Inter Get Rid of Fiorentina to Clinch Top Spot of Serie A Table

Inter disposed of Fiorentina in the Friday night opener of Serie A Round 21 to temporarily lift themselves at the top of the league table. The Nerazzurri will be enjoying the top spot for at least one full day – until Milan face Crotone on Sunday afternoon in their weekly test.

Those who were expecting a remake of the exciting match-up from September 2020 – when Inter had to sweat to overcome the Viola 4-3 – were disappointed tonight as the Beneamata easily disposed of president Rocco Commisso’s club with goals from Nicolò Barella and Ivan Perisic. They could have added more to their scoring tally had not been for Fiorentina goalkeeper’s heroics.

There were unexpected choices on the front line from both coaches. Cesare Prandelli, who couldn’t count on Nikola Milenkovic and Gaetano Castrovilli, left out also Franck Ribery and placed Valentin Eysseric alongside Dusan Vlahovic in the attack.

For Inter, Cristian Stellini (who replaced Antonio Conte on the bench as the coach was serving a two-match ban) gave some rest to Lautaro Martinez and deployed Alexis Sanchez next to Romelu Lukaku – who had missed the mid-week Coppa Italia game against Juventus. Stellini also preferred Ivan Perisic to Ashley Young as left wing-back.

Six minutes into the game, it was Nicolò Barella of Inter the first to try to trouble the scorers with a volleyed effort from an Achraf Hakimi pass, but he found Barlomjei Dragowski’s big hand on his way as the Polish goalkeeper managed to stop his shot despite being caught wrong-footed.

The next time Barella tried, however, he came up with an absolute stunner that put the Nerazzurri ahead. The former Cagliari midfielder was served by Alexis Sanchez from the left and conjured a beautiful curling effort that left no chance to the opposition goalkeeper this time.

That came after a dull mid-section of the first half where neither team seemed able to cause any concern to the other. But when Fiorentina finally woke up, there were troubles for Inter as well and the Nerazzurri had to thank their goalkeeper for preserving their lead.

Samir Handanovic saved from a close-range Giacomo Bonaventura shot, deflecting his challenge to the crossbar, and then also pushed back Cristiano Biraghi’s subsequent attempt, parrying the Viola‘s effort with his feet. 

Inter went close to get their second before half time, but Sanchez’s breakaway was not put to good use by Romelu Lukaku, whose headed effort crashed into the empty stands of the Artemio Franchi Stadium.

Both coaches made one change after the break as Christian Kouamé replaced Borja Valero for the Viola, while Roberto Gagliardini substituted Arturo Vidal among the Inter lines.

Things took a bad turn for Fiorentina on 51 minutes, as Achraf Hakimi galloped along the right flank, overcame Igor Julio’s weak attempt to stop him and served Ivan Perisic a ball that the Croatian wing-back only had to push into the back of the net to make it 2-0 for the visitors.

The Viola‘s boat risked to sink three minutes later but was saved by the assistant referee’s flag that reported an offside position in the build-up, cancelling Lukaku’s winning tap in from a Perisic shot pushed back by Dragowski. The Belgian continued to spare the opposition on 62 minutes, as he failed an to convert easy chance from yet another Inter fast break. 

Ivan Perisic was on fire but so was Bartlomjei Dragowski: The Croatian’s clinical shot on 64 minutes drew another brilliant save on the part of the Polish number 69. Dragowski also denied Gagliardini, this time diving to the bottom right corner of the goal to defuse the Inter midfielder’s header.

Cesare Prandelli replaced his whole front line, sending in Erick Pulgar and newcomer Aleksandr Kokorin, who just joined the Viola from Spartak Moscow, as well as former Napoli man Kevin Malcuit. Cristian Stellini, on the other hand, gave some playing time to El Toro Lautaro Martinez.

None of these moves managed to change the match momentum, however, as the only additional thing to report was a Lautaro shot deflected into corner by Lucas Martinez Quarta. Inter were able to wrap their league test quite comfortably to start enjoying the view from the top. The pressure is on Milan now.



February 5, 2021 – Serie A 2020-2021 Round 21

SCORERS: 31′ Barella, 52′ Perisic

FIORENTINA (3-5-2): Dragowski; Martinez Quarta, Pezzella, Igor; Venuti (73′ Malcuit), Bonaventura, Borja Valero (46′ Kouamé), Amrabat, Biraghi (81′ Barreca); Eysseric (74′ Pulgar), Vlahovic (74′ Kokorin) (Terracciano, Rosati, Chiti, Montiel, Bianco, Munteanu, Callejon) Coach: Prandelli
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Hakimi, Barella, Vidal (46′ Gagliardini), Brozovic, Perisic (76′ Darmian); Sanchez (61′ Lautaro Martinez), Lukaku (88′ Pinamonti) (Padelli, Radu, Ranocchia, Young, Kolarov, D’Ambrosio, Sensi, Erisken) Coach: Conte

REFEREE: Mr. La Penna from Rome
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Perisic (I), Amrabat, Martinez Quarta, Pulgar (F); Extra Time: 1st Half 1′, 2nd Half 4′