23rd minute. If alarm bells weren’t ringing for Conte’s players yet, they certainly went off 15 minutes later. Mikkel Damsgaard and Keita Balde glided through a perplexed Inter defense for the latter to make it 2-0.

Sanchez, Lautaro Martinez, and Marcelo Brozovic all missed chances just before the half-way mark. This was not ideal, but not the first time Inter had found itself having to climb a hill for a result.

All guns may have been a-blazing’ for Inter as the second half got underway. However, Sampdoria’s press and physical display choked the Nerazzurri‘s inventiveness.

Just as it looked like Ranieri’s men had managed to calm the pace of the game down to a nap, Conte called upon the big guns. Romelu Lukaku, not fully fit, but expected to cause defensive troubles for his opponents, was sent on for the final 30 minutes.

It didn’t take long for the Nerazzurri to take hold of the game once again. Marcelo Brozovic’s corner kick was met by the head of Stefan de Vrij. Inter were back in it and looking to avoid away defeat for the 11th time in a row.

Christian Eriksen also made a cameo for the final 20 minutes. The Danish playmaker was expected to provide the flair but failed to make an impact. Few would question the decision to part with the midfielder after another uneventful performance.

In the 72nd minute, Lukaku found a header that forced goalkeeper Emil Audero to keep out the ball by the tips of his fingers. It was Inter’s biggest chance for an equalizer. The final 15 minutes were akin to watching a tired, but unrelenting army storm a fortress. If it reminded fans of Inter’s Champions League run coming undone at the hands of Shakhtar Donetsk, it was for good reason.

Inter attacked frantically. Sampdoria were happy to stop the game any way that they could. Had they’d shown the same intensity earlier in the game, when their opponents were defending through eleven players, maybe matters could have been different.

Sampdoria ended up picking three important points at the end of a labored and mature performance. Sure, they have Inter’s defensive mishaps, errors, and lack of energy to thank for the three points. However, Ranieri has proven that certain styles of play, although rarely fun to watch, never fail to produce results.

Antonio Conte’s men failed to put pressure on their city rivals Milan ahead of the Serie A leaders’ match against Juventus. In the end, much like the past months, Inter resemble a team with immense potential, but without the kind of pragmatism that helps big teams win football matches even on an off day.  



January 6, 2021 – Serie A 2020-21 Round 16

SCORERS: 23′ Candreva (S, pen.), 38′ Keita (S), 65′ De Vrij (I)

SAMPDORIA (4-4-2): Audero; Yoshida, Tonelli (68′ Bereszynski), Colley, Augello; Candreva, Silva (74′ Askildsen), Thorsby, Jankto (75′ Léris); Keita (92′ La Gumina), Damsgaard (Ravaglia, Letica, Avogadri, Rocha, Verre, Ramírez, Regini, Quagliarella) Coach: Ranieri
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar (81′ D’Ambrosio), De Vrij, Bastoni; Hakimi, Barella (81′ Vidal), Brozovic, Gagliardini (63′ Lukaku), Young (46′ Perisic); Lautaro Martinez, Sanchez (70′ Eriksen) (Padelli, Radu, Darmian, Kolarov, Ranocchia, Sensi) Coach: Conte

REFEREE: Mr. Valeri from Roma
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Thorsby, Keita (S), Lautaro Martinez, Barella, De Vrij, Hakimi (I); Extra Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 5′