I’ll surprise a few by saying this, but this Inter team reminds me a lot of the late 90′s Juventus. Not so much with regards to playing style, but with respect to a few other factors. For instance even when their match performance is far from extraordinary, the Nerazzurri manage to rake in 3 points, exploiting every fortunate opportunity as it comes (such as the two own goals gifted by Catania on Saturday).
The Etnei might have well taken lead in the first half (Gianvito Plasmati header), Inter didn’t take very long to respond. And this despite Sulley Muntari (some things never change do they?) being sent off shortly before the half. Ricardo Quaresma made a positive debut (combining especially well with Maicon), and there was plenty more for Jose Mourinho to be pleased about in what was the manager’s 99th consecutive home game without a loss.
(From Gazzetta dello Sport): Compared to pre-match expectations, Mourinho decided to have a big “line-up makeover” for this one: Ibrahimovic was the lone man up front, Figo, Balotelli and Quaresma provided support, while Muntari and Vieira occupied the defensive midfield zone (J.Zanetti and Cambiasso left to watch on the bench). In defense, Burdisso took center-back position alongside Materazzi. On the other end, Catania’s coach Walter Zenga (whose return to San Siro was greeted with great cheers & applause), chose Plasmati isntead of Paolucci as his centre of attack.
Inter controlled the game from the outset through an inspired Quaresma, who set the pace for the wing-back overlaps on the flanks. Blocking the Nerazzurri’s way however, was a very determined Albano Bizzari: the Catania goalkeeper intercepted almost all the crosses coming in from the sidelines. The biggest fear for Zenga’s team however came around minute 30, when Muntari somehow got a touch on a Quaresma left-wing cross, only to have his poke miraculously saved by Bizzarri.
At the 42 minute mark Catania mounted its first real attack on the Inter goal, and it was a good one. From the left, Giacomo Tedesco put the ball in the center for Plasmati, and the Catania striker headed the ball past Julio Cesar to put the visitors in the lead. 1-0 Catania.
However, the Sicilians didn’t even have enough time to celebrate: through on the right wing, Quaresma applied his nth trivela magic and Bizzarri (fooled by a Mascara deflection) was caught by surprise. The keeper could do little more than collect the ball from the back of the net, as Inter equalized the score. 1-1.
Inter didn’t have much time for celebrations either however: before the half-time break José found himself down one player, as Muntari was red-carded for landing a slap on Tedesco’s face. Tempers started to flare and remained heated even when referee Antonio Damato stepped in and sent the players to the locker rooms. At that point, both coaches intervened to restore calm.
The Nerazzurri started the second half with great pace, putting themselves in the lead just after 3 minutes. A Maicon long-throw from the right found the header of Christian Terlizzi, only it was in the wrong dirrection: out of Bizzarri’s reach, the ball hit the inside of the vertical post and this was enough for the linesman to raise his flag and award the goal. Highly dubious, as instant replay images contributed very little to clarify any doubts. 2-1 Inter nonetheless.
For Catania this was a big slap in the face, and the visitors risked even more trouble when Burdisso incredibly ballooned from point-blank range in the 58th minute. It was then that Mourinho realized being a goal up and one player down was a good time to take defensive measures: exit Balotelli and enter Cambiasso. The Nerazzurri became more cautious and conservative in their play, dropping back their line of attack. Catania was unable to take advantage, even when Zenga discarded his 4-3-3 formation for a more attacking 4-2-3-1 line-up.
At the 78 minute mark, Mourinho took off off Quaresma (a positive debut for the ex-Porto winer) to give a bit of a run to Amantino Mancini. The ex-Roma player set the field alight with his versatile and energetic play, showing great understanding with Ibrahimovic: a perfect through-on-goal opportunity put the Swede one-one-one with Bizzarri, but the Catania keeper saved off the line what seemed a certain goal. The Catania nº1 outdid himself again a little later, when the Mancini-Zlatan duo produced yet another well-worked shot on goal.
It was the last highlight moment of the match, which saw Inter walk away with its first win of the season. And with plenty more to come probably. Without the own goals…
|GOALSCORERS: 42′ Plasmati (C), 43′ Mascara o.g. (C), 58’ Terlizzi o.g. (C)|
|INTER (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar – Maicon, Burdisso, Materazzi, Maxwell – Vieira, Muntari – Figo (46’ J.Zanetti), Balotelli (67’ Cambiasso), Quaresma (78’ Mançini) – Ibrahimovic. (bench: Toldo, Córdoba, Cruz, Adriano). Coach: Mourinho.|
| CATANIA (4-3-3): Bizzarri – Ma.Silvestre, Stovini, Terlizzi, Silvestri – P.Ledesma, Biagianti, Gia.Tedesco (74’ Antenucci) – Mascara, Plasmati (61’ Paolucci), J.A.Martinez (61’ Dica). (bench: Kosicky, Sardo, Sabato, Baiocco). Coach: Zenga.