Tolstoy once wrote that “the two most powerful warriors are patience and time”. Inter needed a lot of the former in order to beat their UCL opponents Wednesday night… and 44 minutes of the latter. But boy did those 44 minutes seem long. If there is one sure thing this year’s Champions League will remember, it’s that surprise teams are on the rise: a list which already includes names such as CFR Cluj, FC Zenit, and BATE Borisov, can safely add the “boys of Temuri Ketsbaia”, aka Anorthosis with a big fat marker pen.
With that said, somebody is really paying attention at Inter Milan these days. Manager José Mourinho demanded “dedication to the cause“ for this match, and the Nerazzurri promptly obliged the request. After conquering the top spot of Serie A Sunday, today was the turn for European supremacy. Well, in group B at least. More good news? Adriano continues on the way to “recovery”. O Imperador is back, and today he provided the match-winning-goal.
(From Gazzetta): Mancini and Adriano from the start. Toldo in goal: these were Inter’s changes compared to their triumphant night in Rome. Just to provide further proof on how solid this team is already, despite injuries. For O Imperador, this was primarily an indication of faith (significant after the slight friction ensuing from his return from South America), while for the goalkeeper it was a genuine lifeline thrown to him, two years almost after his last starting appearance in the Champions League.
The common denominator running through the match from the start (until Adriano’s goal) was a lot of ball possession for the Nerazzurri, accompanied by a touch of flashiness – due to overwhelming technical superiority. The result was a continuous stream of rebounds off the wall erected by manager Temuri Ketsbaia: Anorthosis (for which nearly 2,000 fans came to San Siro) looked like a wedge, that is two low pivots adequately covered the defensive trio stationed in the penalty area. Up front, striker Lukasz Sosin was the only one with the freedom to stay in front of the ball; the rest of the team was in the middle to provide defensive support. It worked. Or at least it did, for 44 minutes.
The play leading to the opening goal was the result of a move that became necessary, especially when it looked as though the stalemate might become permanent, despite Inter’s best efforts. After 35 minutes of attacks that lacked penetration, Mourinho moved Ibrahimovic out wide on the left, more useful as a provider than a centre-forward. Adriano went from the wing into the centre to be the spearhead and Mancini swapped sides, veering to the right. Just a few minutes passed and it was 1-0. The Emperor marked his 18th European appearance by taking advantage of a Zlatan-pass for Maicon, whose assist soared high into the air and towards Adriano’s noggin. Soothing and relaxing, after the relentless (and unsuccessful) Nerazzurri attacks thus far. 1-0 Inter.
Having pushed Savio (the very same who used to play at Real Madrid in the late 90′s) forward as the only out-and-out striker (Taher came on for Sosin), Anorthosis created their best chance at the beginning of the second half through Nikos Katsavakis, whose header was only slightly too high. It was to be a one-off chance however, as the script in the protagonists’ hands did not change: Inter went within a whisker of doubling the score with Muntari (header) and Zlatan (shot from close range), while the addition of Quaresma (on for Mancini) resulted in further applause from the San Siro crowd as the Portuguese winger dished out quality crosses & ball controls.
The last few minutes saw the muscular injury to Cambiasso (to be assessed) and the usual input from Julio Cruz (close to scoring goal nº2 with a diagonal shotnarrowly wide). That was the final excitement for the evening in Milan, although the full-time whistle brought some further good news from Athens: the 2-2 draw between Panathinaikos and Bremen meant the Nerazzurri now have a 4-point difference to third spot in the group.
|GOALSCORERS: 13′ Maicon (I), 62’ C.Pizarro (W).
| INTER (4-3-3): Toldo – Maicon, Córdoba, Chivu, J.Zanetti – Stankovic, Cambiasso (82’ Burdisso), Muntari – Adriano (82’ Cruz), Ibrahimovic, Mancini (63’ Quaresma). (bench: Julio Cesar, Santon, Materazzi, Balotelli). Coach: Mourinho.
| ANORTHOSIS (4-2-3-1): Bequai – Ocokoljic, Katsavakis, Constantinou, Leiwakabessy – Dobrasinovic (87’ Frousos), Dellas – Bardon (75’ Tsitaishvili), Laban, Savio – Sosin (46’ Taher). (bench: Nagy, Panagi, Samaras, Theodotou). Coach: Ketsbaia.