In two days where (once again) the spotlight was focalized on bad officiating, Serie A’s evening match Inter vs. Samdporia was the final cherry on a week-end gone wrong for Italian referees. Those who thought that Roberto Rosetti’s “Best Referee” award (bestowed by the IFFHS last month) was an indication for optimism, now have to come back to the sad reality of things: there is still plenty of improvement required. Sunday’s 8:30 game between Nerazzurri and Blucerchiati only served as further evidence of that fact, as exemplified by Adriano’s showcase of boxing skills on Gastaldello, and a suspicious Cordoba challenge on Pazzini, right inside the Inter penalty box.
As for the match itself, it was a very tight & battled affair. Inter prevailed, and it was a very welcome victory for Jose Mourinho (who even earned the first Serie A red card of his career) & friends, especially given the unrelenting pressure of Juventus in the standings and the team’s shaky pyschological state following last week’s 3-1 loss to Atalanta. As for Sampdoria, Mazzarri’s boys fought hard and can find themselves unlucky for a variety of episodes, among which the aforementioned non-penalty call and a beautiful shot by Dessena in the dying minutes (well saved by Julio Cesar). The status quo is maintained at the top of Serie A, with Inter conserving their +3 lead on rivals Juventus.
(From Gazzetta): On the first night without suspended Ibrahimovic (in the stands wearing a big blue “anti-freeze” hat), Mourinho resisted the three-striker line-up temptation. Instead, he renewed his confidence to the youth system: Davide Santon, the kid who had everyone impressed in Coppa Italia’s midweek fixture, received his second start in five days, much to the detriment of Cordoba and Maxwell (relegated to the bench). Up front Amantino Mancini was given some space after almost three months of Serie A inactivity, but unfortunately for Inter rather unfruitfully. The ex-Roma winger buzzed around Adriano without making himself very useful: he was given instructions to push forward down the wing, but instead often converged towards the middle thereby always ending up in Sampdoria’s defensive funnel.
Adriano’s goal in first half stoppage time was a golden nugget which Inter plucked from the rapids of a chaotic first half. In 48 minutes there were more kicks in the shins than shots, with 6 players booked, Mourinho sent off for dissent, and at least four “battle casualties“: Cambiasso & Muntari (remaining on the pitch at limited capacity), as well as Samuel & Riggi (subsequently replaced with muscular problems).
Even though no-one managed to really take control of the match, it was certainly the Nerazzurri who held the upper hand on ball possession. Especially since every time a game runs into a stalemate situation, the Serie A leaders’ added advantage is they possess an exceptional fullback on the team, someone able to break the deadlock and frequently tip the scales in their favour. Who else than Maicon could have been indeed the provider to Adriano’s close-range redirect, a goal which made it 1-0 to Inter and increased the Brazilian striker’s season tallies to six.
Mazzarri did not get much satisfaction from his players up front, understandable given their decimated backline, and the problems only regressed further after the mid-match injuries to Gastaldello and Raggi (and speaking of Gastaldello, while the referee missed Adriano’s right-hook punch to the Samp center-back’s gut, the TV cameras didn’t: the Brazilian striker will have to serve a three-match ban). Sammarco did have a great chance in the 21st but squandered it badly, Stankevicius and Dessena did little more than fire an unlucky shot on goal, and Pazzini was shut down in timely fashion by Cordoba and Julio Cesar after one of the few Blucerchiati’s direct attacks.
This match will also be remembered for Mourinho’s first Italian sending off, decided by the referee following a few “Special” words too many. It wasn’t altogether surprising, coming as it did at the end of week full of officiating controversy, and there were more to follow later when Pazzini complained about an alleged handball by Cordoba and especially about a suspect “tackle” in the area 10 minutes from time.
Red card aside, Mourinho will however have been pleased with the long-range attempts by Stankovic (one parried by Castellazzi and the other denied by the crossbar) and Muntari (also saved). The last half hour however served some bad news for José, who successively lost Samuel & Chivu and was forced (yet again) to revert Cambiasso to a central-back role. A sour note on a positive evening, one which allowed the Nerazzurri to confirm their place alone at the top of the table. Indeed, the scoreline remained unchanged until the full-time whistle, thanks to the agility of Julio Cesar: first getting into Pazzini’s way, and then parrying away Dessena’s final attempt from outside the area.
|GOALSCORERS: 45’ Adriano (I).
| INTER (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar – Maicon, Samuel (46’ Cordoba), Chivu (84’ Maxwell), Santon – Zanetti, Cambiasso, Muntari – Stankovic; Adriano, Mancini (78’ Figo). (bench: Toldo, Cruz, Crespo, Quaresma). Coach: Mourinho.
| SAMPDORIA (3-5-1-1): Castellazzi – Raggi (60’ Ziegler), Palombo, Gastaldello (49’ Ma.Padalino) – Stankevicius, Dessena, Sammarco, Franceschini (62’ Bellucci), Pieri – G.Delvecchio – Pazzini. (bench: Mirante, Mustacchio, Donati, Marilungo). Coach: Mazzarri.