Inter’s streak of four wins in a row was broken tonight by a tenacious Bologna in the opening match of Serie A 5th Round at Stadio Dall’Ara. Roberto Donadoni’s Rossoblu forced Nerazzurri to settle for a 1-1 tie after having been in the lead for most of the game thanks to a wonderful goal by Simone Verdi.
It took a hotly contested penalty that referee Marco Di Bello awarded after consulting the video assistance technology, for Inter to rebalance the match and leave the Bolognesi verdi di rabbia (“Green with anger,” to tell it the Italian way) – as the penalty still looks questionable even after several video replays.
But coach Donadoni can still rejoice despite the narrowly missed win, as tonight’s accomplishment from his boys suggests that Bologna – which had not impressed much in this season so far – can be a dangerous outsider in the league, especially if players like Verdi maintains this level of performance.
Bologna’s winger did indeed chose the right night to shine: Italy National Team’s coach Giampiero Ventura was in the stands of Stadio Dall’Ara and, with Inter lining up only one Italian player out of 11, one could ask what was the reason for his presence: The answer might be exactly Simone Verdi, who made his Azzurri debut right under Ventura back in May, and tonight was by far the man of the match.
Donadoni lined up Verdi in a 3-man attacking line together with Federico Di Francesco and Bruno Petkovic, leaving on the bench recovering Mattia Destro and last week’s scorer Rodrigo Palacio.
Luciano Spalletti answered with his typical 4-2-3-1, deploying former Fiorentina midfielders Borja Valero and Matias Vecino – in place of Roberto Gagliardini, another player potentially under Ventura’s attention. Thus, the only relevant change in Inter’s line up ended up being Mauro Icardi’s haircut: Nerazzurri’s captain must have realized that dyeing his hair blonde was perhaps not a great idea, so he decided to shave off…
Bologna showed no fear and took control of the operations from the very beginning, coming close to score in at least two occasions: Verdi hit the post after eight minutes, then received a pass by Petkovic at 15’ and again produced a shot that passed close to Samir Handanovic’s left post. The Rossoblu striker’s match was a crescendo, and at 31’ he received another pass, pushed back a charge from Vecino, and delivered a powerful long range shot that caught Handanovic off guard.
At half time, with Bologna leading 1-0, the impression was that Donadoni and his boys were not stealing anything. Inter came back on the pitch with a little bit more of aggressiveness, and Spalletti sent in another striker – Eder – for offensive midfielder Joao Mario: It proved to be a clever move, but not exactly for the reason you might expect.
Before Eder did make the difference, Bologna’s goalie Antonio Mirante saved a close-range head shot by Brazilian defender Miranda, and Donadoni sent in a fresher Palacio for Di Francesco – showing that he did want to go for the KO.
Then, 75 minutes into the game, the episode that changed it: a seemingly innocuous cross that Eder was far from catching, became a penalty opportunity as Bologna’s defender Ibrahima Mbaye stumbled, and slightly hit the Italian-Brazilian while falling. The Rossoblu protested vehemently, referee Di Bello asked for video assistance – which confirmed the foul. Captain Icardi was cold enough to put the penalty away for his 6th goal this season, but a few doubts over Di Bello’s decision still remain.
An inexhaustible Verdi tried once again to scare the Nerazzurri, but the score remained set to 1-1 and in the end made everybody happy, for different reasons: Donadoni and Bologna with their newfound warrior spirit, and Spalletti glad enough to have brought home at least one point.
SCORERS: 32’ Verdi (B); 77’ Icardi (I, pen.)
BOLOGNA (4-3-3) Mirante; Mbaye, Gonzalez, Helander, Masina; Poli (72’ Taider), Pulgar, Donsah; Verdi, Petkovic (87’ Okwonkwo), Di Francesco (74’ Palacio) (Da Costa, Ravaglia, De Maio, Krafth, Frabotta, Brignani, Crisetig, Nagy, Destro) Coach: Donadoni
INTER (4-2-3-1) Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Skriniar, Miranda, Nagatomo; Vecino, Borja Valero (86’ Gagliardini); Candreva (81’ Brozovic), Joao Mario (50’ Eder), Perisic, Icardi (Padelli, Berni, Ranocchia, Santon, Dalbert, Vanheusden, Karamoh, Pinamonti) Coach: Spalletti
REFEREE: Mr. Di Bello from Brindisi
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Poli, Donsah, Petkovic, Mirante (B); D’Ambrosio, Eder, Nagatomo (I)