Antonio Conte needs to thank the Lu-La for Sunday night’s 2-1 over Sampdoria which consolidated Inter’s third place in the Serie A table. Goals by their striker duo Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez gave the Nerazzurri a comfortable lead in a rescheduled game from Round 25 before Sampdoria’s Morten Thorsby reopened the match in the second half.
The good news for Conte, however, is that Inter came back playing like a team after their lackluster Coppa Italia performance, stunning the Blucerchiati with high pressing, a cobweb of one-touch passes, and fast combinations between their players. Both Inter’s goal came at the end of some real team efforts and were finalized by their two most dangerous hitmen.
Inter seemed to have things in control, but Thorsby’s sudden goal put everything under discussion, making the Nerazzurri plummet into their well-known anguishes once again. Claudio Ranieri’s Sampdoria took some courage but didn’t manage to threaten Samir Handanovic again and ultimately collected their 14th loss out of 26 league games, remaining dangerously close to the drop zone – just one point above Lecce and cross-town rival Genoa.
Antonio Conte’s unexpected starter for the day was Roberto Gagliardini, whose best feat resulted in being booked for diving. Christian Eriksen collected his second Serie A cap as a starter in a lineup which didn’t feature any additional surprise.
With Fabio Quagliarella ruled out by an injury and Gianluca Caprari now on loan to Parma, Sampdoria coach Claudio Ranieri found himself short of offensive options and deployed for the first time from the start on loan forward Antonio La Gumina, supported by captain Gaston Ramirez.
Inter put a strong claim on the game from the very beginning as only an offside call denied Christian Eriksen’s goal after just one and a half minutes.
In the 10th minute, a beautiful combination among Lautaro Martinez, Romelu Lukaku, and Christian Eriksen was finalized by the Belgian for Inter’s lead. Martinez’s backheel pass was sublime, and the one-two combination between Lukaku and the former Tottenham midfielder cut through the Blucerchiati defense like a hot knife through butter.
Lukaku celebrated by taking a bow, just like Torino’s Nicolas Nkoulou the earlier day, to honor the memory of George Floyd – the African American man from Minneapolis whose killing by a white policeman sparked a wave of protests and cries for justice all over the world.
A stunning left-foot shot by Antonio Candreva made a shiver run up Claudio Ranieri’s back, but the ball ended out of the target. Three minutes later, Lukaku failed an easy chance from the middle of the box.
With the Nerazzurri in full control, doubling the lead was only a matter of time. Inter’s second goal indeed came the 32nd minute and was another brilliant sample of teamwork, with Lukaku serving Candreva from the right flank, and the Nazionale midfielder helping Lautaro Martinez break his scoring drought with a pass that only asked to be pushed past goalkeeper Emil Audero.
A good boost of confidence for the Argentine player who had not found the back of the net for six games, perhaps distracted by the insistent transfer market rumors linking him with Barcelona. On that note, Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta touched on the subject before the game by stating that he is “confident Lautaro will remain with us.”
Jakob Jankto’s shot totally out of target in the 44th minute was the perfect image of a Sampdoria side appearing clueless. One minute later, however, Gaston Ramirez tried to take advantage of Inter’s only moment of distraction, but his shot ended far from the danger zone as well.
In the 48th minute, with both teams restarting with no changes, Lukaku missed his second easy chance of the night as he wasted a good assist by Christian Eriksen despite Sampdoria’s goal being untended.
An old Italian football saying goes that goal sbagliato, goal subito (“You miss a goal, you concede one”) and Sampdoria lived up to the tradition by reopening the game with a goal literally coming out of nowhere. From a corner kick that took forever to be shot, Omar Colley’s header hit Samir Handanovic’s crossbar and Norwegian midfielder Morten Thorsby showed great reflexes by tapping the ball in to set the score at 1-2.
Sampdoria took courage and started pressuring the Nerazzurri harder. Inter shook fear off in the 74th minute, when a Christian Eriksen corner put Romelu Lukaku in the position to shoot again, finding Emil Audero’s clearance this time.
Federico Bonazzoli’s free-kick calling Handanovic to a save was Sampdoria’s most convincing answer, but still too little to give Antonio Conte’s side any real scare. The Blucerchiati didn’t come to threaten Handanovic anymore, despite Claudio Ranieri making use of all the five changes allowed by the Post-COVID regulations.
With this win, Inter maintained a six-point lead over Atalanta in the table and reduced their gap with first-placed Juventus to six points. With 12 games still to play, whispering about the Scudetto might not necessarily be a taboo at Antonio Conte’s court.
June 21, 2020 – Serie A 2019-2020 Round 25
SCORERS: 10′ Lukaku (I), 33′ Lautaro Martinez (I), 63′ Thorsby (S)
|INTER (3-4-1-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni; Candreva (73′ Moses), Gagliardini, Barella, Young (74′ Biraghi); Eriksen (79′ Borja Valero); Lautaro Martinez (84′ Sanchez), Lukaku (Berni, Godin, Ranocchia, Asamoah, Esposito, Pirola, Agoume, D’Ambrosio) Coach: Conte|
|SAMPDORIA (3-5-1-1): Audero; Bereszynski, Yoshida, Colley; Thorsby, Linetty (83′ Vieira), Bertolacci (82′ Askildsen), Jankto (70′ Depaoli), Murru; Ramirez (69′ Léris); La Gumina (77′ Bonazzoli) (Falcone, Augello, Chabot, Ekdal, Tonelli, Gabbiadini, Rocha) Coach: Ranieri|
REFEREE: Mr. Mariani from Aprilia
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Lautaro, Martinez, Borja Valero, Gagliardini (I), Bertolacci, Thorsby, Vieira (S); Extra Time: 1st Half 0′, 2nd Half 4′
Feature Photo: via http://www.inter.it